Oh, I’ve been away too long! I haven’t posted a blog since Skippy was a pup, I know. I feel bad about it, I do, but what had happened was I got completely overwhelmed by the excitement surrounding the new Beyonce album and I just fell the fuck out. I’ve been in a Diva Coma! That is an actual thing! It is a medical condition! I had to get Obamacare for it. For the last two weeks I’ve been in an assisted living facility where nurses had to play Celine Dion ballads at my bedside around the clock. This is SERIOUS, y’all. My status was wavering between Trife and Ratchet. IN THE GLOAMING, y’all.
Anyway, Celine loved me back to life (in stores now!) and I’m all healed up!
I’ve got all manner of blog tomfoolery planned for this week, including a Year in Pictures coming out tomorrow that will probably just consist of photos of brunch and praise GIFS.
I wrote the following for the William Way Center’s Latin Carol Extravaganza, a fabulous evening of holiday songs sun in Latin (Frosty the Snowman became Frigus Vir Nivis, but of course you already know that.) The Center’s extraordinary director, Chris Bartlett, asked me to deliver a monologue in Latin, and I—like most people in Philadelphia—will do anything for Chris Bartlett, so I obliged (hence the title of this entry, which translates into “New Human”).
I only took a half a semester of Latin at Columbia wherein we translated St. Augustine and listened to our professor rant about how her husband had made her quit dancing ballet and get a teaching job, so my skills were a bit rusty. Fortunately, Chris is a Latin scholar and translated the full piece. I’ve added a few things, including a post-Christmas epilogue and taken out a part that I cribbed verbatim from this blog. It’s not self-plagarism. It’s called LaBeoufing. All the kids are doing it. Anyway, a little bit about Christmas presents…
We are serious about gifts in my family. There’s a rigid set of rules for gift-giving. We’re required to send our wish lists via e-mail at some point between Family Dinner, which is the second Sunday in October, and Black Friday. Excuse me, African-American Friday. (Not trying to get suspended by the PC Police.) If you fail to do it by the halfway mark, the Grace Period kicks in and you start receiving daily e-mails from my mother which read “You get what you get and don’t pitch a fit.” If you fail to send your list by African-American Friday, all bets are off and may the odds be ever in your favor.
This is the sole source of drama in my family. And, if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I’m not actually talking about my family because that would GET ME IN TROUBLE. I’m talking about the Huxtables from The Cosby Show. So when I say my brother, I mean Theo. And when I say my other brother, I also mean Theo. And when I say Cousin Pam I mean Cousin Pam because I don’t have a Cousin Pam. This is getting complicated.
Anyway, we’re not a dramatic family. There’s never any blowups or shouting matches or really much disagreement at all. There are the occasional nibblets of gossip that get whispered down the lane, but even those usually just boil up into some evening shade at Family Dinner that then dissipates into nothing with the next sporkful of macaroni and cheese (yes I use a spork. Because I’m CIVILIZED but I DON’T HAVE TIME TO WASTE.)
The last time I remember any drama of note was 20 years ago around the time of my grandfather’s death. My mother (Clair Huxtable) had inherited a ceramic figurine from her father (Clair Huxtable’s father). The figurine was of a woman with a giant mushroom hat on her head. Yup. I don’t know either. Apparently it was a hotly contested item because relatives kept popping out of the woodwork looking for the Mushroom Lady. From what I recall (and take this with a grain of salt because I am a lunatic and I sometimes don’t remember what’s my life and what’s an episode of Scandal), the drama culminated at my grandfather’s wake when my mother found my great-aunt poking around in the master bedroom of our house trying to steal the figurine. Let me just clarify: this is a family crisis about a 10″ tall lady with a mushroom on her head.
In the beginning we really resisted the gift system, especially my father. He would always send in lists that read “I want gold-toed socks and more time.” He’s so zen; he is always asking for socks and “more time.” And we’re always like, “Man, we ain’t giving you socks, man. Here’s a James Bond DVD set. You get what you get and don’t pitch a fit.”
Last year was the gold standard for the system. There were in-laws and significant others who were introduced to the way we do things: my one brother is married, my other brother had a girlfriend and I had a boyfriend. And we all, separately, explained to them how things worked and of course, they all responded with shock and awe. “What is this terrible thing and why do you do it?” And we, like rational human beings, responded with rage and panic. “You have to give me a list of five things! It’s almost midnight on Thanksgiving! Do you feel that? It’s Mommy, she’s clicking refresh on her e-mail! It’s like when the Deatheaters come in Harry Potter and you don’t have a Patronus! You get what you get and don’t pitch a fit! Just write down five things!”
The holidays are a magical time.
For me, the panic of the lists is nothing compared with the ordeal of actually buying gifts. I never buy anything on the lists because I’m a big ridiculous homosexual and gifts have two purposes in my mind: 1) to demonstrate how much better at gift-giving and empathy I am because I’m a gay man and 2) to find a way to buy your love, because I am a gay man.
This usually results in me wandering the streets on Christmas Eve, haggard and tired, looking like Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables: shaved head, dressed in rags, singing, prostituting myself. You know, the usual. Because no gift is ever good enough.
