Turkey and Dressing (Up in Drag)

Southern Etiquette (which is a magazine that I completely made up for writing purposes) clearly states: “If there’s something that you would like to say to someone or a conflict that you would like to resolve, it’s best to not address it until that person is out of the room. At that point, you can talk as freely as you want without the person actually hearing it. Eventually, you will have told enough people that you feel like you have an army of people in your corner, obviously proving your validity in feeling the way you do, and then you don’t have to talk about it anymore.” And I suppose, when it comes to my extended family, there’s a lot of quiet time at family gatherings.
In looking at the statistical breakdown of my family, there are thirteen cousins on either side: 4 of us graduated high school, 1 of us went to college, 7 of us have either been pregnant or aided in the gestation process, 5 of us have done jail time, and 1 of us left our baby on the side of the road (hashtag faux pas). And when I say “us” in that exhaustive list of familial accomplishments, I am not included in that “us” after the college stat. I keep tabs on this information in case I’d like to ever kill someone or needed to come out as gay to my family. These facts and figures are my ace in the hole… yes, I stabbed that man fourteen times, but I didn’t have a baby out of wedlock! You remember that next time you say you’re disappointed in me. I remember my freshman and sophomore years of high school as all the Kirkland kids were heading/dropping out; I did my best to salvage the name–with mine and Casey’s work combined, we did what we could.
But with all those numbers, there’s some things that are terribly difficult to dodge. Like, if I legitimately killed someone, I think that my crime would override all the out-of-wedlock babies produced, even the ones named after Disney princess characters (i.e. Belle, Jasmine, etc). As for the “gay bomb,” if I ever needed to tackle it, I believe that would be one that I could probably maneuver around given the amount of ammunition my family has given me. I mean, the odds would definitely be in my favor, but I would imagine that a meeting with a bomb that size would be very calculated. For instance, I would probably wear a cardigan and some nice jeans… possibly my dark-rimmed glasses. I would bring laminated copies detailing all the things that my generation of family members had done, and I would follow with a finely printed thesis statement containing the heavy news at the very bottom of the page. I would remove all sharp and/or explosive objects, and I would make sure that all hot liquids were out of reach: coffee, boiling water… or gravy, which is why I was so surprised when cousin Matt/Demitrya decided to make his drag debut to our family on Thanksgiving.
And looking back at our family history, this never should have been a giant surprise to anyone. Matt was easily my favorite cousin growing up, taking the number one spot with ease from 1994 all the way to 2007. There was really nothing that he could have told me about himself growing up that would have made him any less in my eyes, but in retrospect, I should have picked up on the tell tale signs that would eventually lead to that plot twist of a Thanksgiving in 2007.
Matt/Demitrya would watch us in the summer when we were younger, probably to make sure we didn’t burn the house down (or more accurately because I proved myself unworthy of staying at home because I would repeatedly try and make Casey think I had died by laying the floor and acting unconscious). At times, he would stay with us for an entire week without going home, and it was amazing because it was like having an extra older brother at my disposal. Despite Dad’s attempt to involve Matt/Demitrya in other activities like hunting or fishing, our summer activities always returned to watching Spice World at least 25 times or doing an uncomfortable amount of research on Cher. And don’t get me wrong, I personally hold strong to the philosophy Every boy, ever girl, spice up your life! but more than anything, I wanted to hang out with him. If he had suggested we go steal a car and go drive off a cliff, I would have emphatically tagged along. After several months of summer research on Cher, we decided that the “piece de resistance” would be seeing her in the last of a string of farewell tours.
If you go back and ask my Dad, who accompanied Matt/Demitrya and I to the concert, his opinion of the affair, he would most likely respond, Cher was sexy as hell, but those women around us sure did have big feet. It took me about three years after the concert to realize that all those women were actually men: men with green tinted hair and giant high heels. Apparently, sans a gay pride parade, there is no larger central location for drag queens than a Cher concert. But with all those subtle nuances, it shouldn’t have surprised us when Matt showed up as Demitrya (known to her closest fans as the shortened Demi) for Thanksgiving. Mom had taken me into her bedroom and prepped me on the situation, obviously detecting that one day I would be going into public relations and would probably need to pull out as much charm and fluid communication as possible so that our doublewide didn’t explode off the top of Evans Road. So, I waited nervously by the door for his arrival, trying to guess what kind of outfit he would be wearing. Throughout most of high school, Matt was known for fitting into the “Goth” category; for anyone who is not a Generation Y member or an avid fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Goth subset of high school society lent itself to a collection of black clothing, paraphernalia from bands associated with popularized school shootings, and chains.
As the final trimmings were being put on the deviled eggs, Demitrya approached the door in a stunning, yet slightly predictable hybrid of lady’s clothing and Goth fashion. A solid play for her first showing. I remember staring at the top, noticing the black wig and subtle (if you can legitimately call any drag make up subtle at a South Knoxville holiday gathering) make up first, then the black cami-style top, which led directly into the black skirt accompanied with fish net stockings. Oh yeah, and there were platform boots; I’m no Anna Wintour, but the outfit definitely made a statement… amateur in comparison to the complex stylings of Demitrya today, but enough to not only drain all the blood from my dad’s face only to send even more surging back five minutes later. And the most fantastically awkward part about it was that it was treated with the same social decorum as if someone had farted in the room. And in my world, where I treat everything as if it is a television show… there really couldn’t have been a stronger November Sweeps episode that season.
I scoped the immediate location for weapons, and it made me more nervous than if I had closed my eyes and guessed. As my family is a firm believer in second amendment rights, there were at least five guns readily available, as well as all the steak knives, numerous hot liquids for Thanksgiving purposes (namely, the gravy… I kept imagining my dad impulsively grabbing the gravy and just throwing it across the room), and last but not least, an assortment of deer and duck calls on small ropes. My concern for the animal calls was less to do with the call itself and more the durability of the small ropes that could be used for strangling purposes. I was sitting in the middle of the most fabulous game of Clue I had ever seen, and my main suspect was my dad (who bears a striking resemblance to Colonel Mustard). Though we all had taken the advice of the fictional, but still appropriate, Southern Etiquette, it could go down as one of the most awkward Thanksgiving feasts that has ever transpired.
As the years have gone on, Demitrya’s talents have become less taboo in the family than they were five years ago. More children have been produced out of wedlock; more people have gone to jail. But like any public relations practitioner, I have my opinion inside the office and outside the office. On that Thanksgiving, all I wanted to do was keep the peace. The last thing I wanted was someone to non-chalantly bring up fish nets, whether it was to do with clothing or the actual art of fishing. However, throughout my college career, I would coerce my friends to go to gay clubs around the area, in hopes that I could spot Demitrya in action… it was like some mystery that I had to solve. I would go to one once a semester looking for him as if he were a rare Pokemon, like a Chancey or a Mew. And like all my pursuits of Pokemon Blue, Green, and Silver, my pursuits came up empty-handed.
Luckily, I’ve never been compelled to wear women’s clothing; actually, considering the Birkenstock Trend Disaster of 2001 when my dad’s repeatedly questioned by sexuality based on my desire to fit in and wear the slip on sandal that is probably one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen, I’ve tried to stay away from any unisexual clothing I can. But, if for any reason I ever did, I appreciate Demitrya taking the inaugural heat on that lone Thanksgiving back when. Luckily, I haven’t had to drop any bombs like that yet, but with the cushion that my family has placed under me, the landing is ready in case I ever need to take the fall.


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