by: Addison Bell
I enjoy Christmas, I really do. It’s not my favorite holiday, which is Halloween, but it’s definitely up there. I love giving presents—even when I’m broke—and I love seeing the reactions of my recipients; I love spending time with my family, mostly because Christmas is the only holiday that I see them; I love the food, sometimes too much. I don’t mind that I’m the only person in my family who asks for books and I don’t mind explaining their synopses. I don’t mind the stress and the drama and arguments — because I’m around people that I love.
But this Christmas was different. All I felt during the month of December was dread. I was looking forward to seeing everyone, but I wasn’t excited for Christmas—at all. I kept telling myself that I was just being a horrible person and that I should suck it up and be happy. But for some reason, I just couldn’t.
I didn’t do my Christmas shopping until the week of, which resulted in several problems and more stress that wasn’t needed. Usually, I make so many dishes and baked goods that it’s overwhelming, but this year I didn’t make anything. I didn’t even listen to the new She & Him Christmas album. I didn’t watch any Christmas movies and I adore Christmas movies. I love watching Love Actually, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Holiday, The Family Stone. But when I started watching Love Actually, I only watched the opening scene in the airport and turned off the TV.
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I felt this way. I couldn’t figure out why I just couldn’t be content or satisfied. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t be like Clark Griswald or Buddy the Elf. I wanted to so badly. But I just felt like Cindy Lou in The Grinch. On a morning a few days before Christmas, I woke up and was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. I said to myself, “Get out of bed. Get up. Get up and make your fucking sugar cookies. Wrap the presents. Just get out of the fucking bed, Jacob.” But I went back to sleep.
I slowly began to realize that it was because I’m gay. This was my first Christmas being completely out. Last December, I told my mom and my dad and a few relatives, but that was it. This year I felt like I didn’t have anything to hide. I’m not ashamed of who I am, nor is my family. I spent too many years feeling guilt and shame and hate; too many years of hiding and living in denial. Coming out has been the best thing I have ever done. My only regret is that I would have done it earlier, but it’s not even a regret, really. It’s more of a wish.
I thought my homosexuality wouldn’t be a problem this year, and it wasn’t really a problem. I think I was the problem. On Christmas, I watched my married cousins with their kids open up presents. My newly-to-be sister-in-law hugged me and said, “Hi, brother.” My mom kept telling me how happy she was to finally have a man, because since I can remember, she has always asked Santa for a boyfriend.
I’m the only gay man in my family. I want nothing more than to bring a boy home for Christmas. I want nothing more than to sit next to him, to smile with him, to hold hands. I want to see his face when he opens up his presents. I want him to meet my mom and love her, and I want my mom to love him. I want to show everyone that I finally found something—someone—that makes me happy. I want to show them that I can love someone enough as my cousins and brothers and my sister are capable of loving. I want to show them that I can be happy.
And half of me thinks that I won’t be, that this will never happen. I will never have the church wedding that everyone else has. I’ll never be able to tell them that “we’re pregnant.” The funny thing is, none of this matters. I don’t need a church wedding, I don’t need to have a biological child. What’s even funnier is that my family doesn’t even care about this. And I want to say that I don’t care either, but I think I do.
I’m from a very small town in southern Illinois. Success to the people there means getting married, having kids, and having a good job. It’s an American dream town. I think it’s bullshit, but this way of living, of dreaming, of thinking has been engrained in my mind. I see my young relatives fall in love and get married and have kids, and I secretly want that. The problem, though, is that I worry that even if I do achieve it, will my family think that I have? Will they view me and my partner the same as they do everyone else? And will it be enough to feel good enough?
One of my older relatives asked my mom, “When is Addy going to get married? I thought he would have a wife by now. He’ll be a good husband.” My mom didn’t tell him that I was gay or that I will never have a wife, mostly because he wouldn’t understand. And then I think, “But does everyone else understand?” Do they? Do they see that I’m the same person, I’m the same Addison?
I need not to worry about this, I know. I’m sure that my family still views me the same. I’m sure they want me to have a guy that makes me happy. But I can’t help to wonder. Perhaps the problem this year wasn’t my homosexuality or me. Maybe the problem is that I never stop wondering.
Addison Bell is a senior at DePaul University where he is studying English Literature. He is the President of Oxfam DePaul and volunteers with Oxfam America, an organization dedicated to ending world hunger, poverty, and social injustice. Follow Jacob on Twitter @boy_1904 and on Tumblr: colourmegreenwich.tumblr.com.