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,
(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
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