There are two days I would like to remove from my calendar: New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.
When you date as many people as I do, these holidays are landmines.
We are programmed to believe that on these days we must cuddle with our soul mates to celebrate another year of being loving, caring people. If that midnight kiss or box of chocolates goes missing, the bottom too easily falls from our sense of well being. We dread the gnawing fear that underneath it all, we are actually losers and our loved ones don’t truly care about us at all.
Each year, I cringe in anticipation of these expectations.
I hate to let anyone down, but I also hate to be coerced into fabricating Hallmark moments for my relationships. If you believe that I am generally a thoughtful, caring person, then why do I need to queue up at Godiva each year to prove it? If I lack those qualities, it’s hard to imagine how my failings can be corrected by some pricey candy.
My stance on Valentine's Day echoes those of lushes who dismiss Saint Patrick’s as “amateur night.” I give it up for love, sex and romance three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Paper hearts are for pussies.
And therein lies the problem. Pussies like paper hearts.
For I don’t simply date a lot of people. I date a lot of women.
My feminism usually encourages me to decry gender stereotypes. I am a man, and just as nurturing and sentimental as any woman. I value women who would challenge any presumptions of innate male privilege in matters of logic.
And yet, experience has made me wiser. Just as a man will credit me with incredible sex and never phone again, so too will a woman feel utterly unloved if I fail to ring her phone, and then kick herself for feeling that way.
I don’t pretend to draw deep conclusions from these observations, but it is striking how often we perpetuate the stereotypes we purport to eschew.
Girls will be girls, and boys will be boys.
Logic dictates my view on these holidays, but where these holidays are concerned, a man armed only with logic is ill prepared for battle. Perhaps it is wiser to give in, pony up the paper heart and be done with it.
Or, better: embrace avoidance.
Last year, Valentine’s Day happened to fall on the date of our regularly scheduled bisexual orgy. I thought I had dodged a bullet: obviously, I can’t date any one person if I am to host a party. So, why not date everyone at once?
It wasn’t a bad plan when one is everyone’s boyfriend.
Still, there were some hurt feelings. Some people didn’t want to trade warm intimacy for hot sex, and some of those who did dive into the tangle of bodies wanted to feel like the cherry on top.
I was relieved this year to flip ahead and see that my date for Valentine’s Day is already secure. I will have my kids that night. Merciful Minerva.
This year, I was also relieved to see that I would have the kids on New Year’s Eve. How could one man be so fortunate?
But then Rachel began to make plans to visit. A couple of years ago, she was my date for New Year’s, and we had a really nice evening. I would have hated to deny her a fun night in the city that invented New Year’s Eve.
I had couple of choices. I could arrange for a babysitter so that I could take Rachel and Ray to a party, but that didn’t seem fair to the kids. I asked Lucy if she wanted to have the kids that night, to which she simply scolded, “The children are your responsibility that night, Jefferson!,” meaning, I assumed, that she had plans.
So I chose a better option. We were already a party of six. I would invite over some friends and we would have our own shindig.
The kids liked this idea. They were excited as we cleaned and swept the apartment, hanging lights and putting out candles. I slow cooked a batch of Hoppin’ John and put out sauerkraut for luck. We loaded the CD player with dance music.
After dinner, the apartment swelled with well-dressed adults, many making stops at various parties as they toured their way to midnight. The adults sipped wine and champagne as the children drank apple cider from fancy plastic flues.
Lillie put a flower in her teeth to tango. Collie danced the Hustle. Jason snuck into his room to play Xbox.
Rachel cuddled in Ray’s lap. They took Polaroid snapshots of one another.
At midnight, we watched the ball drop on television, counting backwards as Dick Clark slurred to keep up. Kisses traveled the room as fireworks exploded outside our windows.
Now that they had made it past midnight, the kids were ready to party for real. Lillie told the grown ups to sit and wait for a “show.” Collie requested Scissor Sisters as he ran off.
“Oh, this should be good,” I told everyone. “Jason, I have to DJ, so you are the photographer.” He found my camera and took his position.
“Now, Dad!” Collie called.
I hit play on “Don’t Feel Like Dancin’.”
Collie strutted into the living room wearing a tiny blue bikini.
Lillie followed in a flowing Falcons jersey and boxer shorts.
Everyone laughed. Collie beamed as he pranced and sashayed.
“Oh yeah, oh yeah!” Lillie shouted, taking hip hop poses. “Yo, you know it—oh yeah!”
“This is too hilarious,” Rachel giggled.
“Oh, no you didn’t!” Collie answered, wriggling a finger as he jutted a hip.
