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.