When my children were growing up, Thanksgiving morning signified the beginning of the BIG CHRISTMAS PUSH.
Why? Well, because it was this particular morning that our local newspaper would arrive wrapped heavy with all of the holiday catalogs and weighing more than our Thanksgiving turkey.
Lexi Lou and Dylan would run for the ads, wooly zip-up footed pajamas on, Crayola markers in hand, fighting over particular pages as they rushed forward to lay on the living room floor and circle their holiday fantasy toys to their hearts’ content.
I didn’t think much about it… seemed normal to me.
I can’t tell you how many times I ran the SEARS catalog ragged marking page-after-page of needed Barbie doll swag and G.I. Joe’s before strategically placing it on top of my parent’s reading pile by the upstair’s toilet ensuring that it would be considered often and seriously.
But the year SPICE WORLD came out… something happened that changed this mundane yearly routine into a homophobic episode for my husband, Joe.
Dylan, who was in 2nd grade at the time, had grown-up with a houseful of women.
We loved to put him in dresses, paint his toe nails, tie bows in his hair and by the time he was 7, Lexi Lou and I felt, we had created a pretty solid little “metrosexual.”
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Joe, had tolerated these acts over the years, and though he had never exhibited homophobic tendencies when out with our numerous gay friends, something seemed to “snap” when it came to his own son.
“You better not make him gay,” he said to me on several occasions.
“I can’t make him GAY, Joe,” I said, full of exasperation and annoyed that my “liberal” husband sounded so much like some poor man’s version of Rush Limbaugh. “And what’s the matter with you?” I snapped. “You’ve always supported Gay rights? Have you lost your mind?”
He inhaled a long drag off his smoke and blew it in my face. “I support the rights of everyone to be gay except my son” and then he walked away to go pout in the garage.
I knew, deep down, that if Dylan were gay, Joe would come around and would accept it, but I could also see the man that had grown-up with a father who had given him shit about his long hair and tight leather pants and that there was a whole other “meta-story” going on in this continuous conversation.
And so the sins of the father are repeated on the son, I thought to myself, before I went to find Dylan to see if he might let me paint his toe nails for awhile.
It wasn’t more than five minutes later that Joe came to find me.
He stomped through the backdoor, stomped through the kitchen, grabbed my arm by the front door and dragged me into the hallway.
“What now?” I asked.
“Did you see this,” Joe snarled. “Did you see what Dylan circled in the Christmas catalog.”
I had seen a lot of the circles actually. I mean the kids had a good hundred or so toys in their “Must Have for Christmas” rotation.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Joe.”
He held up his fist to reveal a mostly crumpled Christmas ad with one large circle on it.
“Look!” he said as he slapped it against my chest. “Look at what your son circled.”
Oh Jesus, I thought, he just said “your” son. I always knew it was bad if Joe said “your son” instead of “my son.”
I walked over to the bed and pressed the crumpled pages gently against the spread and flattened them once again and there… in all its glory was a large picture of a POSH SPICE doll… circled for all the world to see.
I looked back at Joe, completely clueless.
“So?” I said.
“You did it,” Joe said. “My son’s gay. My son is totally gay. I hope you’re fucking happy.”
He grabbed the catalog page off the bed, crumpled it into a ball, threw it to the floor and stomped out of the room.
He was halfway down the hall before he shouted, “And if you buy him that fucking doll, I’m not gonna be here on Christmas morning!”
My calm exterior did not betray the intense fire that had just been ignited.
He had thrown down the gauntlet.
He had drawn a line in the sand.
Tell me I can’t buy my son a fucking doll you homophobic bastard… I wanted to scream. I’ll buy him a God damn rainbow shirt that says, EXTREMELY QUEER and a pair of ass-less chaps, fucker!
But instead, I kicked the bedroom door shut behind him and readied myself to go brave the crowds the next morning, buy Dylan his POSH SPICE doll, wrap it and place it under the tree, on Christmas day, as a gift from Santa: who, I wanted to bring to Joe’s attention, looked pretty gay in his leather boots, red fur suit, and his beautiful bearded “bear” appearance.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Joe assumed, due to my uncommon silence, that he had won the battle, and I was pleased that he had underestimated my vengeance for once. It made it all the easier to gloat Christmas morning, as I sat watching him smugly enjoy Dylan open his “gender specific” Legos and G.I. Joe’s and Lexi open her “gender specific” Barbies and My Little Ponies.
I couldn’t wait to rock his “gender specific” world.
We were down to the last two presents.
I handed Lexi her box and Dylan his.
Lexi unwrapped her’s first: it was a new water polo ball.
Joe loved that Lexi was “athletic” so… he didn’t think anything about it but then… something in his eye twitched and he looked towards the box in Dylan’s hands.
I smiled a cruel smile as my son ripped open his gift and squealed with girlish delight at his new prized possession: a POSH SPICE DOLL.
I actually watched the manhood melt away from his big furry frame.
He tried to smile as Lexi ran out to throw her ball in the pool and Dylan ran to his room to play with his doll.
“Don’t you ever tell me I can’t buy my son a doll again,” I said with steely determination.
Joe eye-balled me but didn’t speak.
He got up quietly from the chair and went out into the backyard to smoke and watch Lex play.
It was about thirty minutes later, as I was cooking breakfast, that I realized Dylan was still in his room. I leaned back from cooking our Christmas scrambled eggs and craned my neck to get a better look.
Bedroom door still closed.
“Joe!” I shouted from the kitchen.
Joe walked in from the back and grabbed a piece of crisp bacon from the plate on the bar.
“Could you go check on Dylan?” I asked. “He’s been in his room this whole time.”
Joe looked concerned, worried that his son wasn’t enjoying his Christmas, as he padded off down the hall to quietly check on Dylan.
I went back to the eggs when I was suddenly startled by the loudest cry of joy I had ever heard on Christmas morning: it did not come from a child. It came from my husband.
I dropped my spoon and stared down the hallway at Joe.
He was doing some weird little dance and I could hear Dylan shouting from the bedroom, “STOP IT DAD! GO AWAY!”
Suddenly, Dylan’s door slammed in Joe’s face and Joe rushed towards me, his face inches from mine, as he whispered, “I win. Do you hear me? I win…” and then grabbed a biscuit and bounced off into the living room.
I turned the heat down on the stove and walked quietly to Dylan’s room to see what the hell Joe was so happy about.
I opened the door slowly and there found my son enjoying his POSH SPICE doll.
Her white undies and high heels were strewn across the rug, her black skin-tight dress was hanging from the nightstand.
He had Posh completely naked and propped up on his lap as they watched SPICE WORLD together.
God damn it, I thought, the little bastard’s straight.
I closed the door and walked back to the kitchen.
I could see Joe in the living room, playing his guitar, shit-eating grin on his face, smug as can be, singing a stupid little song and laughing at me every few moments.
He couldn’t have been more proud of Dylan if he had graduated “high honors” from M.I.T. or had won a Grammy for Artist-of-the-Year.
I stewed in the moment… hating that I had to concede defeat… when suddenly I felt a small arm wrap around my waist.
“I love my doll, Mom,” Dylan said with a big hug. “I love her so much. Thank you for telling Santa to get her for me.”
I reached down, my anger melted by the gentleness of my little man, as I hugged him hard and kissed the top of his head. “I love you,” I whispered noting his camouflage jammies and his red painted toe nails. “I love you just as you are” I said.
Dylan smiled, as he ran over to love on his dad.
I watched as my two furry “bears” played with Dylan’s new doll and bonded over their mutual attraction to the “hotness” of POSH SPICE.