If you happen to find yourself on Xmas eve, as an adult, without any family, nor a spouse and/or children such as myself your holiday may be a little non-traditional. My holiday began to be less about family dinner and gifts the year after my mom died. My family has always been small. It was just me, my dad and my mom. We were estranged from many of our extended family, for good reasons. The bad thing about having such a small home is that you can find yourself losing it all so much easier. Mom passed away in September of ’01. I was 22 years old. Clearly not a child anymore. My father’s heart was permanently broken, and couldn’t bear to face the holidays any longer. Rather than face both Thanksgiving and Christmas, he chose to leave for Reno on a gambling trip with a friend of his who was also without family. He never asked me if I was okay with this, but I suppose I was.
Mom died in September of that year, and Thanksgiving was right around the corner. I went to our usual gathering at my mom’s best friend’s house. This group of people were not blood related to me, but I knew this group as family. I had known them my entire life. I called members of it “aunt” and “uncle”, “cousin”, etc. I showed up for Thanksgiving dinner, like I always would with my boyfriend in tow. It was awkward. Mostly because I was awkward. Also because no one knew what to say to me or how to act. This is a normal reaction. I don’t blame anyone for not knowing how to interact with me. If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t know either. Most asked me how I was doing, and all wanted to share stories about my mom and how much she’d be missed. It was too much for me. To be in this very familiar setting I’ve known my entire childhood made her absence and my loss all the more obvious. I felt strangled by everyone’s sympathy and the ghost of my mother clinging right behind me. I pretended to take a phone call and left without a word. It was all too much, too soon.
Soon after, Xmas rolled around. Dad appeared in my doorway the first week of December and told me he would be out of town for the holiday. He was near tears when he told me this, and I knew he was dealing with his own journey with grief, one I couldn’t possibly understand. He went out of town every year after that for both Thanksgiving and Xmas until he died too. I began my own traditions. My favorites are doing anything non-traditional like seeing a horror movie and chinese food with a friend. Any time a boyfriend would talk me in to doing a traditional xmas with his family, it would nearly make me sick. Of course its unavoidable, but personally I prefer to skip those holidays all together.
Xmas-Eve Pool Party
Ross is very much all about the traditional holiday. He misses his family and home, and he especially feels it on those holidays in which one would normally be amongst both. Through this relationship I have been forced to concede and celebrate these before blacklisted holidays. I do so half-heartedly, but I do it nonetheless. On this last Christmas, I would be cooking my usual “transplant dinner” on the afternoon of. Every Christmas and Thanksgiving since I’ve lived in Portland, I cook a large and traditional dinner for all of us living here that are away from family to attend and enjoy. I do it for everyone else, not because I particularly require it or enjoy the ritual. I also do it for the challenge. I love cooking and pushing myself to my very best culinary ability. There’s also something really fucking satisfying about pulling off a gorgeous holiday feast that can feed 20 all by myself (or maybe thats years of domestic brainwashing talking). Christmas eve, ross was depressed. His family wanted us to come home for the holiday, but of course I couldn’t, being a retail manager. We didn’t have a lot of extra money at this time, so we couldn’t afford a tree. He was very sad about this. I was personally relieved. Not only am I incredibly allergic to xmas trees, I find the entire tradition strange and wasteful. I really didn’t want to acquire one, vacuum up the needles, then have to dispose of it.
Ross was clearly in a funk, and I couldn’t help but have sympathy. I can see how hard it must be to be away from your family on the holidays. I wanted to cheer him up. We didn’t have any money for a tree, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t be festive. I spent $5 at Dollar tree and created a tree.
Of course it didn’t really cheer him up. That shit took me FOREVER, though. His parents had sent us gifts, and I positioned them under our “tree”.
It took quite a bit of convincing, but I finally talked him in to going out on Xmas Eve. Portland is a town a lot of people move to, therefore many won’t be doing anything for Christmas day, so tons of people go out on the eve and drink. I was excited to experience this. There were actually quite a few events going on around town that sounded interesting and it was going to be hard to choose the right one. I also had to pick something that Ross would even be in to joining. Most of our friends that we’ve made since moving here are actually from Portland (rare) and have family activities to attend. This means I would not only have to convince him to a) go out when he’s depressed b) go out without the incentive of hanging out with our friends. Challenging. Finally, I saw it: Christmas Eve Pool Party. It was perfect for me. Completely non-holiday related. no fucking Santa hats, no damned stockings, probably no Xmas tree. Even better, a newly-acquired friend of ours was hosting the event. After much convincing, he agreed to go.
