December 11, 2012


Earl and I have been together for over 1 1/2 decades. We have had joyous times, we’ve had sad times, we are there for each other, through thick and thin, for better or for worse and all of that stuff. We’ve been through two house purchases, built a business together, killed a business together and are able to finish each other’s sentences without an issue. However, there is one important part of our relationship that we struggle with.

We both think we know how to put lights on the Christmas tree. In fact, we each know how to do this. And the struggle is, the other one does it wrong.

This is one of the primary dangers of a marriage of two gay men. Those that dabble in the stereotypical aspects of the homosexual path have a certain eye or flair when it comes to things like decorating. There’s a really good chance that not just one but both members of the relationship have been the “designated one” for Christmas light installation whilst growing up. I know that I was the one that put up the Christmas lights outside every year. I rearranged them on a nightly basis after school. Every time my mother drove into town I asked her to pick up another 35-count set of “Merry Midget” lights. The meter on the electric pole by the driveway spun so hard the wires to the road quivered. I timed the blinking lights on the Christmas tree perfectly.

The issue is, Earl did the same thing growing up.

Imagine the conflict when we realized that while we both had the same goal with our festive lighting practices, we did it in completely opposite ways.

Earl starts at the top of tree. I start at the bottom, at the spot closest to the wall outlet.

Earl puts the tree topper on first. I shriek at such a thought.

Earl lights to use the last strand of lights to fill in random places throughout the tree that might be devoid of light. I maintain a symmetry of having the lights weave in and out in a parallel, yet suggestively random pattern.

You can just imagine the horror I felt back in 1996 when we went to decorate our first tree together and he put the star on the top first. The crabby woman that lived under our apartment had to bang on the ceiling with her cane because we were yelling so much.

I have learned to take a deep breath when it’s time for this annual practice but I refuse to give in completely. I claim ownership of the ladder and I’m not coming down until I am satisfied with the installation of the lights. As we grow older things have mellowed out a bit. What used to involve yelling and huffing and puffing has been reduced to an occasional glare and the sneaky practice of making sure the light strands remain parallel (please don’t tell him), despite his attempts to go all over the place with that last set of lights.

I did give in a little bit and ended the practice of having the Merry Midgets blink. No one accuse me of not having the holiday spirit, after all.


I like to think that this season of Good Tidings brings out the best in people. One would hope that people would always try to be their best, but every day is a different day and this time of the year is when we really hope that every day is a good day. With the warm greetings in the spirit of the holiday, one of the last things a person should worry about is whether their well-intended words are being offensive.

I’m talking about the phrase “Merry Christmas.”

Now, I’m not a religious man. To be quite honest, I’m thankful that a church doesn’t go up in flames when I walk into it. So these thoughts are not coming from a Christian point of view. They’re coming from a human point of view.

I bristle when I see “Christmas” abbreviated to “Xmas”. I have to say that I find “Xmas” to be indicative of one of two things: 1. the writer is exceedingly lazy or 2. the writer is placing his or her beliefs ahead of the sentiment that they’re trying to express by wishing someone a “Merry Xmas”. The sentiment they are conveying is secondary to their personal needs. A conditional tiding, if you will.

Now, not many people are going to agree with me on this. Some are going to cling to their non-religious ways and that’s perfectly fine. If you choose not to believe in anything other than the here and now, I am perfectly fine with that. Some are going to proclaim, “Jesus is the reason for the season!!”, which personally I don’t believe per se, but I do believe the spirit of Jesus Christ’s teachings are appropriate here. If you choose to believe that I am going straight to hell after I take my last breath, based on what you read in a book, well quite frankly I’m fine with that too. You believe what you believe and I believe what I believe and all is well in good. If your well wishes and holiday greetings are complete and coming from the heart, I don’t care if you choose to worship a dishwasher.

But conveying the spirit of the holidays through words, whether it be Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Joyous Solstice or whatever, in my opinion should be given completely, without abbreviations. If you don’t believe in the Christ part of Christmas, then wish others a Happy Holidays. If you find writing or typing the entire word to be time consuming or exhausting, give out a lukewarm handshake or a friendly pat on the head instead.

But please don’t abbreviate the spirit of the holidays. Lord knows we need all the good tidings we can get these days.