Category Archives: Gay

Holiday Harangues

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I have never received an annual Hanukkah letter from any of my Jewish friends. If I had it would have probably gone something like this:

Dear Friends,

Once again this year we disagreed about everything including what to put in this letter. So, we decided to forget it and just write, Happy Hanukkah.

The number of annual holiday update letters is certainly on the decrease as we receive fewer each year.  Most of us have moved over to social media sites such as Facebook as the primary way to update others on family news.  The virtual image of the family has replaced for the most part the Christmas letter image of the family.

The letters I do still receive contain the following elements:

  • a straight couple
  • at least two children, by all accounts perfect
  • if applicable, perfect grandchildren
  • vacation summaries, usually involving at least one trip to an Orlando based theme park
  • announcements of professional successes and/or academic accolades
  • a family dog – not strapped to the roof of the car for those Mitt Romney fans out there

So why should the letters bother me?  Why can’t I  just smile and be happy for our friends or distant acquaintances?  Maybe I read too much John Cheever?  Maybe I am just too cynical?

I can’t help but wonder if the happy facade isn’t just that, a facade, and that underneath lurks a dysfunctional family dying to break free.  Could the actual story contain the following elements instead?

  • husband & wife have boring sex maybe once or twice a month, if lucky
  • husband is having an affair either with a guy at the gym or a colleague at work
  • wife is having an affair either with a woman at the gym or a colleague at work
  • kids are in therapy
  • daughter has an eating disorder
  • son smokes pot
  • kids feel distanced from father and know the marriage is in bad shape
  • father laid off and home about to be foreclosed
  • mom has a shopping addiction and is running up the credit cards

Okay, I could go on and on.  So what if some element of the above is true about your own life and you receive the annual happy letter from the Wackos?  Will it be the one item at the holidays to throw you into a deep depression?  I guess that is my true worry, that receiving a letter filled with so much happiness and perfection might make someone else feel bad about their own not-so-perfect life.  Maybe a lay off has devastated your family this past year, and you are just trying to make it; do you really need to receive letters glorifying the perfect lives of others?

I spent many years as a single woman at the holidays.  Some of my single holidays were wonderful and some were rather bleak.  When I lived in Maryland, I spent several holidays with a Borders colleague and her mother.  All three of us were divorced and good cooks.  We would enjoy a good meal, share some turkey with the dogs and spend the afternoon drinking wine and playing cards.  Another holiday in Michigan was spent with a woman and her husband.  She was a wonderful cook, however he did not compliment her very often about it or much of anything.  I brought one appetizer which he proceeded to rave about and then began flirting with me in front of her.  I made a hasty exit before her looks turned me and my dog into literal minced meat pie.

My favorite story of the single Christmas was shared by a good friend whose single sister, I’ll call her Sally, spent the day with a colleague from work and her family.  A family member attending the gathering was developmentally delayed and kept forgetting having been introduced to Sally.  Every 30 minutes or so the family member would loudly ask again, “Who are you and why are YOU here?”  UGH!  That really just sums up how we have all felt at one time or another surviving another round of holidays as the “single”  person.

My first Christmas with my husband was wonderful.  We did not yet have to experience the awkwardness of the blended family Christmas and we enjoyed a lovely meal and romantic evening.  It was just the two of us.  We did not have any crazy family or friends to manage and we enjoyed every minute of it.  This year we will go to the movies with his children on Christmas Day and then enjoy some good food.  Hopefully, as the years go by the awkwardness will lessen as we adjust to this new life of getting along together.

So to all those who still write the Christmas letter, I beg of you move on over to Facebook with the rest of us narcissists or better yet, start writing your own blog.   Happy Holidays!

Do you still send cards or letters at the holidays?  Do you have any advice to help me cope with the phenomenon of the Christmas letter?

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My Gay Guys

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My very first boyfriend (in second grade) turned out to be gay.  Was this a sign of things to come?  He came to my door on Valentines Day to deliver candy.  We would remain friends throughout school.  He was brilliant, handsome, funny and talented.  All through high school he was bullied by the jocks and called racist names they associated with gay.  I would try to go up and talk with him during this harassment to deflect the attention, but never had the true courage to defend him.  After he starred in one of our high school plays and was a comedic success he earned their respect temporarily, and they left him alone.  I breathed a sigh of relief on his behalf.  In our small town area though, I wonder if he was ever truly accepted?  I am sure there are still those who would call him names.  Unfortunately his was a tragic ending, as he never could quite kick his drug addiction and despite a successful career and relationship with a man, his heart gave out literally.

Another guy in high school who set off my my gaydar and attracted the bullies invited me to his senior prom.  Again, I tried to keep the jocks away by sitting next to him in classes and offering friendship.  I was not interested in going to the prom with him, so I made up a whopper and told him my mother could not afford to buy a prom dress.  His mother promptly offered to pay for the dress.  I was trapped momentarily, but quickly thought my way out of it explaining that we were too proud to accept charity.  I ended up going to something called the after prom party with a good girlfriend.  My girlfriend and I spent hours plotting our escape from our small town area and dreaming of our future careers and college.  The party had a tragic ending for me about which I will write in my next blog.  I hope wherever my girlfriend ended up she is happy and successful, living out her dreams.

My next gay boyfriend came along soon after my first marriage ended.  This time my gaydar did not go off, but it should have.  Let’s see, he was considering the priesthood, and loved helping me plan our opera-themed party evenings.  This involved watching an opera on PBS Great Performances and cooking a gourmet meal based on the composer’s country of origin.  All that was missing was a feather boa– oh wait I think he wore that to one of our parties.  He never tried to kiss me and finally when I tried to kiss him, he confessed.  He was also from our small area, actually the larger more urban area of Cleveland, and was not comfortable being out and very worried about how his family was going to react.  He was heir to a family business in which he had no interest, and was terrified of being forced into marriage; hence his idea of escaping into the priesthood.

Last but not least, in my late twenties I met a wonderful, and in my opinion very macho man for whom I fell head over heels.  I had absolutely no intention of letting this happen, and had my guard up and thought my heart was well protected.  I was unhappy in my current career path and focused on finding my way.  I was not going to let falling in love interfere with that.  However it did and I found myself gaga over him.  When I told him I loved him, he told me that he loved me, but could never commit to a serious relationship or marriage with a woman.  He had conflicting feelings about his sexuality.  He had never been bullied but of course feared all the potential repercussions of  living an openly gay lifestyle.  I completely broke down.  How could I have missed this?  We tried to hang on for another year, but finally the relationship died a slow death.  We were young, but my heart was still broken and took a while to heal.

My gay boyfriends’ fears were real.  My good friend Jose´ who lost his battle with AIDS in the late eighties was openly gay, but rejected by his family.  His sisters visited him once in the hospital but refused to take him home with them to Chicago to die.  He died alone at 3 am in a Medicaid approved Nursing Home and the family did not claim the body.

The bullying that I watched in high school still continues today and is directed at those with the courage to come out openly at a young age.   Numerous studies have shown that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth have a higher rate of suicide attempts than do heterosexual youth.  The Suicide Prevention Resource Center synthesized these studies and estimated that between 30 and 40% of LGB youth, depending on age and sex groups, have attempted suicide.

Recently a mutual friend of my first boyfriend, still feeling the pain of his loss, asked me “Gay, I mean what does it matter [to others]?”  Oh it mattered so much, and so did he.