Posts tagged holidays
Posts tagged holidays
It’s that time of year, y’all. It’s time for jazzy, tinny-sounding, saccharine versions of the same dozen carols to invade every store, café, elevator, and waiting room south of the North Pole. Already I’ve taken to wearing my iPod nearly everywhere to avoid the awfulness. But you know which set of holiday songs is hard for even Muzak synth to fuck up too badly? The Nutcracker suite.
When I was four and living in this city, my parents took my sister and me to the annual Nutcracker ballet. I was particularly impressed by the guys who leaped across stage with swords. It looked dangerous…and fun. I mean, I wasn’t even allowed to run around preschool with those blunt-ended Fiskar scissors, much less sabers.
Now I’m twenty-four and living in the same city, and this year I’m going to the annual Slutcracker burlesque show with friends. It’s billed as a “sexy-freaky holiday zeitgeist spectacular that will make you squeal—and it might just get you laid”. You had me at “zeitgeist”, but really, doesn’t that sound exciting
and not just the potentially getting laid part ? I just hope to Santa it’s not like this or I will cut someone:
I find burlesque interesting because it’s a combination of an older performance style and a more modern take on sexuality, appearance, and gender expression; it’s high-class artsy and low-brow earthy at the same time; and yet it’s less about the flesh being revealed and more about how the performers reveal, how they engage with the audience, how they strut their stuff. And fuck—when done right, it’s sexy. And burlesque, like those jumping sword-guys, is especially impressive to me because I am a) prone to stage fright and b) terrible at performing choreography.
EXHIBIT A: CHOREOGRAPHY.
Seriously, whenever I step on stage my heart pounds like a frat boy drinking Natty Ice, and my voice and hands shake. I’ve learned to overcome it somewhat, but I still suck at learning and executing choreography. Improv dancing I can do, especially in a club where it’s dark and crowded and everyone’s stumbling-drunk anyway, but a real dance with actual steps in a synchronized pattern? Forget it. I’m lucky to manage the Electric Slide after years of Southern wedding receptions. So someone who’s both willing to perform in public, onstage, possibly in a scanty or suggestive getup AND do choreographed moves is like a superhero with superpowers, in my eyes. The Magneto of the dancefloor. Or Spiderman, pick your comic.
EXHIBIT B: CHOREOGRAPHY.
It’s a lifelong affliction, so I’ve gotten used to it. After enough years being the awkwardly out-of-step kid in the school musical, I drifted into prop design and backstage work and happily built, painted, and changed sets without mishap. But before that, when I was in the fourth grade, there was a moment when I desperately wanted to dance.
That year our school Christmas pageant—Christmas, not holiday pageant, because it’s the Bible Belt and they don’t hold with that Christ-hating atheist hogwash—was the Nutcracker, with each K-5 grade doing its own section of the show. In my grade the girls were supposed to perform the Arabian dance (the fish one in the old Fantasia movie; that’s still how I picture the Nutcracker, honestly) while dressed in gauzy pastel harem pants and tops, and the boys did the Russian dance (the one with the jumping rows of cartoon flowers) while wearing blue and red Cossack outfits. It was what the fourth grade did every year in the Nutcracker. It was tradition.
I thought the Russian dance was the coolest ever, with the kicking, squat-kicking, and jumping and the blue uniform jackets. I wanted to perform it. I was uncharacteristically psyched (it was the 90s) about learning those dance steps. Except my teacher and the pageant director/music teacher wouldn’t let me. The Russian dance was for the boys and I wasn’t a boy, they said; I was supposed to be an Arabian dancer.
I refused. I would NOT wear pink puffy pants and wave scarves around; I would dance the stomping, jumping boys’ dance or nothing. I went on pageant strike.
My mom, bless her caring progressive heart, tried persuading the teachers to let me dance alongside the boys, but to no avail. It was tradition. It was the Bible Belt, it was Christmas, boys were boys and girls wore harem pants. A compromise, of sorts, was reached: I would join the fifth-graders, whose mixed-gender group acted as extras in the scene where Herr Dusselmayer or Drosselfluffer or whatever dishes out gifts to the kids. I relented to this arrangement.
But I was still jealous of the boys in my grade and their energetic choreography. I would’ve learned every step if it had killed me. Which, given my clumsiness, wasn’t perhaps an outlandish idea. What was truly outlandish, in the eyes of the adults running the show, was a little girl wanting to wear a blue jacket and perform a dance that boys traditionally danced. It was a female child who didn’t like pink or want to wear a cropped sparkly top, who wanted to be a toy soldier instead of Princess Clara. They thought that was too unusual, too outrageous, to be allowed on stage.
They’d obviously never seen something like the Slutcracker.
(photo credit to Robyn Giragosian, http://robyng.carbonmade.com/)
Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. I hope you are not reading this from the floor of an airport terminal, cursing the weather gods and wishing you had one of those curvy neck pillow things. Or from your smartphone while you walk aimlessly around your aunt and uncle’s suburban warren of a neighborhood in an effort to escape the annual ritual of pre-Thanksgiving fights and football games.
I used to spend nearly every Thanksgiving with my parents, grandparents, cousins, and aunts in the Florida Panhandle, an area nicknamed the “Redneck Riviera”. The beaches there are lovely, but some of the inhabitants are indeed…redneck-y. And this is speaking as someone who loves bourbon and considers tater tots a vegetable.
Each year I’d patiently weather the family questions about what I was majoring in again or why I didn’t eat ham or whether I had a boyfriend yet. I’d microwave a sad little veggie burger to go with the frozen peas, instant mashed potatoes, and canned cranberry sauce (my nana’s not much of a cook). I’d try to keep my sister, mom, and various other relatives from fighting too much, and if that didn’t work I’d try to comfort whoever wound up crying the hardest. I’d let my grandfather cheat at Rummikub and tell the same stories over and over, because that’s what makes him happy. I’d try to ignore the snide comments about my men’s clothes or unshaven legs. Thanksgiving wasn’t the most fun of holidays, but it was like my family—I loved it anyway, even if it was sometimes dysfunctional.
Not this year, though. This year I’m goin’ rogue. I’m actually attending TWO Thanksgiving feasts, each featuring a different houseful of queer friends, no dress code, plenty of veggie options, and drinking out of choice, not necessity. I am so excited, y’all! Because here’s the thing: I actually LIKE Thanksgiving. Perhaps not the Norman Rockwell version of it we’re used to imagining or the version my family insists on holding, which has been known to culminate in a fight over how and whether to say grace.
But I still like the IDEA of Thanksgiving: gathering with people you love, cooking and sharing a meal—preferably a tasty meal with seasonal foods—and being grateful for good things in your life. I even like the Macy’s parade (though usually on mute) and the football (though not as much as my grandmother does. The only times in my life I’ve ever heard this mild-mannered Southern woman cuss is when the refs make questionable calls during the Auburn-Bama game).
The closest I’ve come to this admittedly idealized Thanksgiving is with friends, particularly the gay ones. It’s one of the things about being queer that I’m most grateful for: the possibility to question, change, and reinterpret ideas of tradition and family. The idea that you can start over from scratch or define what you think Thanksgiving (or a family) should be. Others have written about the idea of a “chosen family” in queer communities: the people who are closest to you, the ones who take you in when your birth family doesn’t accept or understand you, your FTM big brothers or drag mothers, your women’s rugby team. The Museum of Vancouver recently held an exhibit showcasing photographs of such families:
So who is your chosen family? What traditions do you keep with your best friends, housemates, significant others, zombie apocalypse team? What kind of Thanksgiving would you like to celebrate, and what are you thankful for this year?