Thursday, July 23, 2009

Family of choice, family of blood

Yesterday was L'Ailee's birthday. This makes her a Cancer/Leo cusp, which is a very interesting thing if you give astrology any credence, and she shares her birthdate with Mei Xiang, the National Zoo's pretty panda matriarch. She turned 34, so she has 6 more years to shave her head before she thinks it'll just look ridiculous and has held on to her flexibility and metabolism 4 years after so many people said she'd instantly lose them.

I made her snapper Veracruz and a lemon-raspberry-banana cake. (I hate cooking fish, but she likes to eat it.) I also bought her these improbable shoes...well, they look like black suede booties, but on stiletto heels, with small metal spikes on the toes. Lethal little shoes for lethal little feet. I have big feet, and even though I was in office shoes, I guess it's pretty obvious that I'd always rather be in canvas or flip-flops. So anyone could tell that I not only didn't belong at the store where I got L'Ailee's shoes, but that those shoes were definitely not for me. We are used to salespeople looking at us that way when we buy each other lingerie. It didn't occur to me that the "Um, that's not for you, is it?" moment could also happen with shoes! But the saleswoman at the shoe store thought she "might be bi" and perked up when I explained what I was doing. She kept asking me questions about what it's like to be with another woman; I answered above-the-waist questions kindly but quickly and passed on anything else. I'll spill all in my blog, but I don't, you know, *say* it! She told me the shoes were "hot for fall." I didn't think about that; they just looked so much like something L'Ailee would wear when she was sick of her gym sneakers. And I was right! "These are so good!" L'Ailee exclaimed. (I think she was shocked that I would get shoes for her right. See above. I don't blame her.) They're too warm now, but she'll probably be in them quite a bit when the weather cools.

I've been thinking about my family lately, and gifts, and L'Ailee. Christmas back home in Florida, actually, though it's really hot for that. Well, I'm a planner, and we don't have that much money. Travel doesn't happen unless we plan it way ahead.

About half my relatives are really conservative Evangelical Christians, and always have been. My mom is fiscally conservative, but usually socially moderate, if not liberal. They are very vocal about their beliefs and love loud, screamy debates. It's like being trapped in an episode of Bill O'Reilly's show when I indulge them, so I generally refuse to. I am the left-leaning libertarian (or is that libertarian-leaning leftie?), Pagan, not particularly ambitious black sheep. L'Ailee, whose only exposure to Christianity had been the Eastern Orthodox sect before she met me, has found dealing with my family to be alternately frustrating, fun, confusing, and maddening. To give you an idea of what she thinks about half my relatives' religion, she once stared at me as I sang along to Montgomery Gentry's "The Big Revival". (Sorry I only have lyrics and not a video link.) It took me a few minutes to convince her that I have never attended a snake-handling church and that nobody in my family has ever exclaimed "Praise the Lord and pass me a copperhead!" We stay in the kitchen and hang out with my cousins, most of whom are much younger than us. My brother and I consider the kitchen a refuge. We actually have nice things said about us when we cook, and there's always something to do: "Well, it's like Sean Hannity said..." "Oh, look, my pot's boiling!"

Looking around online, other non-conservatives with conservative relatives seem to notice the same thing I am. Obama's election seems to have really angered and radicalized some conservatives. I no longer talk politics with any of my relatives. I redirect the conversation when my mother starts quoting anyone on Fox News. I have asked two aunts and one uncle to please stop forwarding me e-mails, because I've been getting some really hateful stuff. One of the aunts decided to forward Christian stuff to L'Ailee instead of me. Apparently she was told by her pastor that Jesus might "reach" my wife and therefore break us up that way, because of course this is exactly what Jesus wants. In her low, slow, Siberian-cold way, L'Ailee went off on her via phone. Neither of us have spoken to this aunt or her husband in the two months since. Of course, I could also tell you how this same aunt recently called a country music radio station to inform them that Billy Currington's "People Are Crazy" is sacriligious. No, I'm not kidding. People are crazy, indeed.

There have been quite a few times where we've thought of skipping Christmas and Thanksgiving with my relatives. We have wriggled out of the past couple Thanksgivings. Christmas is harder, though it isn't my holiday anymore. So many of my people have, like, a black belt in guilt. If I can get past my mom, which is a big if, there's always someone else ready to call or e-mail. Then there are my brother and SIL. I don't like leaving them to twist in the wind. And L'Ailee's boy cousin has also married into my family, to my girl cousin. And my teenage cousins and one of my aunts seem to really enjoy seeing us. But it's hard, always so damnably hard. We want easy. L'Ailee wants to go to England in winter one day. I'm thinking Australia.

