Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Go-To-Gay: Kid-ding around on Thanksgiving

Wade Rouse is "The Go-To Gay" here at Chick Lit Central. After all, without gay guys, a lot of our chick lit heroines would be missing out on some awesome best friends! If you missed his previous posts for this series, check them out here. Today, Wade talks to us about the "ghosts" of his past Thanksgiving meals, including the stuffing incident and finding out his favorite food item is "so gay." (Would he have it any other way?!?)

The writings of bestselling humorist Wade Rouse – called “wise, witty and wicked” by USA Today and the lovechild of Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris – have been featured multiple times on NBC’s Today Show as well as on Chelsea Lately on E! and His latest memoir, It’s All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine, just launched in paperback February 1st from Broadway, and he is creator and editor of the humorous dog anthology, I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship: Hilarious, Heartwarming Tales about Man’s Best from America’s Favorite Humorists (NAL). The book features a Foreword by Chelsea Handler’s dog, Chunk, essays by such beloved chick lit authors as Jane Green, and 50 percent of the book’s net royalties go to the Humane Society of the United States. His first memoir, America's Boy, has been re-published by Magnus Books for paperback and Kindle. For more, visit his website, or friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanksgiving: Where’s My Marshmallows?

For years, I traveled home every Thanksgiving a single man. 

I would arrive and be offered a seat at the foldout card table where the children sat, while all the married couples ate at the dining room table. That night, I would be offered the couch in the den with the metal support bar that had the psychic ability to follow my spine all night, no matter which way I rolled. 

Then I met Gary. 

And I believed my dreams had finally been answered. 

Until we attempted to plan our first Thanksgiving with each other’s parents. When we arrived at my parents’ house in the Ozarks on Monday night for a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving, my mother’s countenance read: “I have received the short end of the wishbone and am not happy about it.”

And, I must admit that I felt the same way, really. 

So I kept my mouth shut. Literally. 

I opted not to warn Gary about my family’s holiday eccentricities. He could figure them out on his own. 

 And he did. 

By noon on Tuesday, my mother –– already on her second pot of Folgers – began telling Gary an elaborate tale about how the Jews, rather than the Pilgrims, were the first to celebrate Thanksgiving. 

Rather than contradict her, distract her, or try and explain my mother’s fascination with Judaism to Gary, as I typically would have, I remained mute. 

“I saw on TV that the French onions that top our green bean casseroles today were actually invented by the Durkeesteins, but they had to drop the ‘stein’ out of fear for their lives, kind of like Sacagawea, whose original name was Sacajewea. So we are really celebrating a Jewish holiday, like Hanukkah.” 

Gary looked at me. I simply smiled. 

He tried to turn his attention to the TV, but my father – who was already on his second glass of wine, which had taken 20 minutes to trickle out of the box – was screaming at the stock ticker on CNBC and the radar on The Weather Channel. 

I stood up, rather enjoying this chaos, and dribbled myself a glass of wine, realizing the day might fly faster if I were very, very drunk. 

I turned to find Gary standing shell-shocked in the middle of my parents’ kitchen, just out of view from them. 

He looked slap-happy. 

“I’m sorry,” I said, feeling immediately guilty. “She’ll settle down, once she switches from coffee to wine.” 

“That’s not it,” he said, and began pointing. 

I followed his finger up to the top of our refrigerator, where our Thanksgiving turkey sat. 

It had been sitting out, unthawed and fully stuffed, for five hours now. 

“We’re … going … to … die!” he mouthed slowly. 

Gary motioned for me to head upstairs, gesturing wildly, as if he had just found a bomb in the cargo hold of the plane and was trying not to tip off the hijackers. 

“First of all,” Gary said to me as soon as he got me to the upstairs guest room, had bolted the door and moved the mannequin-sized spray of eucalyptis so we could sit on the bed, “has anyone here in the country ever heard that a stuffed turkey’s not supposed to sit out at room temperature ALL DAY! Second of all, I like my stuffing cooked in a separate tin, so it gets crisp on top. I’ll gag if I have to eat soft stuffing. And third – yes, there’s more – is anyone going to be sober enough to actually serve our dinner?” 

Now, this ticked me off. 

 In fact, I was beginning to miss the way things used to be: Sitting at the children’s card table, sleeping on the uncomfortable couch, everything. 

