Well, it’s that time of year again, dear readers. The Lonely Season has arrived. What in the world, you ask, is the Lonely Season? Well, if you have to ask it’s obviously not on your emotional calendar. But for me, and a lot of other queer folk, it’s the period between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. It’s the hardest time of the year to be single and, in some cases, all alone.
I’ll break it down for you: I love my family. Deeply and truly. But I am the odd man out. My sister is married with kids. While on one hand that takes a little pressure off me, it also, in a strange way, makes me feel incomplete. I never, ever, imagined I’d be this age and alone.
I brought my baked beans and sweet potatoes to Thanksgiving. They’re family favorites. But I feel awkward as I sit at the table. I am the only member of my family that does not attend a Free Will Baptist Church. My parents are fundamentalists to the bone. They love me. Yet they all think I’m going to hell. You can see why that makes me a tad uncomfortable. I am a believer. I consider myself a Christian. Yet I’m never asked to say grace before we eat.
For years, I just skipped Thanksgiving dinner with my family all together. For a while, I volunteered at Full Truth Fellowship Church giving out meals to those in need with a lot of other lonely folk. For another few years, I simply went to the movies. I eventually returned to the family table but yet I never quite felt at home.
I’m not the only one to feel this way I know. My late friend Bill had no immediate family. The closest he had were a few cousins. As he had no place else to go, he joined them for what he called Thanksgiving with the Republicans. Bill, who was as liberal as they come, felt as awkward as I did at my family’s table.
And it’s not just me and Bill. Loads of LGBTQ+ people share the experience in some form or another. Queer youth who are not allowed to express their true sexual orientation or gender identity in front of their parents. And that’s not counting those who’ve been kicked out of their houses for being exactly who they are. For them, the Lonely Season is, presumably, the most difficult of all. Sort of like winter in Alaska. Darkness for months on end.
Then there’s Christmas. I’ve only ever really been immersed in the holiday spirit when I’ve had someone special in my life. It’s like the lights on the Christmas tree sparkle a little brighter when you’re with the one you love. I have fond memories of those Christmases. Sadly, it’s been over a decade since I’ve experienced one of them. Christmas now is a mixed bag.
Then there’s Christmas night. That, to me, is the absolute worst time of the Lonely Season. You’ve opened all the gifts. Eaten a big meal. And then gone home to an empty house. I’d kill to have someone to snuggle on the sofa with and watch the twinkling lights on the tree. Instead, I pull a blanket over myself and settle in to watch the episode of "The Great Christmas Light Fight" I’ve been saving.
New Year’s Eve is, well, nothing special. I don’t club much. I’m more of a house party person. But I’m sort of stuck in Covid mode. I’ve gotten used to not going out and prefer to stay in. Especially when it’s cold outside.
One of the traditions I grew up on and still celebrate is to pray in the new year. However, I’m never up at midnight. So I say my prayer at about 10 or so and then call it a night. I’m awoken at midnight when the hooligans in my neighborhood start shooting guns and setting off fireworks. Lady, my one companion, my beautiful little Shorkie, does not like loud noises and lets me know. I settle her down and it’s back to sleep.
Some people thrive alone. Some people have no desire to cohabitate and share a life with someone. Me, I can remember being 17 and just beginning to accept my homosexuality. I was like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. I was cute. Hell, when you’re that young, you don’t even have to be cute to be cute. But I was.
I lost a lot of weight that year doing exercises to a mixtape my first love made for me — endless rounds of jumping jacks and jogging in place — with Jennifer Holliday singing “I Am Changing” from "Dreamgirls" on repeat. I used to think my first boyfriend would be my last, my happily ever after. Never, ever, did I imagine I’d spend my life searching for love. I find myself bargaining with God. I’ll never celebrate a silver anniversary with my husband. But could I get 10 good years in a healthy relationship? Five? What about three?
But I digress again. January is a sure continuation of the Lonely Season. My birthday is smack dab in the middle of the month. I recently bought a T-shirt that said, “I don’t know how to act my age. I’ve never been this old before.” Fits me to a T. (Pardon the pun.) I still feel young at heart – even if mine now has a 60-percent blockage in two arteries. A joke, dear readers, just a joke.
I have friends, of course. Wonderful friends. I usually plan something for my birthday. My dear, sweet friend since elementary school, Terri, always takes me out. At some point, I do celebrate my birthday with my family. My mom usually makes lasagna, my favorite. So it isn’t all bad and I don’t mean to imply that is. Don’t cry for me, Metro Detroit.
February, mercifully, ends the Lonely Season. Valentine’s Day is the final day. And if I’ve made it through, I say a silent prayer, in great relief, and ask little baby Jesus to not let me be alone again next year. He hasn’t answered the prayer yet, but there’s always hope.