Posts Tagged tradition

Back to Reality

Christmas day had passed. My time home was coming to an end. I was happy to be home, but I was also anxious to get back to normal life.

The morning after Christmas, my father and I decided to do a little shopping to see if we could land any special deals to kill time. I would also finally be in cell phone service, so I could text Smiles and wish him a safe flight. When I got into service, I got an influx of text and picture messages. He’d sent me quite a few, keeping me updated on what he was up to. I really was missing him and quite anxious to get back to see him. I proposed we do dinner at my apartment since he had to postpone it before the holidays. He texted back in agreement. I was finally going to get to make us the standing rib roast. I told him I missed him, and he responded, “I miss you too! 🙂 “ I could have melted into a puddle right there. This was so unlike him to express his emotions like this, but I was eating it up!

The day after Christmas is always spent with my father’s side of the family. We all gather together for a nice potluck meal that rotates from house to house year to year.  This side of the family has also shrunk significantly. My grandparents have been gone since I was quite young. My father’s brother is in rough shape these days from his battles with diabetes. His sister died a few years ago and her husband is in a nursing home. I rarely see their daughter, my cousin since she moved away and got married. That left one sister whose husband also passed away a few years ago. But as that generation was shrinking, another was growing in leaps in bounds. The living sister has 5 children, all of which are married and have become baby making machines. They now outnumber the four of us five to one.

The gathering is always a lively one with many children running about. Christmas is one of the two times I spend with this side of the family each year (the other being an annual family reunion). We also have an annual tradition of a “Yankee gift swap” or “white elephant sale” depending where you come from. The tradition has lost a lot of its allure as my cousins have adopted a new tradition of buying crap at Wal-Mart and Big Lots the day after Christmas for half price.

My sister and I had to work the Tuesday after Christmas, so around 5:00 we hopped in the car and made our way back to Hoboken. When I got back to my apartment and unloaded all my presents from home, I picked up the phone and called Smiles. Sadly, it went straight to voicemail. I was hoping to relax after a long car ride with some time talking to him, but alas, that wouldn’t be the case.

My roommate arrived home, and we swapped all our holiday stories. We plopped down on the couch and started to catch up on the programs we saved on the DVR. After some time, Smiles called. I think if you were in New Jersey when the phone rang, you may have seen a beacon of light in the sky that was my smile.

He told me about his trip home and the ordeal he went through. When he got back to the city, he’d gone out with one of his female friends for dinner. He devised a new plan to work out of her apartment going forward so he would be more productive than he was working out of his apartment. He felt if he had a place to go to every day that wasn’t in line of sight of his bed, he would get more done. I told him I thought it was a great idea. Even though they wouldn’t be coworkers, they could keep each other on task. Either that, or it would be a complete disaster, and they would be a constant distraction for each other.

I told him about my time home, my family and how the gift swap has become a sham. He laughed and told me about the rest of his time home with the family.

It wasn’t a long phone conversation, as our phone calls never are, but it certainly satisfied my hunger for Smiles. It would satiate me until I got to see him the following night when he came over for dinner.

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Let’s Talk About… God?

Christmas Eve, my family and I always go to mass. We wake Christmas morning and open presents, so we go the night before.

Every year when we get home, it’s a tradition for my family to take a picture in front of the tree. I am always the obligatory photographer, which for some reason I strongly resent. Everyone in my family has a point and shoot and knows how to set up a tripod and click a button. I’m not exactly sure why it is my duty just because I’ve taken photography classes. I digress…

We take the family portrait and make our ways to our separate rooms to take off the Christmas outfits and get comfortable for the rest of the night.

My father and my sister wanted to watch a football game, and my mother and I had no interest. I can’t for the life of me remember what we decided to watch, but we were in the family room while the other two were in the living room watching the game.

Somehow my mother and I got back on the topic of church and the changes to the mass. For those non-Catholics out there, the Vatican altered the verbiage used in the mass this year. Apparently when they originally translated the mass, they messed up. All of a sudden they felt the need to “fix” it to be truer to the original text. I was arguing the changes weren’t necessary. The changed things like the following: The priest says, “Peace be with you.” In the past the congregation responded, “And also with you.” Now, the response is, “And with your spirit.” To me, those changes are semantics.

My mother heavily disagreed. She felt the changes were necessary and good. She felt it helped her pay closer attention to the mass. To me, it was a distraction. I was now paying more attention to a piece of paper I had to read than I was to the mass. My mother asked me if my priest had been explaining the changes, and somewhere I slipped up. It became apparent I hadn’t been going to church every week.