It was free to get in, but you were supposed to wear bathing suits. It was snowing in Portland at the time. Also, when you move to the Pacific Northwest your body changes. I achieved a new shade of pale that year. I was literally as white as a glass of milk. You also spend about 99% of your time here covered from neck to toe in usually many layers. The thought of being in no more than a bathing suit is bizarre. Still, I was determined to enjoy my non-traditional Christmas in the company of like-minded individuals for once. This would be no depressing Christmas! I refused to spend it crying in bed. Not this year! This year would be fun, silly, and hopefully drunk. Ross was skeptical of the dress code. He brought up a good point: What if we show up and no one else is dressed up? What if we go and we’re not having fun and want to go somewhere else? he opted to wear normal clothes, but bring his trunks to change in to. I was in a quandary. How was I going to feel okay about being in a bathing suit? I CERTAINLY wouldn’t be putting on a fucking bikini. NO WAY. I had recently purchased a size large, gold lame one-piece at a yard sale. I decided that this would be my best option, as it wasn’t too clingy and provided a lot of coverage. It was backless, though. This means, I couldn’t wear a bra, reasonably. I tried it on with one on, just to see. I looked like I was doing Momma’s Family cosplay. I opted for two sets of 5 band aids in a Red Hot Chili Pepper logo pattern. That’ll have to do. Now there was the issue with my legs. They were so pale, they were see-thru. I decided I needed to wear a pair of tights with my suit. Trouble is, all of my hose had those shorts built in (women will know what I’m talking about). None were sheer to the hip except a pair of flesh-toned patterned ones I got on clearance and never wore. They were weird, but my only viable option. I eyed myself in the mirror. I knew full-well that the weird tights would appear to look like some sort of psoriasis in bar-lighting. Fuck it. I didn’t want to be sexualized anyway. That’s right creepers, I have scaly-skinned legs. I threw a dress on over this combo and we headed out.
The streets were deserted and dusted with snow. It was unavoidable to realize that is was Christmas. Ross drove us in silence. The event was held at a venue in a location that I passed regularly, yet had never been to. it was called The Grand, and sat right on the corner of a busy intersection. We parked and saw people standing out front, having a cigarette in beach attire whilst donning leis. I smiled. Ross got into his trunks in the car, I ditched my dress and we headed in.
When you enter The Grand, there is sort of a hallway, leading to a podium where the doorman will check your ID. Tonight, said doorman had on nothing but a speedo and intense back-tattoos. This put me way at ease. Clearly, I will be conservatively dressed if this is the standard inside. He let me know that all ladies in bathing suits tonight get free vodka-soaked gummy bears all night. Hell yes. We checked our coats and walked in.
Upon entering, it wasn’t very crowded. There were maybe 15 people inside. There were 3 women in the building wearing bathing suits that included myself, and two other girls. They looked a LOT different in their suits than I did. I ran to the bar to get a drink and claim my bears. Dudes at the bar were fucking leering. This was clearly one of those things that sounded way better in theory than actually doing it. I sped from the bar with my drinks and was glad to see Ross chose to sit at a back booth far from anyone or anything.
There were guys in various versions of suits. The only bad thing was they could easily throw a coat over it and look completely normal and covered. It really wasn’t that big of a deal. I wasn’t exposed at the booth with the large table in front of me in the dark corner. The gummy bears were surprisingly good, and considering there were only three of us that showed up in the theme dress, they would need me to eat more than my fair share of them. Our friend, Paul came over and hung out with some of his friends. Everyone was friendly, and having a good time. Ross was actually having fun.
There turned out to be musical performances. First up were the girls in the suits. They had a little two-person band, and were really funny. All their songs were comedy-themed and totally crass. They were enjoyable to watch and kept us laughing the entire time. During their act, we saw the crowd growing. I noticed that there was a stairwell leading down to a basement. There was a sign above it that said Andrea’s Cha Cha Club. Apparently this large space held a second venue, that was having its own event down below. It must have been “creepy old man” night down there, as within 15 minutes of Paris and Delaney hitting the stage the floor was filled with straight-up creepers. Dudes sipping their beers slowly, while eyeing the stage like they were at a sex-show. I shuddered. It was when the girls were singing their last song, charmingly about venereal diseases, I had to pee. I had felt like I needed to go for a while now, but it was becoming urgent. I knew I was going to have to stand up and use the restroom. My coat was inaccessible, therefore I would have to just march across the room and find the bathroom. Let ’em stare. The absolute worst they could do to me is leer. Yes, Ross should have escorted me to the bathroom. Those of you that know Ross, however know that he is far from knowing what the proper thing to do is. I stood up to go.
