Christmas Day for me is a bit of a traditional story that unfolds in the same way every year since I can remember; that’s about since the age of three. The excitement of waking to presents and hoping that everything I bought is met with the same excitement. After breakfast and various cups of tea it’s a mad dash to get over to one of my relatives who hold a Christmas midday gathering at their house. Dad shouting at Mum, “Come on!” and Mum fiddling around in the kitchen in preparation for getting back for Christmas dinner and the Queen’s speech which invariably we’ll miss because, despite the television being on, we’re not really watching it just busy cutting through way too much veg on the plate and chatting about how drunk my cousin was. The delay between Mum and Dad is a tug of war, too and fro because Mum will think of something to do quickly, so Dad will then go and do something and because he’s now quickly doing something Mum will go and do something else although Dad usually ends up in the car first with Mum eventually locking the front door and Dad saying, “They’ll be having their dinner soon!”
My relatives are only a short drive away. In their modest typical suburban house are more relatives and neighbours that I only know from the two or so hours I spend there on that one single day of the year every year and yet I, like everyone in my family, know them as if they were family. We walk through the porch, the front door unlocked for those hours for people to come and go as they please and grab a kiss on the cheek from my Aunty Jane who has barely changed in thirty plus years other than seemingly getting shorter though in fact it was me getting taller through my teens. Inside is the social split. In the living room are the women and in the kitchen are the men surrounded by ale and man-chat so thick you could cut it with Black and Decker man-tool that’s shaped like a gun for added enjoyment. Both social groups layout in very different ways.
In the living room the eldest women, usually those who are great-grandmothers to someone three doors down take the comfortable leather arm chairs, the lesser seniors take the sofa usually with three sat their like three wise-ones carefully nurturing a short Bailey’s on ice. Then, anyone under thirty, usually are left awkwardly standing around the edges leaning against the wall by the front door laughing at people’s jokes whether they get them or not and being disturbed every time someone new comes through the door. The kitchen is simpler. The men simply lean against the counter with a pint. And the kids. Well they just run around the house in through the one door to the dining room and back in through the other door to the living room or they sit conveniently in the way of everyone with their new noisy remote control car they’ve had for Christmas.
Me on the other hand has always and still sit exactly where you probably think. Right there in the living room. I always have done. As a kid obviously it didn’t matter but even as I grew up I would stay their. I’m even getting close to being one of the sofa three as maturity creeps up on me. Usually at some point either my Dad or my brother would say, “Come on, why don’t you come out here?” trying to beckon me into the kitchen for a manly brew, a talk about Rugby or the usual setting the world to rights.
“No it’s ok.” I would say with that I’m really not interested look on my face.
“Oh, ok, suit yourself.”
I’ve never been the typical boy or man for that matter to them but they’ve accepted it in some unspoken form. Even when, some years ago, I brought my first girlfriend over later that day my Nan said, “We were beginning to wonder.” In fact when she said ‘We’ she meant ‘I’.
That’s not to say women don’t venture to the kitchen but it’s firmly only the tom-boy women who ever do and that’s rare and usually only one that happens to have an interest in Rugby or is able to handle a pint; or both. It’s as old fashioned as the seventies and as Gavin and Stacy as it sounds. I’ve even ventured there myself out of curiosity some years ago. I’d clock the cans of Mcewan’s strapped together at the top by that plastic hooping in sets of six, a box of wine with a tap followed by the sounds of a ring pull and another ale slowly glugging with the previous ale froth dried against the inside of the glass. It never appealed to me. I like what it is for it’s unwritten tradition and even have admiration of how the men talk and enjoy it yet I just could never join that club. I enjoy listening but I don’t want to join in. It’s a little alien for me to talk about women the way men do. I’m rarely offended by it, it’s all bravado, and as I grow older and mature the further away the light of masculinity fades and turns to embers in someone else’s fire.
All this is not to say that I totally fit-in in the living room. While I’m comfortable there and get to chat to people it’s not in the same way. All they know is that I’m there and treat me as the male they see but I guess it’s a little different than if Joan’s husband approached with his moustache and an ale in hand, as opposed to me with a diet Coke or a Bailey’s. The conversation for me is somewhere in between, not treated as the bloke from four-doors-down or that friend’s cousin they see once a year but neither do I get to talk about that gorgeous top I got for Christmas because I’m not wearing a new top and no one will be buying me one; not this Christmas at least.
So I secretly keep to the living room with the other women and get to chat about worldly travels. May be this is perfect, just as it is.
Until next time, Merry Christmas.