Gay Penguins, Or, How Some Column Titles Just Write Themselves

GateHouse — I have a 3-year-old son, so to be consistent with most of Parenting Nation these days, I try to stay absolutely terrified of everything.

I’ve filed the sharp edges off his Thomas trains. I’ve stuffed each unused outlet in the house with a safe, current-dampening wad of Juicy Fruit gum. If he falls down, I have a small junta of helper monkeys who spring into action, careful to catch him the split second before his valuable noggin hits the thick layer of bubble wrap I’ve installed over the carpet.

But sometimes, it’s just not possible to shield your child from all the dangers in the world, unless, of course, you are Batman, which I only have time to be occasionally.

For instance, I have to cancel a planned summertime road trip to Charlotte, N.C., whose school district has decided to not ban from its libraries the book “And Tango Makes Three,” which is about penguins.

But not just regular penguins. Totally gay ones.

The controversy over this book, of course, erupted quickly for all the reasons you might expect — penguins are TERRIFYING. Have you ever SEEN those things? All waddling around, with that shifty look in their beady little eyes, wobbling and bobbling and then, for no reason, jumping into pools of icy water, as if to say, “What else you got, punk? Because I can jump into pools of icy water!” Also I think they know how to use knives. (Recent movies involving their purported adorable “marching” are little more than penguin-propagated propaganda, designed to lure you into thinking they’re all soft and cuddly and resilient and stuff. That’s what they WANT you to think. Because they’re evil. And don’t get me started on dolphins.)

I am kidding, of course — the problem that the parents within the Charlotte school district had is that the book promotes homosexuality somehow. This happens first on page 4, during this exchange:

Penguin 1: “It’s getting kind of cold out here, don’t you think, Tango?”

Tango: “You know what you should be? Gay!”

And it goes on from there. Now I’m a fairly open-minded guy, but even I started to find the book’s gratuitous nudity a little much. And there are like eight pages dedicated to Liza Minnelli for some reason.

The picture book is based on a real-life encounter between two penguins in the Central Park Zoo, who, a few years back, got together and hatched an adopted egg (a similar thing happened at the Brookfield this past March, where the giraffes set up a screening of “Brokeback Mountain” in Habitat Africa). The penguins were both male, which is not something I’d have the first clue how to go about investigating, but that’s why I stay inside a lot of the time. “And Tango Makes Three” tells their story. “Everybody wants to read that book,” Charlotte school library director Gloria Miller said recently. “It’s a wonderful way to get students and parents reading.” (You could also start with that adorable satanist Harry Potter.)

Rather than enact one of those laws that crazy people might read as book-banning or something, the district will let parents review the books for themselves and decide if they want their kids to read it. Hah! Suckers. Like letting people make decisions for themselves and their own families is ever going to work!

So needless to say, I’ll be sticking around here, where it’s safe. Although I hear there have been a couple instances of suspicious-looking dolphins lurking around.


About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

2 responses to “Gay Penguins, Or, How Some Column Titles Just Write Themselves

  • Anonymous

    My partner and I have 4yr. old twins that go to school in Riverside. They are asking for books, and I bought Todd Parr – the usual “everyone is different and that’s ok” book. How did I forget about Tango?! Thanks for the reminder!I just bought 2 copies.Gotta go, some dolphins are knocking on the door…..


  • Dan B (no, not Bennett, think harder)

    Speaking Of Liza Minnelli, there is an amazingly popular new group on Yahoo called THE JUDY GARLAND EXPERIENCE. They have ultra rare audio files, photo’s lively discussions, and an incredible group of people that includes Judy’s family members, authors of several Garland biographies, people who knew Judy, and an eclectic bunch of fans of all age ranges (including many that were able to see Judy perform in person. Come check the group out, its great!


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