I really detest the holidays. I don’t think I’m alone in this; just this morning Frank DeFord led his piece on Morning Edition with the phrase “I just don’t care about Thanksgiving.” Here, here! It’s not that I’m unthankful; I know I have a lot to be thankful about. And it’s not just Thanksgiving; I’d be happy if Christmas were omitted as well (but can I keep the vacation?). I think the issue for me is acceptance. Oh, and hypocrisy.
(warning: bitterness follows) I’m gay. For those of you who didn’t know that may be a shock, but really: would a straight guy talk about a frat party without mentioning titties? I don’t think so. With that in mind, the holidays are a time when I spend a large amount of contiguous time with my family, and when the people who are supposed to love me and care about me feel embolden enough to tell me how offended they are at my “lifestyle.”
Now understand, I love my family. My parents, sisters, and their husbands are incredibly respectful of, if not always in total agreement with my beliefs. I bring my partner to family gatherings, and my family seems genuinely interested in his opinions and what he has to say. It wasn’t always like this, but because they love me they’ve made an effort. My parents and I know exactly where the other stands on the “validity” of homosexuality, but we’re adult enough to realize that our personal relationship is more important. At least that’s how I perceive it.
My extended family is another story. My mother has two sisters, Carla and Fonda. Last year Carla called and invited me to Thankgiving Dinner. I wasn’t completely clear, so I asked her if Garrett was invited as well. I didn’t think it would be polite to simply show up with him in tow. But instead of saying, “no, I’m not comfortable with that” (which would have been disappointing but not mean-spirited), she instead proceeded to explain why. I am a firm believer in plurality. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, and I’ll do my best to respect them. But when my aunt explained “I know you’re this way because you’re mother’s so controlling” and then continued with “I just can’t have that in my house; just like it wouldn’t be right for me to invite an alcoholic and allow him to bring booze,” I snapped. I informed her that while I respected her opinion, she had no right to criticize my mother, and that it was just a shame she held up religion to avoid seeing (and I quote) “just how f***ed up your life really is.” And I hung up.
Some might say that wasn’t the most mature thing to do, and they’d be right. Carla said the same when she called back and left me a message saying “That wasn’t very mature, and I thought you were above cursing, Nathan. I guess I was wrong.” Yes, you were wrong. No, I’m not above it. Bitch.
And so I’ve just made it a policy of not attending events at her home. And that was fine with me; her food is always nearly inedible anyway. She’s hosting Christmas this year, and that’s just another day I have to enjoy my break. This year my other aunt, Fonda, is hosting Thanksgiving. She also left me a message saying “you’re invited to Thanksgiving.” Why can’t people just be direct and say “you’re invited, but your good-for-nothing homo lover isn’t” ? Things would be so much clearer. So again, I called, and this time left a message saying, “Thanks for the invite, Fonda; Garrett and I would love to come. See you Saturday!”
As you might expect, Fonda just called. I don’t think she was expecting anyone to answer, which made the conversation just a little bit gratifying for me. She started with the classic “I think there’s been a misunderstanding.” Yes, she’s right; I understood that her and her family loved me. And I also understood that love should be unconditional. Afterall, that’s what I learned in Sunday School. Fonda was really doing OK with her statement to me when she said, “we have to think of our children.” And I laughed. On the inside, of course. When I asked what she meant by this, she expounded.
“Well Andy and Austin [my two homophobic, red-neck, uneducated sons] about had a fit at grandma’s funeral this summer when they thought they heard you say ‘this is my partner, Garrett.’”.
“Well of course I said that, he is.”
“Well if they hadn’t been there for grandma, they would have left.”
First, some background. My grandmother died this summer. While not unexpected, it’s been very difficult for us all. Garrett is the only reason I’ve worked through it as much as I have. His presence at the funeral wasn’t to offend anyone or shove it in anyone’s face; it was because I was crying too hard to drive myself, and needed something — anything — to lean on. Second, a question: if they were really there for grandma, they should have been focused on their own grief and making peace as opposed to policing my actions, right? Just checking. And this whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” philosophy. Is there some special, conditional “sinner love” they’re using here? It’s funny (uh-oh, not ha-ha) because the people in my life who are the least religious seem to be the best at unconditional, unashamed, unguilted love and respect. I like that in people.
I’ve struggled quite a bit with figuring out just how my family fits into my life, and how to respect their beliefs even when I don’t agree with them. I think I strike a pretty good balance; when I have questions about how to act, I look at my siblings and married cousins and observe their behavior. And then I dial down the public affection and pet names a few notches and try that.
I guess I should be thankful that my family hasn’t figured out unconditional love. If they had they’d be marching with PFLAG, handing out flyers and expecting me to do it with them. And I don’t have that sort of time. As it stands, my holidays breaks suddenly have a lot more free time. I can take a pottery class.