Toronto
3 min

Defying expectations

There's freedom in choosing the loser option

I hate traditions. I hate traditions because with traditions come expectations. I hate expectations because with expectations come disappointments. I hate disappointments because they are unavoidable if you were born into an upstanding faith-based mixed-race family and you happen to be queer, boyish and just a little artsy-alternative.

I got a new piercing recently. I was coming out of a depression (fingers crossed! If you’ve dealt with depression you know you’re never really sure you’ve come out of it) and feeling bored with my own face. I had a dream that some quacky piercer put a hole in my face and then didn’t have the right jewellery so I ended up running down the street with something the size of a chandelier crystal sticking out above my upper lip. Strangely enough, I woke up thinking it was a good idea and that was that.

This flippant decision became another grave mistake in an apparently long series in the Gonsalves family kitchen on Christmas Eve. My mother, who didn’t notice the thing for 20 minutes, suddenly discovered it and burst into tears, declaring that Christmas was “ruined!”

“At least take it out for dinner,” she said bitterly, stirring pasta sauce like a woman possessed. “Dammit, Julia, every year it’s something.”

What was it last year? Oh yeah, I was queer. And the year before that? I got my nose pierced, wore the wrong colour and, oh yeah, I was queer.

So, in my unglamorous experience, I was not made to uphold traditions, and traditions were neither created nor perpetuated to uphold the type of person I am. Unfortunately, it’s not just the old-world, Catholic-Italian, conservative traditions I clash with. I clash with the ones of my own generation, too.

It is socially unacceptable to be alone at certain times of the year, including New Year’s Eve. It is also fairly unacceptable to be sober. I was both this year. There, I admitted it.

To a minutely lesser extent, these same traditions apply to Friday and Saturday nights, whether you are working, in school, in debt or in quarantine. Well, okay, not if you’re in quarantine. But it is expected that you would at least want to go out on Friday and Saturday nights even if you couldn’t.

Most of the time I hate going out. (Can I profess that in queer media?) I want to want to go out, which is often the reason I drag my ass to Savour or Big Primpin’. But it’s a struggle I would like to resolve not to make.

My alternative is the incredible task of redefining celebration and learning to fight the nagging voices that tell me I’m a loser because I don’t party, because I don’t drink or do drugs, because I’d rather dance in my pajamas in the hallway than in the middle of a sweaty mob to misogynist music.

I feel old. I get stressed out about looking good, wearing the right clothes. I never put my face and my body through such verbal abuse as I do when I am going out. I recognize that pop culture in general has a profoundly negative effect on my self-esteem, which going out magnifies since it’s the quintessential pleasurable activity of pop culture.

My 17-year-old cousin marvels at the freedom I have to go out every night if I want to, to extend the traditions of Friday and Saturday nights to include the five lesser-known members of the week. Freedom is a construct.

I like to play Scrabble and put on puppet shows. I like to spend time with the beautiful girl I share my bed with, which lines me up for the criticism that I don’t like going out because I am one of those annoying queer women who got married. I only wish being married would remove my impressionable ego from the “going out equals cool equals happy” myth.

The image of cool is so powerful, even when you know explicitly of its misery. The book I’m reading talks about the theory that postpartum depression might be spurred by media images of the euphoria that comes over new mothers after giving birth. Reality never lives up to the hype and moms suffer in a sea of disillusionment. Maybe I do, too.

Going out is made out to be so sexy and stimulating that it inevitably disappoints. It follows then that if staying home is made out to be the loser option — boring, unfulfilling, embarrassing — it will blossom under the absence of pressure and become more enjoyable. How many people can let go of all this shit, or completely revel in it, and genuinely have a good time? Is it possible to do it sober or does passing up drugs and alcohol kill my chances?

I hate being held to the things I’ve said in frustration. Being accused of ruining Christmas, again, put me in a bad mood. Sorry. Party hard, and see you in the clubs.