Me and the holidays—we don’t really get along. During Christmas, New Year’s and Hanukkah (yeah, I celebrate that, too), I eat too much, drink too much and become way too poor from buying everyone presents and taking time off work. Then there’s the family. I’m really tight with my parents, grandmother and sister. But that’s about it. I don’t see much of my extended family—the aunts, uncles, cousins, you know. Oh yeah, and I’ve never come out to any of them. Awkward, much? You bet.
The first person I ever came out to was my 15-year-old sister. I knew she’d be the most understanding and would have the least negative reaction. Of course, she didn’t disappoint. And my parents’ initial reaction was to brush it off. That is, after they realized I wasn’t about to announce that I was pregnant. Part of them still thinks my lesbianism is a phase, but they’ve been accepting. I was terrified to tell my grandmother, even though she’s one of the kindest members of my family. I just couldn’t make myself do it. So, one day, I just introduced her to my girlfriend. She didn’t think twice about accepting her with open arms.
But the list of family members who know ends there. I have a pretty large family on my mom’s side and I’m pretty sure most of them don’t have a clue. During the holidays, I’m forced to eat, drink and chat in an overheated room with a bunch of people who don’t know this super-important thing about me. Inevitably, someone will ask me if I have a boyfriend. I’ll blush, pause awkwardly, think for a minute and finally say … no.
It’s not that I don’t want them to know. I do. But the only time I see my extended family is during the holidays. Even though I’m not religious, I feel uncomfortable talking about my sexuality while standing next to a nativity scene. The idea of telling someone I’m gay while they’re wearing a red Santa sweater makes my skin crawl. The holidays are supposed to be happy, cheerful and … wholesome. I’d rather talk about how I have a job and love living in NYC than who I’m sleeping with.
For me, coming out has always been a one-on-one thing. I have terrible stage fright, so I’m not going to say it at a family dinner. All I can picture is a bunch of people, staring at me open-mouthed, their forks paused in mid air. The only other way would be going around the room at a holiday party and, between gulps of champagne, tell each person one by one. That’s not happening either.
Some think the holidays are a perfect time to come out. This time of year tends to put people in a good mood. After a few drinks, a large meal and a ton of presents, who knows? Maybe your conservative parents will suddenly start waving the rainbow flag. Maybe the old folks, who you think won’t get it, will nod knowingly and ask what she’s like.
But I just can’t do it right now. And since I only see my family during the holidays, they may never know.
For those of you who are planning to do it, good luck. Oh, and if you pick up any tips while you’re at it, let me know. (The only one I can think of right now is: Don’t stand next to baby Jesus.) Obviously, I could use the help. If you can’t say it this year, don’t worry, I’m right there with ya.