don, put on your gay apparel

Image: Netflix

This morning my 13-year-old woke up at 6am to make me a pot of tea, because for weeks we’ve been obsessed with The Crown and drooling especially over all those silver Victorian tea sets, their tall shining kettles with swan neck spouts flanked by stiff-lipped creamers and stout sugar bowls. Just imagine the delicious tea that must be inside! I waaaaaaaaant it, we wail.

I’d already spent all night fighting panic because the toddler promptly puked the bed last night just after he went down–most likely the result of spicy homemade ginger ale followed by the overstimulation of chaotic Christmas Eve family Zoom, everyone talking at once–and I have a lifelong phobia of vomiting. So I stayed up half the night in a state of hypervigilance, fighting sleep by watching The Crown in the toddler’s bed, a little crib mattress tucked into the corner of the room. Finally, around 1, I let go and let Xanax, only to wake at 6am to the sound of the teenager banging and rumbling around in the kitchen.

Despite my medicated stupor, I got up and stumbled into the kitchen. What’re you doing?

Making you a pot of tea, he said.

Awww, Meow Meow. But…at 6 in the morning?

He shrugged. I’m not tired.

I was. I went back to bed and was just falling asleep again when the teen came into my bedroom to announce the tea was ready.

It didn’t take as long as I thought it would, he said. Do you want me to bring you some?

In a little while, I said. When I wake up.

I managed to fall asleep again for a bit, and when I did I had a nice deep REM-cycle dream before the toddler woke at 7am, fully recovered from the night before, peepers flying open and babbling about his wewe-pek-ghee bek–the ladybug book he got for Christmas–when not rolling and climbing all over me, breast in his mouth:

I was at a Drag Race convention and needed to get myself clean, me and the baby both. Earlier the bathrooms at the convention center–huge, full service, multi-gender dressing rooms with not only stalls and sinks but also showers and tubs and changing rooms–had been full of convention goers, but now they are empty, if dirty from the roving stampede that moved through the space, leaving water and soggy TP around the commodes, grimy sinks, trash cans overflowing with paper towels. Yech.

But I see scrubbin’ bubbles foaming on the sink counters so I know someone is in the process of cleaning up, so I decide to go in and see if I can find a clean tub. I find a few toward the farthest back reaches of the long room, and in fact am excited to find a small jacuzzi style tub with jets. I turn them on to run a bath and climb in. BBz, age nine months or so, is with me and I lay him on my belly face up so he can enjoy the warm water as well.

When I open my eyes again, a crowd of people from the convention has formed, including a few looky-loo reporters with cameras, encircling the tub with horrified expression on their faces. What’d I do?

You can’t masturbate in here! they say. There’s no public masturbation here!

Are you fucking crazy? I grouse back, supremely annoyed. I’m not masturbating, I’m taking a GD bath!

Suddenly someone in the crowd gasps: Alaska Thunderfuck! They’ve mistaken me for the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2! In a flash the mood of the crowd changes from outraged to starstruck. OMG, they exclaim, it’s Alaska!

You guys, I say, I’m not Alaska. I mean, I wish I was. But no, I’m just your everyday average Drag Race fan.

The teen, hearing us awake, entered the room with a mug of tea he’d prepared just for me, using half a baby bottle as creamer and a little Tupperware container as sugar bowl. I told him about my dream and he was amused, both of us being your everyday average Drag Race fans.

Sounds like it’s about how when people are part of a group they believe whatever, even if it’s not true, he said–which sounds pretty right on to me. He’s a smart one like that–rationalist, emotionally savvy, precocious even. He’s had to be; some of his closest relationships have been with kids whose parents hold religiously-motivated homophobic and transphobic views. To keep from internalizing those views as his own shame and preserve a sense of himself as okay the way he is, he’s had to recognize early on that sometimes even otherwise nice people belong to groups that teach them erroneous views.

The other day during Zoom school, for instance, I caught him in action during a private chat argument with a schoolmate who said the COVID shot would unleash the zombie apocalypse.

Would you live in a house that had been built in just two weeks? she demanded.

I would if there was a global housing shortage, my smart ass teen retorted.

The tea he’s made me is delicious–chocolate mint green mixed with heavy whipping cream and brown sugar–and the toddler pulls my mug to his little mouth repeatedly, exclaiming bubé? te?, meaning blueberry tea. I decide I don’t care that he puked a few hours ago–he doesn’t seem sick–and let him share with me.

Eventually I get up and we do another Xmas family Zoom, this time with Greg’s family. I fix the baby a bowl of bubés and reh-bés (frozen blueberries and raspberries), and the teen eats his beloved breakfast salmon, a gift from my dad, and drinks some of the chocolate mint whipping cream tea. We leave the Zoom open for several hours, sometimes unwrapping gifts in a determined, coordinated fashion, sometimes doing our thing without concern for the webcam.

At some point, cleaning up the wreckage of paper and cardboard now strewn across our living room floor, someone brings up glitter, which triggers a hortatory several minutes long from the teen on how useless and hazardous it is, how much he hates it. On YouTube he saw a video about a girl who got a single piece of glitter in her eye, which scratched the cornea. Eventually the scratch became infected and she had to have her eye removed! Plus it hurts sea creatures.

Whaaa, you don’t like glitter? I’m mock astounded. What kind of gay* are you? We laugh.

Before we disband Zoom, Greg’s mom insists that the family sing “Deck the Halls.” She’s from a German family where group sings were commonplace at family get togethers. The teen and I shrink in embarrassment as the rest of the family begins willingly booming fa-la-la-lala in unison. But when we get to the part about donning our gay apparel, we have to look at each other and laugh. The teen is delighted that, even amid this moment of pure Christmas corn, there are gays to be found.

Actually, the line makes me think of American Apparel–weren’t they the ones who had the “Legalize Gay” shirts, before they went bankrupt?

Don, put on your gay apparel, I riff.

*Note: When I was coming up, “gay” referred to men specifically or else it was a hopelessly stuffy and outdated term compared to the more umbrella term “queer.” Gen Z seems to have reclaimed it as an umbrella term for the whole spectrum of gender/sexuality difference and now regards “queer” as hopelessly outdated and stuffy(!)

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