When you’re a teenager—or, more maturely, a young adult—you are completely at the Mertzy of the meshugenahs that are your mishpocheh. Yeah, I know—I’ve got some ’splainin’ to do. On the sunny side, I’ve got minimal complainin’ to do. At least in regards to my coming out, which happened the gay—uh, day—before the first night of my sixteenth Hanukkah.
So, picture a nostalgic nuclear family, not unlike the kind you’d find on a black-and-white boob tube. “Which episode should we enjoy this evening?” Dad queries, perusing a pile of VHS tapes. “‘Job Switching’? ‘Lucy Does a TV Commercial’?‘Lucy and Ethel Buy the Same Dress’?”
“How about ‘Gaycation from Marriage’?” I suggest, my stomach twisting like a shofar.
Mom schmears cream cheese on a Tam Tam, as if daring me to make like a matzo and crack. “Is that the one,” she asks,noshing on the hexagon, “where the gals are quarreling with the guys and Lucy asks Ethel if she wishes there were something else to marry besides men and Ethel answers ‘F yes!’ or something a little more fifties-friendly?”
“No, that’s the one where Lucy and Ethel take a hiatus from their husbands and move in with each other,” Dad mansplains in his customary chivalrous manner. “Then one night, they get all gussied up and pay a visit to their spouses, and Lucy says she hopes Ricky and Fred have as gay an evening as she and Ethel are planning on having and then… Wait.” As Dad’s synopsis stops, his eyes grow wider than yarmulkes.
The size of Mom’s eyes matches macaroons—suspiciously smaller.
There’s an explosion of silence, unheard of in a Jewish household.
Suddenly, I feel like the filling in a blueberry blintz: ready to come out at the slightest provocation.
“Mom, Dad,” I address my absurdly attentive audience, “I have some seriously super news to share: I’m gay.”
Now I hope and wait—and worry that I’ve just committed a Sapph-faux pas.
How will my family react to my declaration of lesbi-independence?
Will they regard me like schmutz on a schmatte?
Kiss my keppie like everything’s kosher?
Or offer some verkakte-mamie advice like: “Don’t be daffy, Allie. At least date a non-goy boy before you make it official!”?
While Mom and Dad—or, more formally, Judy and Steve—turn their wheels like Tevye’s mik cart, I start schvitzing like an ice cold bottle of Dr. Brown’s cream soda. Maybe they’ll do a bottle dance in honor of the unexpected uncapping of my secret?
And then…Judy winks at Steve, and it becomes queer—uh, clear—that the abba who knows best has been looking to the ima who knows better for approval.
I should’ve known Mom knows.
In our house, we don’t practice Judaism.
We practice Judyism.
“Better late than straight,” the aforementioned menschguffaws.
“Take me to the WC—the water closet being the only acceptable kind—and call me relieved!” Dad cavorts, his dance a maniacal mishmash of the Horah and the Hokey Pokey.
“Now we don’t have to fret about you knocking boots and getting knocked up,” Mom marvels, twirling with equivalent merriment.
“And I don’t have to compete with another fellow for your attention,” Dad discovers. “I have the privilege of being the only man in my little girl’s life.”
I must be hearing things—which is good, I guess, since I’m hard-of-hearing—but my parents don’t really think that my similarities to Sappho are boffo, do they? I mean, it’s not like Ianticipated yelling, but I definitely did not foresee this degree of glee and kvelling.
“The point is, Allie,” Judy says, and I brace myself, because the woman makes more points than a Star of David, “we have bupkis to worry about.”
Dad’s face contorts as if he’s just imbibed his first spoonful of Vitameatavegamin. “Nothing at all?” he kvetches.
“Don’t worry—we’ll think of something,” Mom pledges, and Dad perks up pronto.
But then, much to my chagrin—though thank heaven for hearing impairment—they begin to sing a vibrant, validating, verbose version of the I Love Lucy theme song. “I love lezzie and she loves me / Queer as happy as two can be / And chaim is heaven, you see / ’Cause I love lezzie / Yes, I love lezzie / And lezzie loves me!”
“Oh, honey,” Mom coos, until something shoos the smile off her face. “Stand up straight, my little mezuzah,” she demands. “The one and only thing we expect to be straight about you is your posture.” I sigh but comply, her cue to reply with a harrumph of triumph. “Oh, honey, you’re home.”
As my parents embrace me, squashing me like the childhood of a girl at her Bat Mitzvah, I realize that the bloom isn’t off all the heteros. In fact, just because one’s family isnuclear, doesn’t mean they’ll go nuclear at the news that there’s a lavender menace in their midst.
“You know,” Dad muses, “we should have our own family-friendly TV show: The Lucy-Lezzie Comedy Hour.”
“I can see the episodes now!” Mom enthuses. “‘Wonder of Wonder, Queer-acle of Queer-acles,’ ‘Lucy and Ethel Put the Lez in Klezmer,’ and the Hanukkah special to end all Hanukkah specials…‘The Labia Menorah’!”
And with that, I am out.
By Allison Fradkin