So I said, like a fifth-grader, “I guarantee my parents’ Thanksgiving dinner will kick your parents’ dinner’s butt.” 

Gary did not speak to me the rest of our first Thanksgiving together. 

The one and only noise he made was an audible gagging sound – strictly for my benefit – when he ate the soft stuffing. 

My payback was swift. 

I quickly learned that every dish Gary’s mother made required only three ingredients: Sugar, Velveeta, or Jello. 

I learned dinner was always at noon, meaning Gary’s mom started cooking at 3 a.m. 

And I learned everything was prepared to meet the complete and utter satisfaction of the grandkids – all other guests be darned. Which is the reason why the dinner was prepared with zero seasoning, and why the turkey ended up cooking, I would guess, for nine hours. When it came out of the oven, it simply vaporized. 

Still, there had always been one Thanksgiving tradition that pulled me through all those years at the children’s table, that made Thanksgiving Thanksgiving: Marshmallows were always melted on top of the sweet potatoes. 

Until today. 

When I saw the casserole dish go into the oven, Gary’s mother froze, after seeing my face, absolute panicked, as if she had just discovered that Lancome was no longer giving out a free gift with purchase. “The grandkids don’t like marshmallows,” Gary whispered. 

Gary’s brother’s family suddenly arrived. There was no time for an incident. 

I wanted to go ballistic. Instead, I did the only thing I could: Barred myself in the guest bath until I could regain my sanity. 

All righty, mister, pull yourself together, I thought, sitting on the toilet in a bathroom that looked like the middle of a birch forest in Wisconsin, pinecone wallpaper, and carved wood toilet paper holders and baskets filled with twigs. 

I wanted my marshmallows. 

I wanted my Thanksgiving to be the way it used to be. 

I was near my breaking point. Since there was no booze in the house, I was close to drinking the rubbing alcohol out of the bathroom cabinet just to get a buzz. 

And then, out of nowhere, it hit me: I – and both of our families – were freaking out because we were all afraid of a little holiday change. 

There came a knock on the door. 

I put my head to the crack in the frame and heard Gary’s voice, speaking very calmly, like presidents do when they announce we’re going to war. “She’s adding the marshmallows,” he said. “And please don’t kill yourself in the bathroom. It won’t do any good. My mother will just decorate around your blood stain with a few well-placed pinecone accessories.” 

We were all finally seated at the table as a family. I felt good. This was all going to be OK. 

And then, out of nowhere, the bomb dropped. 

“What’s on the sweet potatoes?” a grandkid asked. 

No one said a word. 

“What is this?” the other one asked, picking up the ladle and them slapping it back down.

“Marshmallows,” I said. 

“Gross!” they screamed at the same time. “That’s so gay!” 

Time stopped. Thanksgiving was officially ruined. I would never be asked back. Gary and I would forever eat Swanson’s TV dinners alone at home now on Thanksgivings, both of us crying in the dark and pretending that the Apple Brown Betty really wasn’t so bad, despite the fact that the corn had baked into one side of it. 

But, in the blink of an eye, a holiday miracle occurred. 

Someone farted – so loudly, in fact, that all of our water glasses as well as the cornucopia platter holding the turkey actually vibrated. 

Everyone started laughing, and, just like that, Thanksgiving was saved. 

And we all started a brand new Thanksgiving tradition: We began to embrace one another’s families, and they began to embrace us, no matter the day or holiday. 

And those marshallows? Well, they never tasted more golden-y delicious. 

Wade's Thanksgiving essay is excerpted from IT'S ALL RELATIVE: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes ofWine, which was a finalist last winter for a Goodreads Choice Awards in Humor and makes a perfect holiday gift.  


Unknown said...

What fun! Thanks for the laughs. :-_

Sally@threeblondeboyz said...

Wow, I held my breath while reading as fast as I could.-totally fascinating for a British girl now living in the U.S.A and learning the customs! some things transcend all traditions, and I was transported back to the many Christmas celebrations my family had in Britain that ran along the same comedic lines. I must get this book :)

Stephie Smith said...

Very funny. And I never thought I'd ever, ever say this but thank God for farts.

Andrea @ Shameless Agitator said...

Thank you for the reminder about how challenging it can be to deal with the multitudes of expectations about the holidays, saved by bathroom humor!

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