I am thankful for many things this holiday season. I am thankful to live in Los Angeles with my super-cool boyfriend. I am thankful for having had a job this past month. I am thankful for anything and everything surrounding the upcoming movie Magic Mike. I'm also really thankful to be gay.
In my opinion, Thanksgiving is the best of the holidays. Not only is there no pressure except to cook and eat, but the general idea of taking a day to be grateful is pretty cool on a lot of levels. Not to get too Elizabeth Gilbert here, but gratefulness is something with which I continuously have a hard time.
I also really like what the day has become for me, as an adult. Growing up, Thanksgiving was always the magical holiday of way too much amazing food at my Mammie and Paw Paw's house (oh, by the way, I grew up in a Merle Haggard song), and when I had my first Thanksgiving in New York City, I had never felt as far away from home.
The price of the plane ticket and the length of the trip didn't make sense when Christmas vacation was right around the corner, so that year I decided to stay in New York City and do something with friends or go to a resturant or stand in the rain and watch Matt Lauer host the parade or whatever it is New Yorkers are supposed to do.
My family was sad not to have me there, and I was, too, but I pretended to be as comfortable and secure about it as possible. A few months before that I had become friends with actor Gary Beach and his wonderful partner Jeff Barnett. I'd written Gary a fan letter in high school and then randomly bumped into him on 44th Street one afternoon. We'd struck up a friendship, and that year, when it came time for Thanksgiving, they invited me over to their Upper West Side apartment.
I had no idea what it would be like, as I'd never been to a Thanksgiving dinner not with my family. Would the dressing taste the same as Mammy's? Would the sweet potatoes be as good as my Aunt Maxine's? Would anyone make a pie like my Aunt DuAnne (again, copyright Merle Haggard)?
Gary and Jeff were the first real adult committed gay couple I'd ever gotten to know. They'd been together almost as long as I'd been alive, and they were in love, kind, comforting, normal, and a genuine couple.
When I arrived at Gary and Jeff's apartment, it smelled like the holidays, it looked like the holidays, and it felt like the holidays. It was one of the classiest homes I'd ever been in, and a small number of their sweet, funny, and lovely friends were sitting around the living room having cocktails and exchanging Mary Martin stories. It was one of those moments in my adult life that I realized that home isn't just the house you grow up in; home can be a whole lot more.
That Thanksgiving turned into one of my favorite memories of all time, and I've never gone back to Georgia for Thanksgiving again -- not because I don't miss my family terribly, but because it's easier to stay where I live, and it's cool to share the holiday with different types of family.
That's what I love about gay people. For different reasons, whether it's because we're so far away or because our relationships are less than stellar or because we just want to, we form these second families because we can and we must.
I've been extremely lucky over the years to form many such families in both New York City and now Los Angeles, and it's something I'm very proud of. That's something I wish scared youth could see in their future, these amazing second families that are here and there and everywhere, just waiting to be formed.
I am thankful for all my families, and I'm really thankful to be gay, and I hope you are, too.
Follow Jeffery Self on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jefferyself