Have You Met the Grinch? He Could Be Me, Says Metrosource Editor Paul Hagen

Written by | Columnists and Letters

Paul Hagen

It was the Christmas season of 1990, and I was beginning to have my doubts about this whole Santa Claus situation. How is it, I wondered, that in movies about the North Pole, the elves always seemed to be assembling handcrafted-looking toys, while the ones we unwrapped on Christmas morning came in boxes like you’d get at the store? By what miracle of science did St. Nick get in and out of chimney-free houses? And why — I pointed out to my parents — did we receive gifts every year from aunts and uncles and grandparents and Santa but never a package from them. HMMMM?!

My mother bristled at that last barb. She worked too hard at Christmas every year not to get credit. I noticed that the very next year — and each thereafter — that we conspicuously began to receive presents labelled “from Mom and Dad” under the tree in addition to those “from Santa.”

At least some of my skepticism was fueled by conversations at school, where several of the more mature kids had already begun insisting that Santa was not real — an assertion that made the true believers tear up with trepidation. I was torn. It seemed like most of the good kids believed in Santa, and I wanted to be a good kid. But it also seemed like the smart kids had called the bluff, and I very much wanted to be seen as smart, too.

The reason that I can remember so clearly that it was 1990 is that I was pondering the issue while watching coverage of the Gulf War. Specifically, I recall various TV personalities talking with members of the military who would be separated from their families for the holidays. The thought troubled my young heart — all the hugs that would not be given and Christmas mornings that would be missed. And that, dear reader, gave me an idea.

“Well, Mom,” I said — interrupting her last-minute frenzy of wrapping presents. “I just want you to know that you are going to ruin Christmas.” Mom looked up from her tape and scissors. “Someday, I will have a family of my own. And my wife and I are going to go to bed Christmas Eve thinking that there is a Santa Claus, expecting to come out the next morning to piles of presents under the tree. And if there is not a Santa Claus, then your grandchildren will come down the stairs and have nothing. So you can go ahead and keep on lying to me and ruining your grandchildren’s Christmas or you can go ahead and tell me the truth now.”

After my mother broke down and gave me what I deemed to be a satisfactory answer, I returned to the television. I thought I’d feel relieved to have the matter settled, but I actually felt a numbness creep over me as I continued to watch troops being interviewed. I had grown up in a way from which there was no turning back. I have often returned to that moment in the years since — recalling how very certain I was that I would one day have a wife and kids — especially as I realized I was gay at a time when same-sex marriage and parenting still seemed impossible. I think of how much grief I gave my mother over a hypothetical family that would never exist. I think of how much she would have loved grandchildren.

Well, Mom, as it turns out — it looks like I will one day be waking up Christmas mornings with a husband, not a wife. And as of now, it appears we won’t be having children. (I never say never, but it’s not something that tends to happen accidentally the way it can with straight couples.) But I promise to shower my nieces and nephews (and cousins and children of friends) with the same kind of holiday magic that you worked so hard to make happen for our family all those years. And if I ever do have a child of my own, I’ll do my best to make sure that kid believes in the magic of Santa until he too accuses me of ruining Christmas.

With that, I’d like to wish all of our readers a blissful holiday season and a happy, healthy new year on behalf of the entire Metrosource family. We hope you enjoy this very special issue, and we can’t wait for you to come share your holiday stories with us in the “Gay Voices” section.

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Last modified: July 26, 2018