“Now I can say I went to New York and saw a drag show,” Ray said.
Jason snapped pictures. Cameras began to appear around the room.
“Let’s go, let’s go,” Collie said, pushing his sister to the wings. “Dad, we’ll be right back. Play ‘Stacy’s Mom!’”
“Yes, sir . . . uh, ma’am,” I replied.
A moment later, the music kicked in and the performers were back. Lillie wore a Colts baseball cap, soccer jersey and camouflage shorts.
Collie wore a denim mini skirt and bikini top.
We clapped and laughed. As Collie worked the room, I wondered where he had picked up such fabulous runway moves.
“You look pretty awesome, son,” I laughed.
Collie turned and strutted to me. “Don’t make me snap my fingers in a Z for-may-shun!” he catted, popping as his fingers carved Zorro’s mark in the air inches from my face.
We guffawed. “What did you say?” I asked.
Collie stood erect and stared at me. Then, again, he flung the gesture and phrase: “Don’t make me snap my fingers in a Z formation!”
I turned to Jason. “Where did he . . . ?”
“I don’t know,” Jason giggled.
“Have you ever heard this phrase?” I asked my friends.
Heads shook as people laughed.
God, I thought. My ten-year-old had coined the queeniest expression I have ever heard.
Lillie tugged Collie away for another costume change.
I put on the Kinks.
Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
It's a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for Lola
Collie and Lillie made several more appearances. Collie's costumes were ever more comical. He scored big laughs in purple sparkling tights worn over his sister's panties. Lillie added props in an effort to one up her brother’s drag, shouting her rap and butching her stance.
Then, as the music played, the performers missed a curtain call.
“Collie?” I called. “Lillie?”
They didn’t answer.
I walked back to their dressing room. The floor was covered with piles of clothes. Collie was crying. Lillie sat reading on a bed.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Lillie won’t let me wear her clothes!” Collie wailed.
“Show’s over,” Lillie said, not looking up.
“Lillie, why won’t you let Collie wear your clothes anymore?”
Lillie dropped her book and began to cry. “Because everyone is laughing about Collie, and not me,” she sobbed.
“I only want to do one more time!” Collie argued.
The divas had a meltdown backstage.
“Please explain this to her!” Collie cried. “It’s funny when boys dress like girls. It’s just not that funny when girls wear boys’ clothes.”
“Yes it is!” Lillie shouted back.
“It’s not, Lillie,” Collie asserted, his face red. “It’s not my rule, it just the way it is. Girls always wear boys’ clothes. Boys never wear girls clothes. That’s why it’s funny.”
“Shut up!” Lillie answered.
“Now wait, wait,” I said, sitting on a bed. “Everyone is getting a little too worked up. Maybe we can talk this out. Now, Collie, can you help Lillie to make her outfit funnier?”
“No,” he said. “It’s not fair, Dad, she . . .”
“Wait, wait,” I said, patting the air. “I’m not asking about fair. I just want to know if you will help her choose funny clothes.”
“Okay, thanks. Now, Lillie, will you please allow Collie to wear some of your clothes, just one more time?”
“Lillie, now, Collie has said he would help to fix your clothes . . .”
“I don’t want his help,” she said, crossing her arms. “I want it to be funny without him.”
I looked at the clock. “Well, look, it’s getting late and it’s been a long day. You are both stuck, so maybe it’s time for bed.”
“Dad, I just want to do one more,” Collie cried.
“One more?” I asked. “And Lillie, you refuse to play along?”
“No, I won’t,” she said.
“All right.” I stood and left the room.
Lillie scowled at Collie and picked up her book.
A moment later, Rachel came into the dressing room. “Collie, can you come with me please?”
“No fair!” Lillie barked.
“You can come, too,” Rachel said.
I was talking with my friends when I heard my cue. I hit play on Beck.
Collie skipped into the living room. His tiny frame was drapped with Rachel's colorful panties, bras and a feather boa.
We laughed. “Oh no, you didn’t,” Collie preened, warming us up for the finale. He turned and gave us his new signature line:
“Don’t make me snap my fingers in a Z formation!”
Lillie watched from the wings.
With the curtain drop, it was time to say goodbye to our guests. Lillie photographed them as they put on coats and bussed cheeks.
I waded through the clothes in the dressing room to put the kids to bed.
Rachel and Ray said goodnight and closed themselves into my bedroom.
I retrieved a pillow and quilt to settle on the couch. I turned out the lamp and lay back.
I heard something bump the wall.
“Ow, my head!” Rachel giggled.
Ray murmured something. She murmured something in response. Then all was quiet.
I smiled and closed my eyes on another year.