But last year, like I said, was the gold standard. Last year I discovered The Internet. Have you heard of it? You can just sit, at your desk, and buy things while watching Scandal. And so that’s what I did. I was just like “Oh, girl! No she didn’t! Click, click, click, purchase.” And everything arrived at my house courtesy of my very attractive UPS man and Christmas went off without a hitch.
This year, everything is different. The significant others weren’t around anymore, I’d spent all my money on Burt’s Bees and bed linens in an attempt to get over a breakup and my brother and sister-in-law had a brand new baby who was suddenly all anyone could talk about.
The system finally fell apart when my middle brother, the new father, sent his list out with a newfound paternal gruffness. He wrote, “We have hospital bills and this baby needs diapers so we’re not doing presents. All I want is more time.” And like that weird death dome that they fight in in The Hunger Games, the lists came crashing down. Alarms started beeping in the distance, a voice came over a loud speaker declaring “The system has failed! The system has failed! You get what you get! You get what you geeeeeeeeet!”
So, I’m went home on Monday alone and empty-handed.
Actually, I didn’t even go home. I went to my brother’s house in South Carolina and I was all out of sorts. When you go to your parents’ home, you’re on familiar turf; you know the rules and everyone kind of reverts back to a slightly more mature version of the person they were at 14. But at my brother’s house there was a whole different set of rules. He was in charge! To quote a current events reference, Homey don’t play that.
My brother had sent a message through the grapevine that he didn’t want anybody doing anything crazy like proposing or whatever at Christmas because he wanted the holiday to be all about his new child. I was like, “Um, are you aware that Christmas is actually about a different baby? Just an FYI.”
I immediately loved this kid, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a bit salty. He had instantly usurped my position as the most needy member of the family. Christmas can’t be about you, lil one, because Christmas this year and every year needs to be about whatever emotional land mines me and my therapist decide to detonate. Obvi.
I decided that the first thing I would do upon arrival would be to sit this baby down and have a conversation about not pulling focus. I am fine if he’s in the same room as me, but he needs to stand behind me and to the right. Genuflection whenever possible.
And this is a two-way street, of course. He defers to my fabulousness and I’ll do my best to get famous before he hits puberty so that all his friends can be envious and he can be like “LOLwhatever”. And I’ll keep using face moisturizer so that in 10 years all of his friends’ moms will comment about how youthful and attractive his uncle is and he’ll be like “OMG gross!”
Anyway, I went home empty-handed and alone, but somehow it still felt like Christmas. The system is down but there’s something bigger that’s twinkling the tinsel and jollying the holly. There’s fewer of us than there were last year, there were no over-sized boxes (aside from diapers. Y’all we talked about poop SO MUCH. SO MUCH TALKING ABOUT BABY SHIT). But that attention-hog baby, this new human, made all the difference. And to me, it gives the holiday a different meaning, it gives bringing joy to my family a whole new bent.
Before the trip, I told myself, “I’m going home with no packages and no partner and I’m going to walk right in and introduce myself to that little baby human. ‘Hello. Congratulations, I am your gay uncle. I don’t have a present for you but you wouldn’t remember it anyway. I just want you to know that as your gay uncle it’s my responsibility to make life fabulous for you. And so I’m going to do that. I’m going to buy you noisy birthday presents and Skype you from exotic locales, like San Francisco or Michael Liang’s apartment. I’m going to introduce you to the concept of brunch and slip you money when your dad isn’t looking. I’m going to talk to you about dating and relationships like you’re a real person even though that will be mortifyingly embarrassing for you. And, most of all, I’m going keep working to make the world a just, welcoming, beautiful place for you. And for myself. Because I love you already. And I love myself today. My gift to you is my presence. And it’s a good present because it means that from this moment on you know at least one queer person. And that will make you a better person, it will expand your conception of what love is, of what humanity can be. It will save you from close-mindedness and hate and put compassion and justice in their places. And the relationship that we build will open you up to so many other wonderful people that live in this huge, beautiful world. I want you to meet them. That’s my present to you. And you should know: we’re serious about gifts in this family.'”
At least, that’s what I intended to say to him. But, y’all, I was just thunderstruck by this little baby. I fell back into my Diva Coma. I gathered him up in my arms and trotted around my brother’s living room, just murmuring with joy until the baby fell asleep. I abandoned all pretenses of monologuing, I ceded all focus, I genuflected to this little person who isn’t even caught up the latest episodes of Orphan Black and, therefore, is completely incapable of holding intelligent discourse. I’ve become that person. That uncle who is obsessed with his nephew, that guy who floods his Instagram with pictures of someone else’s progeny. Is it possible that I am the nuvo homo? Could such a thing occur?
On Christmas morning, I held the baby as he slept, a tiny little snoring present. I whispered in his ear, “Hi. Congratulations. I am your gay uncle. Could you, maybe, call up to the baby Heaven, if you still remember the number? Could you ask them to maybe send a miracle just like you to my house? No time soon, but one day. Please?”
GUYS! I’m going to have a baby!