Q: My partner and I usually spend Christmas apart, opting instead to dine with our respective families. But this year I'd like to take him to my parents with me. They are clearly aware of him and typically include him in their Christmas cards. Yet, when I mentioned bringing him just recently, my mother said, "But sweetie, there will be children there." I just couldn't believe it. How do I assure them that we're able to restrain our rabid-monkey sex for at least the duration of dinner?
A: Your question reminds me of a situation with my own family many years back. My mom invited my then-partner and me to Christmas dinner with the caveat that there would be "no touching." I asked her (nicely, since she is my mom) if that rule extended to the straight couples, like my brother and his wife, who were also planning to attend. Flummoxed by the "equal protection" clause, she relented, and we came to dinner, holding hands under the table and otherwise being affectionate with each other. We all survived!
In your case, I would discuss this directly with your mother as soon as possible and evoke your own "equal treatment" provision (provided straight siblings or other heterosexual couples will be there for comparison). "Mom, everyone else gets to bring their significant other, I don't understand why I can't bring Lewis." Use a bit of humor to assuage her anxiety about you guys having sex in the bathroom (or whatever her nightmare is), saying something like, "We're adults, and we do know something about self-control and holiday decorum." Finally, if all else fails, put a positive spin on it for your mom: "We'd really like to spend the holidays together and with the family for a change. Lewis has heard so much about your Jell-O salad." If that doesn't do the trick, try talking with your father. If you can play them off to your advantage, so be it.
Q: My boyfriend wants to spend time with his family over the holidays, and I want to spend time with our friends. He says they're "just friends" and not as important as family. How do we figure this out? Time's running out.
A: For starters, be grateful that you have a loving BF, who, it seems, has a loving family. That's not true by a long shot for every LGBT person (as the holidays make us all the more aware). And, of course, be thankful for your own set of friends. I understand your puzzlement about his "just friends" remark, as though they are second-class citizenry. For many lesbians and gay men, friends are as much family, or more, as the people who share our DNA. So, what to do?
First of all, who says couples have to be together every holiday? Many LGBT couples spend them apart. A gay couple I know has actually never spent Christmas Day together (and that's after 10 years), but they make sure to celebrate the holiday either before or on New Year's.
Think about trading off. Christmas this year at his folks, for instance, and next year with your friends.
Plan ahead: It's already December. Better to start having this conversation earlier in the fall so that you won't feel like you have a gun to your heads. Give yourselves the gift of time to figure things out.
Bottom line: Create the plans that work for you and your partner, which you may in fact decide involve neither his family nor your friends. How does Hawaii sound? Or, more practically, a nearby B&B?
Q: I have a good friend who got dumped by her lover just before Halloween, and I know she's feeling very blue this holiday season. While I don't want to invade her privacy, I'm wondering what's the best way to help and show that I care?
A: If anything, the great holiday dash—Thanksgiving to New Year's—raises the emotional jackpot to record levels, especially for LGBT folks, who often have frayed family ties. Then there are the various dramas that come from being closeted, having recently broken up, facing money troubles and more. OK, enough of the downers. (Of course, straights have their own variations on these same themes.)
To answer your question, yes, there's a lot you can do to help:
First and foremost, let your friend know you're around. Go out for a drink, join in a holiday celebration or have dinner together—and make a point of listening. Ask her how you can be of most help.
Make sure she's covered for the holidays by inviting her to spend them with you.
Suggest that you volunteer together at a local LGBT organization. There's nothing like getting out and helping others this time of year, and so many nonprofits need help.
Steven Petrow is the author of The Essential Book of Gay Manners & Etiquette. Find him on the Web at gayandlesbianmanners.com.