Rainbow Rant: ‘Tis the season of total exhaustion

We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not at all sure how to manage the holidays

Joy Ellison
Wildlights opened to the general public this week at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The holiday display featuring over three million lights will run through Sunday, January 2, 2022. The attraction is now in its 33rd season.

A large snowman is part of the animated light displays,  "Holiday Rhythms Around the Watering Hole" at Conservation Lake.

We’re not old yet, but every day we are older. As I begin to face this reality, I mostly feel relief. Even as a child, people called me an old soul, which is a polite way of saying I have never had the energy or optimism we associate with youth. 

I have always wanted to eat dinner at 5 p.m. and be in bed by 9. Now that my friends have begun to express horror at events that start at 8 p.m., I am delighted they are finally getting as old as my soul has always been. 

Approaching 40 years old is looking more like an exit ramp than cresting a hill. I am ready to get off the highway, even if there’s nothing in the suburbs but fast food and truck stops. At least we will all be going to the drive-through together.

Then, of course, the pandemic began. And then it continued. Now, my persistent back pain has been joined by eye strain, distractibility and an itchy impatience with Zoom.

“Will we remember the pandemic as the point when we got so tired that we could never recover?” I asked my friend Michelle after apologizing, again, for being slow in responding to her messages.

“Maybe,” she answered. Michelle has always been pragmatic. 

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There is no roadmap for aging as a queer person. So much queer culture is accessible only to the young and able-bodied. Clubbing? Drag? Concerts? Forget it. A glass of wine is enough to make me fall asleep lately. 

We could have models for aging gracefully, but ours is the first generation of queer people who have any reasonable expectation of living long lives. The generation before us died in the AIDS crisis, before they could slouch toward old age. Our Black trans sisters are still lucky to live past their mid-30s. We queer people entering middle age are in largely uncharted waters.

The holiday season has never been gentle on queer souls, but this year is especially tiring for us aging queers. After being separated from our families and friends for so long, it’s tempting to throw ourselves into all the old rituals, but we have forgotten how to be together and we’re not completely sure that it’s safe to gather. We’re here, we’re queer and not at all sure we can do this. 

And so, we find ourselves in a place we queer people know well: We’re making it up as we go along. Nothing is required any more, as far as we’re concerned. Hour by hour, my friends check-in, asking each other what we need. We listen to “Sesame Street Christmas Sing-Along” on vinyl and declare Oscar the Grouch, who is unafraid to declare that he doesn’t care for the holiday, a legendary icon. 

When everything is broken, we can fashion for ourselves a very queer kind of freedom. Have yourself a very merry nap.