I am writing this on a crowded flight from my adopted home of Toronto to my former home of Edinburgh, where I am trying to ignore the brainwashing effect of Fred Claus on ten tiny screens in front of me.
Like countless others, I am heading home for Christmas. So far though, I’m having a hard time getting into the spirit of the holiday — mainly because, for our third Christmas in a row, my partner and I are going to be on inconveniently opposite sides of the Atlantic.
I’m not the only one complaining about Christmas this year. Friends who have been hit by the recession face Christmas shopping with dread; those who still have their jobs are too busy to shop. It’s got me thinking about the reasons queers have in particular for succumbing to bouts of Grinchiness as the time for turkey comas and bad television rolls around.
For some, it’s that they simply can’t go home — either because they were shown the door after their first adolescent fumblings were met with more than the usual amount of horror, or because they’ve fled their small towns for urban centres and can’t afford the trip back.
For others, it’s that they themselves are still welcome at the family dinner table, but evidence of their “alternative” lifestyles must be toned down for everyone else’s comfort levels. For many queers, this means enduring questions about the dates they’re supposedly going on with members of the opposite sex, while questions about their true spouses are conspicuously absent.
Some resort to bringing their partners to Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving dinner as their “roommate” or “best friend”, even though everyone is painfully aware they’ve been “roommates” for five years and both parties continue to report suspiciously empty datebooks. Others settle for surreptitiously texting them between courses.
Whether you’re queer or not, family events can be rife with things not said and tensions that bubble to the surface after one too many drinks with dinner. For the black sheep among them, this kind of bickering can strike particularly close to the bone.
It’s for this reason that queers have been leading pioneers of the alternative family Christmas. But increasingly, they’re far from the only ones doing it. So, if you’re dreading your own family Christmas, here’s a bold proposition: play hooky.
Use rising fuel costs, snowstorms and the recession as an excuse. Grab some similarly truanting friends, Google turkey recipes, rent DVDs instead of watching whichever Vince Vaughn or Tim Allen nightmare is on every channel, skip the Governor General’s speech, and give inappropriate gifts you’d normally hold off on in case they get unwrapped in front of Auntie Marge.
Of course, since I’m having this epiphany somewhere over Greenland it’s too late for me to take my own advice. In fact, I’m actually gaining tentative enthusiasm for mince pies and The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Go on without me — I’m a lost cause.
Cate Simpson is a freelance journalist and the web editor for Shameless magazine. She lives in Toronto.