As I sit and reminisce about holidays past, I can’t help but recall the first time I brought a girlfriend home to meet my family on Christmas. I recently watched The Family Stone, one of my top five favorite holiday movies, and likely the catalyst to unearthing that long forgotten day
I am the middle of five children and loner of the pack. I always felt a bit odd. That feeling intensified into adolescence. It wasn’t until I realized I’m a lesbian that things started to make sense. I had kept much of my life and myself very private from my family. Even after coming out to them, sharing didn’t come naturally.
My oldest brother called one day and said he wanted me to know he was happy I came out. He said that he always knew. “I could have told you that you’re a lesbian, Chris. I just thought that you thought you were better than the rest of us, and that’s why you always did your own thing.”
I laughed because feeling better than anyone was so far from my reality. With that call, my brother opened the door for me to start being myself. When I started dating someone I thought to be “the one,” I decided to invite her and her young daughter to Christmas dinner with my family. It wasn’t without some hesitation. My family is loud and loves to banter. It’s not always easy to decipher playfulness from shade.
My girlfriend thought it would be fun to bring a giant bottle of tequila to help ease the tension. I failed to inform her that my Italian brood was best equipped to handle food intoxication as we were accustomed to eating supper three hours prior to eating dinner.
We arrived, exchanged pleasantries and joined my siblings, their partners and kids and my mom. Then the drinks started flowing. My girlfriend played the role of bartender and paid special attention to my mom, thinking it would win her over. Her plan was working too well as the more shots we did, the more my mom flirted with my girlfriend. The more my mom flirted with my girlfriend, the more my youngest sister began goading me.
In my experience, there’s at least one person in every family who’s secretly praying the gay away. That day, in my family, there were two.
My second oldest brother seemed on the fence, but also very interested in dancing with my girlfriend. I’ll admit, she was hot. I knew it, my mom definitely knew it, and the rest of my siblings knew it too. It was getting awkward.
Realizing she wasn’t the center of attention, my youngest sister decided to take out that baby-of-the-family jealousy on me. Her attacks were sporadic and inaccurate, targeting my sexuality and landing on my attire. First, she announced she didn’t believe I was gay. I just hadn’t found the right man.
With no reason or logic, I then pointed to my brother and said, “well, maybe he hasn’t found the right man either.”
I’m not sure if I was attempting to diffuse my sister’s tirade with humor, or if in fact I was just drunk. Either way, it didn’t stop her because she then loudly stated that my girlfriend and I were wearing hooker boots.
My girlfriend didn’t hear it because she was in the kitchen giggling with my mom. I didn’t know if I should have taken offense or not because I didn’t and still don’t know what type of boots “hookers” prefer to wear. We had on different black dress boots with heels, but nothing that said, “Sex Workers.”
At some point a cannoli flew past me, landing on my sister’s lap. My other sister, having enough of listening to her rant, tossed it across the table telling my youngest sister to stuff that in her mouth. That was and will always be hilarious to me.
While my baby sister was still stirring the metaphorical pot, I walked into the kitchen to find my mom literally stirring the pot of hot pasta water with just her finger. I shouted, “What are you doing?”
She turned around and smiled and said, “Must be the ‘quetila’?”
I’m still not sure how she didn’t lose her finger that day.
The drama continued in the living room where my sisters each accused the other of being a lesbian. It ended with one sister shouting, “at least I don’t live in my car.”
My oldest brother and I looked at each other confused as we thought I was the only homosexual present.
My sisters-in-law found comfort in a cigarette out on the patio, away from everyone else. With all the chaos, the adults forgot there were children present. We made it up to them by ending the night with a family game of poker. Just as the adults took our money when we were kids learning to play, we took theirs.
While the pandemic may change this year’s holiday gatherings, nothing will erase the memories created that Christmas. It will forever be the first and last time I brought a date home to my family. It will also be the day my siblings and I discovered we’d all slept with women. And most importantly, it was the first time I truly wondered if my mom was gay.
Looking back, it may also be the reason I’m single…