November 17, 2010

Dealing with Thanksgiving, gay-style

The holidays are upon us, y’all. The leaves are falling, squash is in season, and there’s no doubt about it: It’s Thanksgiving time. Or, if you prefer, ye old time to hang out with the family.

I like to think of myself as a kind of Thanksgiving expert. First of all, I have been doing it since I was a kid. Thanksgiving dinner with the relatives used to be mysterious, slightly scary and wonderful-smelling all rolled into one, not unlike a drag queen in a burqa. For some, gathering around the table with the family inspires unresolved emotion ranging anywhere from rejection to deep-rooted tension to just plain old confusion. Thanksgiving is certainly not like what you see on television. Things aren’t fixed by the end of the hour. And you don’t necessarily know what you or anyone else is going to say next.

These days, I actually enjoy hanging with my family for some good old American tradition, and I’ve learned that sometimes it’s good to just pretend to be normal. It’s something I do every now and then for fun, like floating in an inner tube. Now, I usually go to five or six Thanksgivings a year. There’s both my parents’ separate Thanksgivings, there’s my girlfriend’s parents’ separate Thanksgivings, there is my sister’s husband’s parents’ Thanksgiving, and then, of course, the ever-important friends’ Thanksgiving. Sometimes I even have a Thanksgiving at my house. Every year, I survive unscathed and feel more thankful than I did before.

“As a gay,” you might ask, “how do you manage to enjoy your Thanksgiving so thoroughly?” “It’s simple,” I would say. “Just avoid all awkward situations at all times. And please don’t call me a gay.”

But seriously, I have found that the single most important thing anyone can do to enjoy Thanksgiving is to try not to think about its true history (especially not the events that transpired between the European settlers and the Native Americans following the original Thanksgiving in 1621). While some contemporary family tables can feel like an emotional war-zone, the original Thanksgiving ended up leading to an actual war-zone. And everybody had it hard back then. The colonists were dealing with sickness, hunger and life in an unknown land. But it turned out really bad for the Native Americans. After agreeing to peace and a sharing of prosperity over Thanksgiving, the colonists ended up taking over their land, killing off the majority of their people. And thinking about it tends to put a damper on the holiday. In fact, I have found it is best not to think about the true history of that time period at all. Don’t bring up in conversation the Puritan punishment for homosexuality, because it’s a bummer.

If you catch yourself thinking about the origin of Thanksgiving, I suggest you do what I do. Immediately ask yourself: What if the Pilgrims were gay? Native American fashion would surely be more popular today. If the Pilgrims were gay, they probably would not have befriended the Indians and then deceived them in order to have control of the land. They would more likely have been the Indians’ best friends for a long time, especially on the weekends. Chances are they would have danced a lot with the Indians, listened to all their problems, and offered advice and suggestions that are both witty and fun. Sperm donating to lesbians would be a time-honored tradition. And much of our shared land would still be home to a thriving, spiritual and mostly peaceful native people.

Or maybe not. But by accepting each other now, being grateful and remembering the old saying, “If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can’t buy,” we can still change things.

If you do have a friends’ Thanksgiving, during which you are surrounded by your chosen family and not necessarily your biological family, do not waste it by complaining about your bio-Thanksgiving. It just takes away from the time you could be thankful for your friends. And, if you are lucky enough to have your significant other welcome at the family dinner table, just don’t engage in any sexual innuendo until after you leave. Don’t try to sneak a kiss at the table, in the steam of the mashed potatoes. That goes for everybody. That’s not Puritan, that’s just good old fashioned courtesy.