I spent Christmas with Jonah and his family this year (after two and a half months away from my honey - it was greatly needed). This is the second time this year I have spent an extended amount of time with his family and gotten to know them better. It is both a really good thing (because it allows me to get to know my in-laws better and create a relationship with them) and a somewhat awkward thing (because Jonah and I are kind of in a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" phase of our relationship as far as his family is concerned, so I'm never sure who knows or who suspects or how they see me).
Jonah also comes from a very large Hispanic family, and culturally they are different in how they behave or celebrate than I am used to. This is not a bad thing; just different. They are quite a loud, sometimes raucous, group of people, but very family-oriented and have always been kind and inclusive as far as I am concerned.
As I have indicated at various times on this blog, I am not a very social person, and I like quiet. Even with my own family, who is a bit more subdued than Jonah's, sometimes during holiday festivities I have to retreat into a room away from everybody so I can regroup. So it is a challenge for me and somewhat outside my comfort zone. But, as I say, it is not a bad thing and certainly not one I am incapable of handling. I try to be social and joke around with them and get to know them. As I say, they have all been very kind to me, and although some may disapprove of Jonah's sexuality or our relationship, no one has ever made me feel uncomfortable or treated me badly, so that does mean a lot.
Jonah's family likes to congregate together for various celebrations, and food is always in great abundance. I am not a huge fan of Mexican food (or rather, it is not a huge fan of me), and various family members went out of their way to make sure this "white boy" didn't eat anything that would be too spicy (one batch of salsa nearly killed me (and this after Jonah's brother told his mom, "That's not very hot.")).
There are some in the family that I am aware of who know about Jonah and me and our relationship (although I don't think anybody knows we had a commitment ceremony or that we are registered domestic partners in Nevada). There are many more who I'm sure suspect we are in a relationship and/or who know I live with Jonah. As Jonah and I discussed, based on the fact that most of them know he is gay and know that I am around a lot, they would have to be completely clueless, stupid, or in complete denial to NOT at least suspect that I am his lover. But like I say, it's mostly "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" around his family. I know Jonah is okay with that. He says he doesn't need the drama. And I am fine with it. I think in some ways it is less stress for us to deal with.
But I don't always know where I stand with them or how much to reveal to them about our lives together, and that can be the awkward part. For now, I'm usually introduced as "Jonah's friend," which, honestly, doesn't offend me in the slightest. I know Jonah's sister knows about us, and she's always treated me very kindly. A brother-in-law probably knows as well and was very nice to me and thanked both Jonah and I for hosting the event. Jonah's sister-in-law knows he's gay and knows I live with him, and I'm quite certain she knows why, and she's been very friendly to me. Her husband is a minister in a Pentecostal church, and she's quite active in the ministry as well, and while the church and Jonah's brother have a hard stance towards homosexuality, Jonah and I suspect that his sister-in-law feels somewhat conflicted about it. To his credit, Jonah's minister brother has never treated me unkindly or with any kind of disdain, so I'm grateful for that. At the same time (and I've told Jonah this), he comes across as kind of fake to me. I feel (perhaps incorrectly) that he grandstands a bit and is more interested in showing people how good of a Christian he is rather than just being a good Christian, if that makes any sense. He reminds me of the Pharisees in the Bible who wanted to make sure people saw how obedient they were being, but by being so devoted to the letter of the law, they actually ended up being hypocrites.
That isn't to say that Jonah's brother hasn't done some good things in his ministry. I just think he comes off as kind of a hypocritical, sanctimonious guy who does a lot of what he does for show rather than just being a true follower of many of the things Christ taught. That's just my opinion. Maybe I'm wrong. Like I say, though, he's never treated me badly or anything. He hugged me at Christmas and welcomed me, and I think he probably knows what I am to Jonah, so he deserves some credit for that. But in my brief dealings with him, there seems to be a bit of edge behind it.
We think Jonah's mom must know or at least suspect, but I do not know if she does or not. I know she has disapproved of Jonah's sexuality in the past, and she can have a bit of an edge to her as well, but she has been nothing but kind to me, and she has been very welcoming. I used to dislike Jonah's mother before I ever knew her. Everything Jonah told me about her seemed manipulative and controlling, and it upset me. It's true she can be that way, but in getting to know her, I also understand why Jonah loves her. I've come to see many of her good qualities, and I am appreciative of that.
Jonah's brother knows about me, too, although he never talks about it. He did say something very kind on his way out of the house on Christmas. He said he appreciated me and that I was a "blessing." That meant a lot to me.
Jonah's nieces also have been very kind to me, and I suspect they know the extent of our relationship. One of them, who's having a baby soon, invited me to her shower. I also got the impression that many in Jonah's family were disappointed that I wouldn't be around for New Years (I'm back in Utah for work for another month). So I do appreciate that everyone has treated me kindly when at one time I thought they might not.
At the same time, there are moments when I feel left out (and perhaps Jonah does, too). For example, a niece was passing around a painting of a family tree, and each family member was asked to put their thumb or finger print on it. I was not asked to. This was not the niece's fault. I do not think she knew who I was as far as Jonah is concerned. But still, she was talking about the various siblings and their spouses and kids and the various prints on the picture, and I felt bad that I wasn't on it as well (or asked to be on it). Later in the night after Jonah had gone to work and I was left with his family, one of the brothers pulled out a DVD he made in tribute to another brother, and the minister brother suggested he do one in tribute to each family member and asked all of them to send photos to him so he could compile a DVD showing what each family member had accomplished this year, and I wondered what the reaction would be if Jonah or I sent some photos about our life together. I do not suspect it would go over well, although I don't know. But the point is moot. I don't think we're at that place yet anyway as far as his family is concerned. But still, it made me feel like the "friend" rather than the husband I am.
Yet, overall, I do feel included. In spite of or because of what they do or do not know, Jonah's family has treated me well, and I appreciate that a lot. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is fine for now.
Oh, and later, after Jonah's family had gone, we noticed that the family tree painting and fingerprint ink had been left behind. Jonah and I both put our thumb prints on the picture. None of the prints are labeled. I guess I'm part of the family, after all.