Friday, 23 December 2011


It's always the same with Christmas. I'm a child at heart, and my energy levels noticeably rise in the days leading up to the holiday period. This year the build-up seems to have been longer than normal, so I've gradually whipped myself up into my own version of a festive frenzy. That sounds more impressive than it is, and really only comprises of talking to people I wouldn't ordinarily talk to, whistling slightly more than usual, and tuning the kitchen radio to a station that only plays Christmas tunes. Even so, by my own standards I've been lively, playful and, goddammit I'll say it, happy. Despite a succession of late nights I've comfortably maintained a regimen of early morning rising, have so far maintained admirable dietary discipline, and even remain motivated to exercise each day.

Yet I can feel it upon me. The slump is approaching. Of course Christmas day itself is an anticlimax for many, consisting as it typically does of an initial whirlwind of gift exchange and food preparation and consumption, followed by a slow descent into dull games, generic TV, and more food, interspersed with snoozing. But I'm okay with all that. I can cope with seeing the uncle I don't like, pretending to be grateful for the third packet of Licquorice Allsorts, and watching Oliver! for the fifty-seventh time. What I struggle with, and always fail at, is keeping myself from slipping into introspective mode. All celebrations do this to me. I find myself withdrawing to a corner, watching, reflecting, sometimes brooding. I suppose sobriety doesn't help matters, but there's something about witnessing key moments in people's lives; in my own life, that breaks my heart. Perhaps it's the knowledge that the moment is about to be lost forever. Perhaps it's some kind of response to the desperate futility of it all. It could be that I am touched by the ability of my family and friends to cast aside all the hostility and cruelty in the world and concentrate for a few precious moments on the love they share.

Or maybe I'm just a miserable bastard. I don't know, but either way I inevitably reach this state of Christmas paralysis. I become a rather sad-looking and distant observer. And that's not me. It's not me at all, though I think many people believe it is.

The moroseness has been hastened a little this year by a comment one of my ex football team mates made at the pub the other night. We were being told that another chap from the team had been busy lately decorating his new house, and the first chap made a mischievous enquiry about whether he lived alone, or with a 'friend'. There was a moment of awkwardness, then someone else told him to 'behave', and the conversation moved on. I can't be certain, but I'm fairly sure the comment was directed at me.

To clarify, I don't really regard myself as closeted, but neither have I made any explicit statement about my sexuality to this particular group of friends. For some time I have been working on the assumption that they all know I'm gay, and whilst none of them were invited to the civil partnership ceremony earlier in the year (see how I subtly revealed that?), several of them have seen me around town with my partner, so I assumed that any speculation or gossip that may have taken place in the past had long since ceased.

I'm surprised and annoyed to discover that this should still be a subject of interest for any of them. The individual who made the comment is someone who I like, and having mulled it over for a couple of days, I don't think my opinion of him has changed as a result of this. I suppose I resent being reminded of my embarrassment about those times in the now distant past when I was evasive about my sexuality. I wonder if I continue to avoid making certain proclamations because, deep down, I fear some of the prejudices it might unleash. It's possible that I am ashamed to admit to myself that perhaps I even share some of those prejudices.

Christmas specific bi-polarism, that's what I've got. Ho ho... oh!

Until 2012, over and out. Merry Christmas all.


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Ben:
We do wish you and your partner [slipped in] a very happy Christmas [and trust that you will be together].

Perhaps it is rather late for this year, but maybe for next you should both consider a complete break from the usual Christmas and do something entirely different. Although quite what, we are unsure. As we do not have any family, we are spared, and have been for many years, all that you describe here, and being without a television for the past thirty years or so does mean that we do not have to endure 'Oliver', 'The Sound of Music', 'Ben Hur' or similar. In fact tomorrow, Christmas Eve, which is the principal day of celebration here, we shall go to our two gay friends, Viktor and Zoli, and enjoy a really traditional but very low key Christmas with good food [in moderation], wine [which we like], lively conversation [interspersed with delicious gossip], Midnight Mass and, most likely, a 'downloaded' film or two.

Prejudice, in all forms, we abhor but also, like you, find it at times difficult to know quite best how to deal with it. Silence sometimes seems the best policy but we worry that that may be cowardly.

We shall much look forward to continuing to be in touch in the New Year.

Ben said...

Jane and Lance:
Sorry to be so late in replying. I was busy pretending to enjoy myself.

In some ways, I look forward very much to the time when Christmas can be spent simply, quietly, and perhaps somewhere new. Of course, certain sadnesses will have to be experienced before that stage is reached.

I'm really not complaining. I'm loved, and I'm lucky.

This will be our first full year as semi-frequent, semi-anonymous, semi-pen-friends. I'm looking forward to it!