That Time I Hot-Tubbed with Neil Patrick Harris

BARBARI Thoughts

No, really. I hot tubbed with Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka. It was 4th of July, 2014—and it was my day off. One of those glorious holidays that falls on a Friday. I decided to a “Favorites Day”—chocolate chip pancakes at my favorite brunch spot and a massage at one of my favorite places in NYC, Great Jones Spa. Plus, the added bonus of morning sex and the edible I had was quickly making it the best day ever.

The next few hours went like this: edibles, hot tub, essential oil sauna, dry sauna, cold pool, hot tub again, Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, self actualization, massage, pure bliss.

Somewhere between the essential oil and dry sauna was when that brownie began to loosen my shoulders, neck, hips, toes, and my cheeks began to tighten from smiling. Feeling good, I moved rather quickly, from the cold pool to the hot tub. Upon entry I saw only snuggling couples plus two men in the back corner. Not wanting to impose, I made my way towards the back and settled down next to the two men.

Feeling content, I took a deep breath and relaxed down. Head resting on the cool edge, letting my body feel weightless in the hot, bubbly water, I drifted… two deep breaths later I opened my eyes to see who was around me… and there, right next to me, was Neil Patrick Harris. And next to him, of course who else, but David Burtka.

“Oh my god. Was I breathing?”

Oh my god. Was I breathing? I looked around the hot tub, and every snuggling couple was looking at me, looking at them like, is anyone else seeing them right now??

I tried for about 3 seconds to be chill. Celebrities don’t want to be bothered, I told myself. We’re all here to relax. Be cool, Meryl. Get it together… and that’s when I knew it was going to happen. I knew I just couldn’t not talk to him.

Because here’s the thing. I love that man sitting next to me. All the way back to those Doogie Howser days when my brother and I would watch each episode together after school, even the repeats. How I Met Your Mother got me through two apartment moves, my post-IUD afternoon, and the three weeks I spent in California to be with my sister and nephews while my brother-in-law was in the ICU. Not to mention, NPH was, at that time, Hedwig of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the only Broadway musical I have ever genuinely enjoyed, not nostalgically liked… there’s a big difference. And sorry not sorry, but Neil Patrick Harris brought that fierce, I’m-the-queen-to-be-reckoned-with-in-6-inch-heels power-stance years Beyonce made her claim.

And his Instagram was (and still is) one of my favorites. Seeing how much love they have as a family, and their amazing Halloween costumes is pure joy. And here he was, in a hot tub, the same hot tub that I was also in. And so I opened my mouth, and let the words begin to spill. I’m not going to lie to you, it was a rocky start.

I said that I loved him in Hedwig, which was an absurd understatement. After which he said something along the lines of how the role was so exerting, so he appreciated these relaxation days all the more. Nice person celebrity translation: buzz off girl and let me relax in this hot tub like we’re all here to do.

Which is why I feel really bad about not being able to stop myself. And so I went on. I had one of those moments when you just say the truest thing you could say, and it all comes out of your mouth because you’ve temporarily left your body, so no one is there to hold you back. I said to Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, thank you. I told them that my parents are lesbian. And growing up, we didn’t have families like theirs on our TV or social media. Well, there wasn’t social media, but you get it. I told them that Ellen coming out on her TV show is still to this day one of the most memorable and shaping moments of my life. My moms taped it. And sometimes we’d just watch it, as a family. I didn’t think much of it then, but what a moment it must have been like for my moms, who fought and rallied to be treated the same as their other family members, coworkers, and friends; to see a celebrity on national television, look into the camera and let them know that they were seen, that we were not alone. She let us know that she wasn’t going to be silenced by stiff men in suits any longer. It seems so normal now, especially living in NYC. But growing up, there was no “out” family model to look up to. There were no other families like mine.

I remember singing in the Portland Gay & Lesbian Choir with my mom when I was maybe 6 years old. And then I remember not singing with them anymore; to find out years later that they told my mom I couldn’t sing with them because there was rhetoric at the time of gay organizations trying to “turn” children, and so they asked my mom and I to leave the choir. The very word “gay” used to be a Disney approved diss. And I had, on just a few occasions, had teachers and coaches tell me that parents like mine were just wrong, or unnatural. That they weren’t deserving of the same rights or titles. I knew we were different, and I knew why, and I had felt that from a very young age. I grew up just accepting that we were not a part of that “American Dream” that America was selling at the time.

“I told them that my parents are lesbian. And growing up, we didn’t have families like theirs on our TV.”

At that current moment of time in the hot tub, our own government hadn’t yet struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalizing it in all fifty states, and requiring states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses. I had not yet had the moment when for the first time ever, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, looked into the camera and told my family that we were the same as every other American family. That we were a part of this country.

But that hadn’t happened yet. Currently, I was babbling all this to a thoughtfully listening Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka. There is simply something both tender and inspiring about being a person with such high stakes as a celebrity, to be so out and unashamed of themselves and of the love they have for their family. I didn’t grow up with that the way it is now, and I just wanted to thank them for that—it truly meant everything to me. They were living examples of progress.

I kind of blacked out after that. But I believe we spent the next few minutes just chatting about what it’s like being an LGBQT family in America today. And then we all settled into our spa time, and I was in bliss.

Author’s Family Portrait

“Thank you Danica,
Thank you Andrea,
Thank you Ellen Degeneres,
Thank you NPH,

And all the other fighters for equality for letting families like mine know that we’re not unnatural or wrong.”

There are moments when I am reminded of where I come from. Of the women who raised me, and the women before them. I am reminded how grateful I am for their love, passion, and relentless ambition for equality.

I am reminded how it didn’t just happen, it was fought for.

Yes, it has been a crazy fucked up year on a lot of different levels. But through all this craziness of socially driven media, insane tweets from an insane orange colored man, moment after moment of the other shoe dropping, we have these moments like the last election cycle when the country is looking at Danica Roem and Andrea Jenkins, and together as a country we say to them that we see you, we are with you, we support you. Given the laws of social media time decay, these moments fizzle and fade away with each passing scroll. But they still happened and are important. They are apart of my history, of our history.

So thank you Danica, thank you Andrea, thank you Ellen Degeneres, thank you NPH, and all the other fighters for equality for letting families like mine know that we’re not unnatural or wrong, but that we are seen, that we are not alone, that we are loved and a part of the country.

And, Neil Patrick Harris, if you’re reading this, I’d just like to apologize to you for making you stand wet and in the cold while I got the playbook in my purse for you to sign. You see, at the time of meeting you, whenever I wanted my friends to meet me at the bar, I used to say you were there. And so when I actually met you, I had to get something for you to sign to they actually believed I met you! They didn’t believe, being the girl who cried Neil Patrick Harris too much, but you really are THE BEST, and thank you for being apart of my best day.