Meet the folks

“Well, I guess the way the evening is going I have to ask, what are your intentions with Paul?” Ralph asked me. Now I had no idea what way the evening was going, or how its direction could possibly influence the question. But, I was like a cat backed into a corner. I could begin hissing and scratching or roll over and purr. I chose the latter.

“Oh Ralph stop!” Don demurred while playfully slapping Ralph’s arm. He reached out his gloved hand to pick up his chocolate martini and took a sip through a straw so that his lipstick would not smudge. But the whole time his fake eye lashes never batted once in anticipation of the answer. As they leaned in close, there was not a breath between them.

“Each day I wake up and think that I couldn’t love Paul any more, but each day I do.” I said. Ralph and Don exhaled. Clearly, this was the answer they were hoping for. Ralph and Don were the family that Paul chose, not the family he was born into. His “gay parents” Paul playfully calls them.

If you met Don on the street, you would not remember him. If you met his alter-ego, “Crystal Chandelier” you could not forget him. And that is who I met that first night of the inquisition. After I passed the test I asked Ralph how long it took Don to get made up. “It takes a bottle of booze and a pack of cigarettes” was his quick response as he rolled his eyes and took another sip of his drink.

Later, I had the opportunity to see this process as we sat on the deck one beautiful late summer evening in Maine. While Ralph smoked his cigarettes and weaved a story, Don began the transformation. Drink by drink and smoke by smoke Don would join us on the deck and disappear into the house. Each time he reappeared with a new layer until eventually he joined us as a glittered and feathered Crystal Chandelier

While I had to bare myself emotionally for Paul’s “gay parents”, I had to bare myself physically for his “real” family. They were all packed into a hotel room for his 13 year old son’s birthday. “Oh, don’t worry. My family is great. Don’t forget your swim suit. There’s a water park in the hotel!” Paul told me. “Swim suit? Oh, OK…” I said nervously while looking at the calendar. There weren’t enough gym days for that. I pictured myself standing on an auction block so that his family could inspect the goods. “His calves are a little spindly, but let’s see the teeth” I imagined his father saying.

But soon his sister Peggy was telling a story about her two sons. “They created a cartoon character of Grammy on the Nintendo Wii. In the boxing game they use her character as a punching bag. You should see them giving Grammy upper cuts!” She said laughing. Instantly I felt at ease. These were people that did not take themselves too seriously and laughed at themselves before laughing at others. I loved them.

It occurred to me how similar these two families were. Neither one gives a damn what the world thinks of them. It took me too long to realize the same thing about myself. But now they are my family. And they will never let me think too much of myself. Thank God for that.

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