Christmas Charades: And Richard came, too: At this time of year, people play funny games. We put on an act and go through the motions, but behind the scenes, things may not always be as they seem ..

'And you must be Richard,' my father says to my significant other. Planted in the doorway, Dad proffers a sweaty palm and flashes the fixed smile of a chat show host. How strange to witness my father attempting to act normal. That used to be my job.

I don't know why I say what I'm about to say, but I say it. I say: 'He prefers Dick.'

Freudian or what? Your gay son brings his partner home for Christmas Day and the first thing out of his mouth is . . . .

The moment pauses and replays endlessly. Then, in a classic example of group telepathy, we mutually decide that I never said anything, not one single word about Richard preferring you-know-what.

It was many years ago and I've forgotten why I invited my then lover to Christmas lunch with my family.

Oh, that's such a lie. I do know exactly why. I did it because the parents of gay children too often expect their homosexual progeny to return automatically to the nest for the Yuletide season, an obligation seldom visited upon their heterosexual siblings.

Yes, yes, my brothers and sisters do try and make surprise guest appearances. If they should fail to show, well, that's OK. They have real lives. Responsibilities: babies, neighbours and friends popping in, turkeys to stuff, frosty in-laws to thaw. The unspoken assumption about the gay child is that you have nothing better to do, that you live a marginal existence, that otherwise you'll be . . . lonely this Christmas.

So you have a partner? So what? It's not like having a husband or a wife, someone you'd mind being separated from. No point in inviting him; after all, he'll be going to his folks, too, won't he?

Actually, Mother Dearest, he won't. I thought Richard might come to see us.

I know it's a farce but I have to do it, have to bring my life to the people who gave me it, instead of leaving it behind.

My mother's voice, crackling over the line, was high and hectic, as if she were about to clap her hands and announce she does believe in fairies (aptly enough). Bring Richard. Everyone would like to meet him.

The front room: my younger brother instantly begins to tell queer jokes: 'Hear about the gay cowboys who rode into town and shot up the sheriff?' Nerves, though later he'll maintain he was putting Richard at his ease, while I wonder about such classic psychological terms as 'unconscious hostility'. A subject I'm forced to ponder throughout the long, long day as my mother dumps steaming Brussels sprouts into Richard's lap and my father jettisons beer down the front of his new silk shirt. Take that, and that . . . .

My sister flirts with Richard. 'You're barking up the wrong tree' I interrupt, as his confusion becomes comically evident. 'He's cute,' Sis hisses conspiratorially. Lunch. Everyone's on auto-pilot. The nearest and dearest are digesting, along with the turkey, the idea that my gayness isn't a solo deal - that it requires the active, not to say enthusiastic, involvement of someone else. The evidence is before them, asking for more roast potatoes and complimenting my mother's cooking. (My father stares at Richard as if he's lost his mind along with his taste buds: an honest response at last.) The knowledge is resented, but it's the best Christmas present I'll ever give them. They just don't know it yet.

You can smell the relief when Richard announces his departure. Duty has been reluctantly done: season of goodwill to all men etc. Still, I'm touched when my Mum suggests I should walk Richard to the door alone. He walks down the garden path, his shirt and trousers ruined, and I have a sudden pang of guilt. He stops at the gate and looks back. The clan are clustered at the window - damned if they're not waving. Richard waves back. 'Next year,' he says, 'how about us visiting my lot?'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Installation Manager

    £35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

    Tax Investigations Manager/Senior Manager

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits: Cameron Kennedy Recruitment: This rapidl...

    Scrum Master - Southampton, Hampshire - Excellent Package

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited:...

    Senior Scrum Master - Hampshire - £47k

    £47000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Key skil...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice