But when writing a 2005 Modern Love column for the New York Times, Savage turned the lens onto himself. In the now-famous essay “D.J.’s Homeless Mommy,” Savage describes the complications of open adoption.
Now, Savage’s essay about becoming a parent is one of the eight columns adapted for the screen in Amazon Prime’s series, Modern Love, out October 18. The episode, slightly changed from Savage’s essay, is called “Hers Was a World of One.”
Here’s the real story.
What’s the original essay about?
After less than two years together, Savage and his now-husband, Terry Miller, decided to start a family. They adopted their son, D.J., from a 19-year-old woman, Melissa, who was homeless by choice.
Homeless, surrounded by drugs, and going in and out of prison, Melissa was on the path of what Savage calls a “slo-mo suicide.” The essay is peppered with Savage’s melancholy obsessions. What will D.J. think of his mother, who visited erratically?
Things have changed for the Savage-Miller family. On an appearance on the Modern Love podcast, Savage said he wrote the “moment of confusion and despair,” which has since passed.
How does the Modern Love episode compare to the real story?
The TV show gives the essay more of a conventional narrative structure — as in, there’s a show-down to release all the tension inherent in the arrangement. Andrew Scott (aka hot priest of Fleabag) plays Tobin, an Irish and curmudgeonly version of Dan Savage. Brandon Kyle Goodman plays Andy, his kind-hearted partner. Melissa (Olivia Cooke) is the 19-year-old who chooses them to raise her child. Her reasons are the same in the show as in real life: They seemed “realer” to her than other couples.
Also, Ed Sheeran doesn’t pop up in the essay. The episode concludes on a much happier note. Karla is in touch with her daughter (not son, as in real life), and Tobin is enjoying fatherhood.
Conversely, Savage’s essay ends in a place of despondency. He’s helpless as he watches how Melissa’s self-destruction affects his son. “A lot of people who self-destruct don’t think twice about destroying their children in the process. Maybe DJ’s mother knew she was going to self-destruct and wanted to make sure her child wouldn’t get hurt. She left him somewhere safe, with parents she chose for him, even though it broke her heart to give him away, because she knew that if he were close, she would hurt him, too,” Savage writes.
Where is D.J. now?
D.J. is about 20 years old. When Savage went on the Modern Love podcast, he said D.J., then 18, was working at a coffee shop in Seattle.
When D.J. was 15, he came out to his parents as straight. “He felt this allegiance to us. He thought we would be disappointed if he wasn’t gay like us. He felt awkward coming out as straight, and it kind of broke our hearts,” Savage said in an Xtra interview in 2013.
Where is D.J.’s mom now?
In short, she’s doing well. “D.J.’s mom is alive and well,” Savage assured during a 2016 appearance on the Modern Love podcast. She splits her time between Portland and a rural area. She has housing. She and D.J. speak occasionally. “Things leveled out,” he says. “We’re happy to have her in our lives.”