Monday, December 27, 2010

Home (after) the Holidays

I'm home in NOLA for two days, then back on the road again. My kittehs are attached to me; they insist on staying by my side and sleeping on top of me. Either they missed me or they're cold, who really knows? It's nice to have some unconditional snuggling, though. The cold is bitter this winter. It always feels like it goes straight down to my bones, and I find I struggle so much to get out of bed or leave the warmth of my house, especially after dark.

This holiday season was something between great and a mass fiasco, depending on the day. Argh. I wrote a short story back in 2006 about struggling to go home to see family over the holidays, and four years later, every word still rings so true.

My mom and I have such an on/off relationship. I'm formally estranged from over half the family -- haven't seen my father in almost ten years, and haven't seen his parents in at least five years. But Christmas usually means going to Shreveport for my mom's family, and there's a huge gap there -- they're pretentious, racist, sexist, homophobic, and always eager to put down everyone around them for their own advantage. I'm not perfect, by any means, but I try to live a life in opposition to all of those values. It's stressful and painful to be around them, to suck up my queerness and keep my mouth shut, which is mostly because if I run away or get angry, my mother freaks and our relationship unravels even more. I hate going home to listen to them bicker and moan about each other, especially on the one day of the year that everyone should suck it up and get along. I avoid seeing family for all these reasons, and it's not helpful that my mother still hasn't come to terms with my being queer, and insists that I hide that part of my life from my family. Hiding? I'm over that shit. We just don't talk about it. But of course, when my degree and my career and pretty much my whole life has to do with social justice, sex and sexuality, trans advocacy, HIV/AIDS prevention, and addressing public health disparities in sexual minorities... well, there's a bit of a gap in "approved" conversation topics. I hate that I can't be genuine around my family. I hate that being around them makes me miserable. But that's just the reality of it.

To make things more complicated, this is the first Christmas I've been single in years and years. I usually have a girlfriend to call or leave to hang out with. When I lived in Shreveport, I could check out and go home when I needed a break from too much family. But when I'm visiting and staying with my mom, I don't get that time to check out and center myself. I could justify suffering through family because I was so looking forward to spending time with my girlfriend. But this year, not having that excitement and that distraction sort of sucked.

To put it in a nutshell, my  mom got pissed at my brother and I on Christmas Eve, then proceeded to not talk to us for 24 hours. She got drunk at Christmas, acted like an asshole to everyone, refused to open her presents, told us we were going on a family trip as a gift then flat out refused to go with us, and refused to talk to us about why she was angry. To top it all off, because she's passive aggressive as hell, she left Christmas without telling us, locked herself in her room, then called me the next day to ask why I didn't talk to her on Christmas. I swear, it was like my mom was fifteen. I was so, so, so glad to leave town and head back South.

On top of all this, my cousin started asking her brother if I was queer a month ago, and he contacted me, asking if I would talk to her. So, for Christmas, I got to come out to my little brother and my youngest cousin. Thankfully, both were cool about it. My cousin is turning out to be really awesome; we had a great conversation about how she's pro-choice (yay!) and keeps getting in arguments with pro-life kids at her Catholic school. Plus she's made it a point to stand up for her gay friends who are harassed by Catholic kids and told they are going to hell. So good to know that even in the soul-sucking atmosphere of my family, my generation has some hope. It's awesome that I'm finally breaking down those walls, and I feel like I am forming stronger relationships with my brother and my cousins, even as my relationship with my mother seems to be deteriorating again. Yeah, yeah, God and windows and doors and shit.

The saving grace of this holiday season, though, has definitely been my friends. I saw so many old college and high school friends in Shreveport over the holidays, which was amazing. I'm so very looking forward to this week, but I can't write about it until after the fact. I think my real Christmas was not the 25th, but the holiday parties at friends houses, the night of Solstice at my house, Carrolling in the Square with 8,000 people and dinner afterwards at Green Goddess, Thanksgiving with friends, decorating with my roommate, and all the other moments when I could be the most genuine, when I was surrounded by people whom I adore and respect. Over coffee and drinks, over homemade gumbo and Whole Foods brie wheels, over cigarettes and movies and crab cakes and brass bands, over Saints games and phone calls, over laughs and tears and brutally honest, soul-baring conversations... that was my Christmas. A mess of holiday moments, all spread apart and unconventional, but genuine and rejuvenating in their own way.

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