Earlier this summer, we thought of something far less glamorous but still fun. Pittsburgh and Detroit! I bet quite a few of y'all can guess what's there. That's right, our hockey teams' home arenas. L'Ailee has only been to the Joe Louis Arena for her Red Wings once, when all the Russian players that made her fall in love with the team were still there. I've maybe driven around Pittsburgh twice. It doesn't seem right. During our Stanley Cup crazies, L'Ailee came up with the idea, and since I'd drunk a couple of strong bourbon-and-Diet-Pepsis, it sounded great to me. Well, in the warm light of summer drinking plain Diet Pepsi, it still sounds good to me. The expression on L'Ailee's face when I told her so just made me feel warm all over. I felt like a fairy tale good Witch who'd just granted a wish! When the NHL schedule came out a couple of weeks ago, we started highlighting dates and plugging different scenarios (we're thinking Pittsburgh game, Detroit, Detroit, back to Pittsburgh, then home) into our favorite travel websites.

Now all we have to do is buy tickets for the games. I'm a bit antsy about this. We can't until September. It will be a lot easier to explain why we won't be coming to Florida for Christmas to my mother with non-refundable Penguins--and Red Wings, too--tickets in my hands. It's not even so much the games, really. After all, we're already seeing the New York Islanders' season opener with the Penguins. We'll be watching with L'Ailee's best friend and his daughter and the daughter's best friend, among others. The two girls will be amusing, as they've already gotten into a shoving discussion over whether Sidney Crosby or John Tavares is better and cuter. (Actually, I think A.'s daughter is more interested in Crosby's job. We had to tell her that she probably shouldn't tell her mother she wouldn't be needing braces because she'll have to get a few teeth replaced in the NHL or womens' Olympics team anyway!) But the idea of skipping Christmas with the family to watch hockey gives me the feeling I get when I'm strapped in on the roller coaster. Sick, but a good sick. I have gotten myself in situations where I make decisions by not deciding--I let the choices go away until I'm down to one, and that one is usually pretty dismal. I don't want to be there again.

But I realize how happy L'Ailee makes me. It's like she told my aunt--she hasn't made me cry nearly as often as some of my relatives have. Even if we don't get tickets for our teams' home games, we'll skip Christmas this year. New York is pretty and buzzy around the Winter Solstice, and we miss much of it. It's a hell of a Plan B. I want to make L'Ailee happy again and again. At least, unlike some of my relatives, I actually can make *her* happy. I want to keep surprising her in good ways.

Links, if you care to read any more:

OhmyGods, the cop who arrested Henry Gates Louis Jr. is considered an expert on profiling and cultural sensitivity!!!!! Teaches a class and everything!!!!! By the way, Gates' arrest is another thing I didn't care to discuss with my mother.

Nationwide Kiss-In in August! This is in response to recent incidents involving same-sex couples being harassed, even arrested, for kissing in public.

Governor Charlie Crist, another great reason to stay away from Florida, says he will "think about" repealing the LGBT adoption ban.

MTV's "16 and Pregnant" series mostly gets it right.

Y'all knew this would happen one day: Intercollegiate Quidditch!


alan said...

Please pass along a belated Happy Birthday and a huge hug from me? Please?

I think I'd like her birthday dinner as last few have been Pizza Hut!

I like the way she set your Aunt straight! That's worth another hug!

I'm with her on the "where to spend Christmas" thing as well, though I know you'd love the surfing "down under". I've always promised myself if I had the chance I'd watch the seasons change at least one time through in "Bronte Country"...(with lots of wonderful side trips scattered through the year!)

They put satellite service in my Mom's nursing home and "cut the cable" letting the residents vote on the channels. Their only news channel is Faux...

Setting your own traditions is a good thing; perhaps some of the rest of those from the kitchen would like to join you!



Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Happy Birthday to your better half :)

Just kidding, both halves are wonderful. I think the shoes sound fabulous and my big feet would never be able to wear them either, but I wish they could.

I vote for Detroit and Pittsburgh. You deserve a break from the family thing and then maybe everyone will be happier to see each other next time and not get all Bill Reilly on you.

I can not believe the woman in the shoe store asked such personal questions!!!!!

BostonPobble said...

As one of my original readers, you know I get the whole family of choice/family of blood thing. Do what's right for the two of you. Seriously.

And August 15th at 11:00 a.m. smooches on my sweetie. I can do that. :)

Seda said...

Winter Solstice is supposed to be a time of peace and joy and family. In that order. If going to the family disturbs peace and joy, well, don't do it! It's taken years, but we've gotten there. After the first two or three times, everyone gets used to it and the guilt goes away. And then, you can always invite those you want to see to come to you...

Happy birthday to L'Ailee! The boots sound way cool. Do they come in size 12? (Yeah, right, like they make stylish shoes for feet my size!)