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Christmas with The Dads

By Janis Ian

The Dads (surely you remember them from previous articles) are worried that their son, Jason, will grow up with no sense of tradition. It's difficult enough parenting as a gay couple, striking new ground with every step; the child needs some sense of continuity. Not wishing to inflict their own religious stereotypes on him and being more inclined to paganism (or priapism) than to regular churchgoing, they've decided to teach him the religions of the world. Christianity seems a good place to start, since many of Dad 1's forebears were Catholic priests. "Besides," they reason, "if we start early, he'll have more time to get over it later on."

To that end they've decided to re-create the Last Supper for our Christmas dinner in order to give Jason a hands-on lesson in the birth of Christianity. And they've invited me, as the resident Jew in our neighborhood, to supervise. "No, no, no," I argue, "the Last Supper didn't take place until late April. It's the wrong season." I protest in vain; it's impossible to wait until spring, it's entirely too warm that time of year, the robes they've chosen will wilt. And what about the makeup? Have I no sense of theater? We will proceed as planned.

The guest list is carefully scrutinized; we search for 12 males. ("And what will we be -- the serving wenches?" Mr. Lesbian asks sweetly.) It's decided that half of them can be played by women, since in all likelihood Jesus did number females among the apostles "before that fat man in the beanie edited them out," Jason explains. I'm impressed -- obviously they've been studying the early years of the Church. We gather together a week before the dinner to discuss role assignments.

Jason, a born actor, is concerned with having the most lines. At first he insists on playing Jesus, reasoning that since He's at the head of the table in all the paintings, He's the main character. After I explain how the story ends, Jason decides to play Judas. Lots of lines, a dramatic flight, and years spent wandering the globe afterward ("sort of like an ancient Deadhead," he enthuses). The Dads applaud; after all, Judas also gets kissed by Jesus, so Jason's choice gives further credence to their theory that homosexuality is not only genetic but can be transmitted through hope and prayer. Jason maintains he has no interest in the kiss, he'd just rather play the villain than get "stuck in the side with a broom handle and a wet sponge" while hanging from the Nautilus (another example of The Dads' inspired attention to detail).

There's a brief tussle when Mr.. Lesbian wants to play Judas, reasoning that as a future lawyer she needs all the practice she can get. Jason counters by demanding the part of Mary and can't understand why she isn't at the banquet. "Typical," he snorts. "They probably had her back in the kitchen." This leads to a discussion of the two Marys being the only followers brave enough to remain at the crucifixion while all the men ran away. Well, at least it's getting educational. Mr. L. gracefully gives up when Jason promises she can play Godzilla during the Hiroshima Luncheon next summer.

I carefully explain that Jesus' supper was in fact a Seder, the traditional culmination of Passover Week, which has been going on in Jewish families for millennia. I remind everyone that Jesus was (contrary to rumor) an observant Jew celebrating our deliverance from slavery in Egypt. We decide our dinner will include an abbreviated version of Life Under Pharaoh and promise Jason he can act out as many of the Ten Plagues as he likes, particularly the Plague of Locusts (where he can reuse the angel wings from last Christmas's school play, Death in the Manger: An Alternative World History).

We'll have to imagine most of the dialogue, since the Bible is so sketchy. "If only we had access to the Vatican library," someone moans. No fear -- The Dads have invited a recently converted Pentecostal friend who now speaks in tongues and seems to have a direct line to God. "I used to be gay, but now I'm nonpracticing," he explains while hanging a lovely picture of Christ on black velvet, naked but for loincloth. He will spend most of dinner casting soulful glances its way. "I wish I were a woman," he confesses; "I'd become a nun. That way I could be the Bride of Christ." Oh, but you can, he is assured, you probably already are.

Dinner comes off without incident after we explain to Jason that wearing robes on this occasion is not cross-dressing. There's some initial confusion among two couples who've recently exchanged partners, leading to a series of concussions under the mistletoe, but otherwise Christmas dinner is a quiet family affair. We applaud Mr. Lesbian's portrayal of Jesus as a strong, vital carpenter caught up in a world of intrigue (though I personally think carrying a drill press on her shoulder represented a new low). Jason has a quick tantrum when told he will not be collecting 30 silver dollars but is mollified when he gets to yank Mr. L. down from the Nautilus and cram her body into the living-room fireplace (our "burial cave"). The conversation's animated, the food is delicious (even the hummus has flavor), and all in all there's nowhere I'd rather be tonight than here.

Or as Mr. Lesbian says: "Roll back the stone, folks -- She's coming." And that about sums it up.


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