Lauren Weil: Celebrating families in New Hope

Lauren Weil: Celebrating families in New Hope

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau of Household and Family Statistics in 2000, one-third of lesbian households and one-fifth of gay male households have children. This week, we spoke to Lauren Weil, a board member of New Hopes Celebrates, the annual five-day celebration of the lovely little (gay) resort town just a stone’s throw from Philadelphia. She’s also a lesbian mom in charge of the family events.

PGN: Where do you hail from? LW: I’m from a little North Jersey town called Secaucus. It’s exactly 3.6 miles from the Lincoln Tunnel, so I spent a lot of time in New York growing up. I went to NYU and worked in New York for many years before moving to this area in the early ’90s.

PGN: Any siblings? LW: I have an older sister and a younger brother. I’m the only gay one.

PGN: What did your parents do? LW: My mother was a stay-at-home mom and my father was the facilities manager at NYU.

PGN: What did you want to be when you grew up? LW: You know, I always wanted to be a writer, so I was a journalism major at NYU with an English literature minor. I worked my way through college writing obituaries for the Hudson Dispatch and then I got a job working at a little newspaper called the Jersey Herald as a full-time news reporter. I graduated and was only making $150 a week. I couldn’t even pay my student loans with that so I got into advertising so I could make some money. I was writing advertising copy, so I was still writing but making decent money.

PGN: Most interesting story or item you’ve written about? LW: I once wrote a story about an amazing man named Eddie Lucas. He’s a blind sports writer and broadcaster. He worked for the New York Mets and New York Yankees and has gone on to become a motivational speaker. He became blind while playing baseball when he was 12 years old. He got struck in the head with a line drive and lost his sight. While I was writing the article, I got to spend a lot of time with him at his home and in Yankee Stadium. He took me onto the field at Yankee Stadium and I met Phil Rizzuto. It was a moment I will never forget.

PGN: When did you first realize you were different from the other girls? LW: Even though we were so close to Manhattan, Secaucus was very sheltered. Everyone was pretty much the same and there were no gay people. I would go out with guys. In fact, I remember my junior year, I was dating someone on the football team and all my girlfriends were thrilled. I thought he was a nice guy, but didn’t care about it the way that they did. When I got to NYU, I was 18 in Greenwich Village and I started hanging around people in the gay student union and that was the beginning. I really felt like I fit in for the first time.

PGN: What was an early sign you were gay? LW: I had a teacher I had a huge crush on.

PGN: What was her name? LW: Should I say? What the heck, she’s probably dead now. Mrs. McLaughlin. At naptime, everyone would try to get as far away from the teacher as possible, but I’d put my little rug right next to her desk. [Laughs.] But it was my geometry teacher in high school that sealed the deal. Do you remember “Beatlemania”? It was a Beatles tribute band and she actually married a guy who played one of the Beatles. I was crushed!

PGN: Do you have a partner? LW: No, I had a partner but we broke up about a year ago. We were together for 13 years and we have two children who are the total lights of my life. They live with me 50 percent of the time, which is 50 percent too little.

PGN: What was the scariest part of motherhood? LW: Having two kids in diapers at the same time! They’re only two years apart. They turned 9 and 11 last weekend.

PGN: What was the most exciting part? LW: I don’t know, the whole thing. My partner carried them and the whole pregnancy part was exciting and when they were born it was amazing. But every year to me is more exciting than the next. Seeing them as babies learning to walk and talk and now seeing my one kid playing the guitar and the other kid in a play, it never stops being exciting.

PGN: Funny kid moment? LW: Recently they played a practical joke on me. They taped my veggie spray nozzle on so that when I turned on my sink, I got soaked! You need a sense of humor to be a mother. Hey, speaking of humor, can you write that I’m totally single and available! [Laughs.] I’ve got a good job, I’m a successful executive at my company and I own my own home.

PGN: You read it, ladies! So, you work for a testing company. What’s one of the most interesting things about your job? LW: I really feel it’s important to give kids a good experience. Tests should help us assess what you know, but they shouldn’t have to be scary or stressful. When I was a kid, tests were terrifying to me and it shouldn’t be that way. I like helping make that happen. I get calls from parents and teachers and welcome the dialogue.

PGN: I remember there was a lot of controversy when I was younger about cultural bias in tests. LW: I’m very proud that my company is founded on providing fairness. We have whole teams of people, much smarter than I am, who do a lot of research and work hard to ensure fairness and equity in the tests. It’s huge. Making sure the test is fair for girls or different cultures or regions or family structures. It’s a different world now.