My mother got heated about that issue. “You haven’t been going to church every week, have you? But you had no problem receiving communion tonight!”

My sister and I had discussed religion and my status as a gay man on numerous occasions. I told her there was going to come a point where I told my parents I don’t want to go to church anymore more. She asked that I hold off on that for a while. I told her I wasn’t going to bring it up anytime soon. I wasn’t going to bring this topic up, but when my mother brought up this topic, I was gonna go with it.

“Really, Mom? Really? That’s going to be the reason I don’t go up to receive communion?” I quipped. “What do you mean? she said. “I mean, not going to church is going to be the reason I don’t get communion, not me being gay?” I responded.

My mother voiced her opinion that being gay is not a sin. Not attending church is a sin. I pointed out to her that both are sins in the eyes of The Church. She tried to convince me The Church’s stance on homosexuality is based on decisions made by men, and not attending church goes against a God-given law in the commandments. I pointed out to her the commandment to honor thy wife. (I know my argument is flawed here because the commandment refers to adultery). She sighed a bit because I did have a point in her mind.

“Well then everyone who’s ever had premarital sex shouldn’t be receiving communion either,” she added. “Exactly! That’s exactly what the Catholic Church believes,” I told her.

“Well then I shouldn’t be receiving communion because I’ve used birth control,” she noted. “Exactly. If you don’t believe birth control is a sin, then you’re not truly Catholic. You’re Catholic lite,” I exclaimed. “I have never been a true Catholic. I’ve always been a ‘cafeteria Catholic.’ I pick and choose what I want to believe. That is what religion is. It’s personal. I don’t always need to go to a specific building with a specific man to have a relationship with God.”

“You’re not going to church because you’re lazy, not because it’s against something you believe,” my mother accused. “I don’t want to be a part of an organization that doesn’t want me to be a part of it. It’s insulting. I am a man of convictions,” I defended.

“Then why go at all?” she asked. “I go because sometimes I want to go. Sometimes I want to be in church and among other people. And, sometimes I can’t get over it, and I decide not to go. But, that’s my choice. Religion is personal. So maybe I’m not a Catholic, but I am still a Christian. And, I still believe in God.” I declared.

My mother wasn’t happy with this. She was raised staunchly Catholic, and it’s been a part of her entire life. She didn’t see my side of the argument at all, but it was clear it was upsetting her. She had been crying during the conversation, and she’d had enough. She said, “I need to go to bed,” and turned to leave the room.

I walked into the other room with my father and sister. My dad asked, “Did you chase your mother to bed?” I told him, “She wanted to talk about God and gays. You can see how well that went. I wasn’t going to bring it up, but when she did, I wasn’t going to avoid it.” With that, the subject was closed.

I felt bad she got upset, but I was honest about my feelings. It’s how I felt. I really wish it wasn’t how we spent our Christmas Eve, but it had to happen sometime. It wasn’t a positive conversation, but at least the subject was broached, and at least we were having an open dialogue.

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Rallying Friends

Every year, for the past four years, I’ve hosted an annual holiday party. Ironically, I started it with a First Annual Holiday Bash because I wanted it to become one of my holiday traditions. It would be the one time of year I gathered with my closest friends and spent time with them around the holidays to show just how much I truly appreciate their friendship.

From its first year, it’s been a big hit. An invitation one year is no guarantee of an invitation the following year. I always make sure I surround myself with the people in my life I care most about. If within the following year I fall out of touch with someone, I don’t extend an invitation.

Earlier this year, my friend reached out to me to plan weekends in December. She knows of my party and wanted to make sure I wasn’t hosting it the same night she was celebrating her birthday. We both picked dates and put it to bed.

Months later, I found out I was being evicted from my apartment since my landlord finally sold it. Our eviction date was November 30th; eleven days before the planned date of my holiday party.

This was one tradition I was not ready to relinquish, not matter what it took. Some of my friends look forward to the party a full year in advance. I make an incredible spread (not allowing anyone to bring any food of any sort), and everyone fasts for an entire day leading up to the party.

This posed a serious challenge. I would have to move into a new apartment, get it settled and cater for about forty people in ten days — A near impossible feat. However, my determination is not to be underestimated.

When I sent out my Evite, my sister immediately criticized the invitation of N. She was shocked to see I would invite him, but she also didn’t have the full story.