As if I were wearing a spotlight around my neck, all of those creepy dudes turned their heads to look at me the minute I stood up. I looked around the space. I couldn’t see any obvious area for the restroom. I sure as hell didn’t want to walk around and look for it. I darted to the bar, leaving my gold lame ass completely exposed to the crowd. I asked for the bathroom. The bartender explained it was actually downstairs, in the “Cha Cha Club”. FUCK ME.
I walked to the stairway. It lead into complete darkness. This may be the only basement I’ve ever ACTUALLY feared in my entire life. I made my way down the stairs. I could hardly see what was in front of me, and I was clinging to the rail to not take a header down and crack open my skull. Two black dudes in their mid-40’s passed me en route. I heard a remnant of their conversation. One guy said to the other that he heard “bitches in bathing suits are upstairs”. They looked at me, shocked. Then instantly fanned out to block my passage down the stairwell. They started picking up on me, clearly so drunk they were swaying back and forth. I was vulnerable. Suddenly, a male voice came booming up the hallway for the guys to “get the fuck out of my way”. The guys jumped to march single-file the rest of the way up the stairs, craning their necks to look and leer back at me the entire way. After they cleared the stairs, I saw a second doorman, sitting on a stool and the base of the stairs. Oh thank God.
“You okay?” he asked as I descended the last few steps.
I let him know I was fine, but also let him know I was relieved to see him there. I looked into the entrance of the Cha Cha. It was absolutely packed with what appeared to be mostly middle-aged men. Salsa music was blaring. The few women that I saw in there were in tight, tacky dresses bumping and grinding against various men while the crowd watched. Yikes. I went to the bathroom and made my way back up the stairs. I would make it a point to not need to go again.
Paris and Delaney had just left the stage, and the upstairs was still filled with the overspill creepers. I wanted another drink, but refused to cross the floor to the bar. I sat back down with Ross and made him go. The next act was two white guys spewing really good hip-hop. It was ironic, and funny. Thankfully, this act managed to clear out all the weird creepers and force them back down to the basement.
Ater this act, it was karaoke time. How fun. Ross absolutely loves doing karaoke. I like watching, not doing. I helped myself to more booze-bears and watched folks belt out their best Steve perrys and Stevie Nicks. There were a few kiddie-pools sitting in the middle of the dance floor filled with balloons. I wondered what these were going to be eventually filled with and when that part of the night was going to happen.
The crowd was definitly loosening up at this point. Folks were running up on stage and singing in groups, as well as dancing and cavorting around the swimming pools. Ross and I decided we needed to kick the party in high-gear by getting up and doing a little R. Kelly. Don’t worry guys, I set up the video camera right before going on stage:
Clearly, I’m just up there as the “hype-man”. Ross was asked to stay on stage after that and sing whatever he wanted. This ranged from Luniz to Neil Diamond. I took pictures, danced with whomever, ate gummy bears. I’m lucky I didn’t barf in the pool.
We covorted until last-call. As the evening wound down, I was pleased that it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. It was so nice to not have to think about it for even a minute. We sat, finishing our last drinks with our friends in the back booth. I was reviewing pictures on my camera memory. One picture caught my eye. Somehow, I had taken a picture of someone’s vagina. At one point, I was shooting a picture of a crowd of people dancing on the stage. Some girl was bent over, not wearing underwear, and I caught a perfect shot of her bare vagina. I showed to Ross. The other members at the table looked on. One of the girls at the table asked to see the picture. I handed her the camera. After looking at it for a minute, the handed the camera back to me. She had deleted the picture. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to do anything with it anyway. It was just funny that it happened. Perhaps I missed my calling as one of those sleazy paparazzi trying to catch crotch-shots of celebrities climbing out of their cars.
We payed up and headed off into the night. Tomorrow, it would be Christmas. I would have to open gifts and cook a traditional meal for our friends. I would do my best to not feel sad. I would try and not think about painful memories and drink too much. This night was weird, the right kind of weird. Not sure what this year will hold. I am certainly NOT making another one of those ghost trees again. EVER.