PGN: Tell me about your involvement with New Hope Celebrates. LW: I’m on the board of directors and they made me secretary. [Laughs.] I think they did it because I’m the only girl! I’m also responsible for the family events. We have families that march in the parade, a tea dance and this year we’re doing a Zumbathon with Cornerstone Health and Fitness. We’re going to have raffle tickets and you can win weekend passes to Sesame Place and a lot of cool stuff. It’s fun for a range of kids, from toddlers to teenagers.

PGN: What do your kids enjoy the most? LW: They love marching in the parade. Their friends are all lined up on the street and they get to walk by and wave and throw candy. For that half hour they walk down Main Street they feel like celebrities. They’re getting older, so this year I asked if they just wanted to watch the parade, but not participate and they adamantly were against it. They wanted to march.

PGN: A proud moment? LW: The whole third grade is doing a project at my daughter’s school. They’re making a mural depicting New Hope and each kid got to design a piece. One kid did Rita’s Water Ice, another did the library another kid did the ice cream stand and you know what my kid did? She made a New Hope Celebrates tile with gay couples standing in front of a rainbow. She did it on her own and now it’s going to be part of the wall at their elementary school. I thought that was pretty cool.

PGN: What are some of the challenges facing kids in LGBT families? LW: I don’t know, we’re very lucky, this area is very progressive, but I guess as they go out in the world it’ll be more of a challenge. When they meet new friends, deciding who to tell and at what point that they’re from a gay family. It’s almost like having to come out. But we’ve always been very open, so it hasn’t really been an issue.

PGN: I’ve worked a lot with Mountain Meadow, which is a camp for kids from LGBT families, and that subject comes up a lot. The kids love it there, because they all have similar “different” families and they can share their “coming out” stories with each other. LW: Our kids are involved with COLAGE [Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere]. They get mentored by older kids with gay parents and it means a lot to them.

PGN: Something you said you’d never do or say that you now find yourself doing as a parent? LW: Oh my God! I find myself saying, “I don’t care what your friend did. I care about what you do. If your friend jumped off a building, would you jump off a building too?”

PGN: Something or someone you miss the most from childhood? LW: My dad. He died fairly young. I feel like I’m a lot like him, which is probably why I miss him. He was a very open and accepting person.

PGN: What’s your family background? LW: My father’s family was from Poland and my mother’s family was from Italy.

PGN: Both very family-oriented cultures. LW: Yes, my father was all about family and kids ... and food! Every Sunday, my mother would make a big pot of gravy with sausage and pasta, the works. I can’t eat like that any more, I try to be more health-conscious, but I love to eat. I like trying new restaurants, new cultures and cuisines. I balance it with a lot of fitness. I get up at 5 a.m. every day and go to the gym.

PGN: Others are embarrassed when you ... LW: My kids are embarrassed when I sing really loud with the windows open on the car drop-off line at school.

PGN: Any hobbies aside from working out? LW: I love to travel and take day trips all around. I also enjoy Broadway shows and musicals.

PGN: Outside of New Hope, what’s a recommendation for a day trip? LW: Have you been to the High Line in New York? They took the old elevated tracks and made them into a park that runs for over a mile in the air. It’s absolutely stunning. PGN: Someone’s diary you would love to read? LW: Madonna’s! Definitely Madonna’s!

PGN: If you were a type of candy, what would you be and why? LW: I would be Sour Patch Kids because they end up being very sweet and they are low in fat.

PGN: Any pets? LW: We have a little black-and-white cat named Meako.

PGN: How about pet peeves? LW: People spelling “you’re” incorrectly — spelling it as one word, “your.” Like when someone writes, “Your right about that.” Wrong! Game over, try again! That drives me crazy.

PGN: New Hope Pride runs May 11-15: What are some of the highlights? LW: “Freedom to Be” is the theme for our Pride parade, which is always a lot of fun. We’re also going to have a drag show, a vendor fair, seminars, art and history tours and even fireworks during the course of the event. But the thing I’m most looking forward to is the Ladies 2000 dance at Havana. The comedian Poppy Champlin is performing at 3 p.m. and she’s really funny! I saw her in P-Town and she’s a riot. If you go to Poppy’s show, the ticket is good for the Ladies Party right after the show — you don’t have to pay again for the party. We’re expecting lots of ladies! Let’s get the word out. Did I mention that I’m single?

PGN: Will you be there with a red carnation on? LW: [Laughs.] No, I’ll have a T-shirt that says “I’m single.” And that I have a good job and I own my own home! I’m a single, employed homeowner with two great kids. Come on, gals!

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