Apparently over the course of my short relationship with N, I mentioned my annual holiday party. As the holiday season was drawing nearer, he asked for the date of said party: “When is your holiday party so I can put it in my calendar? I’m trying to attend as many holiday parties as possible without missing one.”

Did he just invite himself to my holiday party?! I mean, he was on the maybe list, I’ll admit that. But I had no intention of inviting him in the first round of invitations.

This isn’t because I was holding a grudge over our failed relationship. It was mainly because I was disappointed in him. Considering we lived across the street from each other, I thought I’d at the very least be seeing him periodically. However, since our last discussion about our failed relationship, I hadn’t seen him once. I still had never been to his apartment considering I basically walked past it every day. He never put in an effort to be my friend following our breakup, so I no longer felt the need to attempt myself. I’d given up.

When he invited himself, I had to quickly think of the best and most dignified way to deal with the situation at hand. I started with honesty. “Oh.. Are you invited to my holiday party???” I quipped. “I’m …. just gonna go… f*ck myself…” he responded. I successfully made him feel uncomfortable, but then lightened the blow. I couldn’t do much. My hands were tied. I’m not rude enough to tell him he can’t come, but I wasn’t sure I really wanted him there either. “HAHAHA. Just giving you sh*t. Sending out the Evites today…”

When others friends learned of his attendance, they weren’t happy. I was confused by this. I didn’t think anyone would care. When we were dating, my friends loved him. Everyone approved and expressed this to me. He was a very charismatic guy to be around and played nice with all my friends. It was one of the biggest things that attracted me to him.

However, when he crushed me at the end of our relationship, everyone’s opinion of him quickly shifted.

I have to admit, I don’t know if my opinion wouldn’t have shifted so drastically. If he didn’t do anything to hurt me, I would see no need for malice toward him. I wouldn’t be his best friend, but I would certainly be civil.

This wasn’t the case with my friends. In an overwhelming show of support, they all rallied against him and attempted to convince me to retract my invitation.

I was blown away. I never experienced anything like that before from my friends. I was truly touched.

However, I would not be able to fulfill their requests. I was not capable of uninviting him. I also felt it gave him the satisfaction of thinking he still had an effect on my life. I’d completely moved on. It took a long time, and I went through a lot of turmoil to get to that point. But, I didn’t need him to know that. (Not quite sure if he’s still reading the blog…)

One friend, J, was particularly poignant in his disapproval. “I’ll crack his head open.” I told him I was going to be civil, but I wasn’t going to pay much attention to him when he arrived. “Honestly, I think its risky having him there. Especially since he is a drama oriented person.” He pointed out that N may bring up the blog in front of Smiles just to p*ss me off. “Good point… Going to have to tell him not to mention the blog,” I added. “He may leave early since no one really wants him there.”

K and some of my other friends expressed their lack of interest in interacting with him, and he didn’t really know many others. J responded, “If I have anything to do with it he will leave early.” I couldn’t believe how passionate J was getting about this. He’d never even met N. “Look I’ll be civil… but if he gets out of line you let me know.”

One of my other friends who witnessed my rebound in Martha’s Vineyard, Shorty, made the following suggestion: “You should warn him that your friends aren’t really fond of him so he doesn’t feel bombarded if people are mean to him.” “No one will be mean to him, but they’re not going to go out of their way to be nice,” I speculated. “Haha. I might be mean if I happen to end up talking to him :),” she finished.

I couldn’t believe how much my friends were rallying behind me. To be honest, I thought they all thought I blew things out of proportion when it ended. I thought they all looked at me like I was crazy for being so emotionally broken up after dating someone for a month and a half. He really did break me down a little bit, and I still feel some of the lasting effects of that relationship, as much as I would like to put it in the past and forget it. But, I thought they all thought I was being melodramatic. Apparently, they validated my sentiments.

On another level, N wanted to bring his new boyfriend. I’m sure he’s a sweet guy, but I’d never met him. I didn’t want him at my holiday party. It wasn’t the time or the place to meet him. Selfishly and childishly I also wanted the upper hand. I wanted N to see me happy with someone else, Smiles, while he didn’t have his security blanket to hold onto. I know that is very immature, but in the dating world, I am still a teenager. I’d like anyone to disagree with me they wouldn’t want to do the same thing.

So, I told him he couldn’t bring him. I explained he situation, and I think N accepted my reasoning. It was going to be an interesting night regardless. Many variables were bouncing around, and no one could predict the night, even if some of my friends wanted to start a pool of bets on how early in the night N departed…

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