If you were on I-95 anywhere between Providence, R.I. and Secaucus, N.J. last Wednesday evening, you knew there was a lot of traffic. What you didn’t know is that this traffic consisted entirely of my extended family, aka every second-to-fourth-generation Portuguese-Italian who can trace their roots to the Greater Newark Metropolitan Area. Including me. My accent grows steadily more Jersey the farther from Boston (sorry, “Bawstan”) I get, so by the time we hit Yonkers, N.Y. it’s like I’ve swallowed Season Four of “Mob Wives.” It’s gonna be a party. And, like any reality show set in New Jersey, there will be wine.
Yellow Tail Shiraz
(My uncle: “It’s more than four dollars; can you still review it?”
Me: “It’s still less than four dollars if I don’t pay.”)
There are 42 people at Thanksgiving, and they are all currently asking me what I plan to do when I graduate. This drives me to drink. Yellow Tail Shiraz is here for me. Its wry, dry, sophisticate-on-a-budget taste bears no resemblance to the current scene. It’s an hour into the party, and my sister and I are already Pinteresting “Santa-themed fake nails.” We are interrupted by my cousin, who is holding an enormous grocery bag of tampon samples like it’s Christmas. The tampons are packed in ornately-constructed cardboard boxes, presumably to suggest that menstruation is delicate and expensive. It is certainly the latter, which is why I hide eight boxes under my coat. On my other side, Grandma has started talking about an article she’s read on gay youth.
“It’s so sad what they do to these people. They should accept them. We accept everyone,” Grandma says.
“I know we do,” I tell her, thinking about the time my mother outed me on the family email thread. Grandma doesn’t know how to email, and I’m unsure if anyone brought it up. “I know you’ve always been.”
Prosecco, some purple liquor thing, some other purple soda thing
(From the family coffers)
My cousins and I used to sneak drinks from Grandpa’s crystal two-buck chuck decanter. But we’re real grown-ups now, and my aunt is pushing cocktails like they’re gel pens in 1999. This cocktail is sweet and bubbly, with notes of black cherry and women talking about their feelings. Over at the kitchen table, the aunts and cousins—The Ladies—have begun debating the relative merits of various pubic grooming methods. Waxing at the salon costs 95 freaking dollars, and why would you spend that kind of money when you could get, like, 30 fake nails instead? (We are considering blinged-out snowflakes.) Waxing yourself is so effing painful, but do you ever get comfortable with a razor that close to your cooch?
“Maybe we should accept the broad diversity of lived pube experiences,” I say.
“But after I got a Brazilian I was just constantly cold,” another Lady says.
At this point, my cousin’s seven-year-old son, who has inherited the task of tampon-distribution from his mother, comes around like a petite, aggressive campus rep. “Take them,” he enjoins me, dropping six or seven boxes—this brand sans applicator!—at my feet. “Take more!”
Red wine? Unclear. It’s Thanksgiving!
(Who even fucking knows at this point?)
I am probably not the only tipsy one, since The Ladies are now considering which we’d prefer to have on a desert island: blow drier or IUD.
“IUD,” I say. “Obviously. You never know who you’ll meet.”
“I don’t know,” my aunt says. “The merits of a soft curl…”
“Reina doesn’t really need an IUD though, does she?” someone else chimes in. “How’s the girlfriend?”
I blush a little, then mutter, “We’ve broken up.”
There was that one time when I wasn’t there and some relative’s boyfriend started trashing gay marriage at our house. When I heard about it later, my stomach kind of curdled, like, would they all have looked at me? Would they have spoken up? A little thing, but big enough to hurt. I heard later that my dad had gotten angry—yelled at the guy, nearly chased him out. My father, who hardly raises his voice, who looks like a minor character from “The Godfather,” who hugged me awkwardly when I came out—he had gone to bat for me.
The evening is almost over, and The Ladies are debating the minutiae of the groomed brow: Waxed, threaded, or plucked?
“But seriously,” I’m saying, “I looked like a freaking princess after I first got threaded.”
My aunt objects, “But you know how much that hurts?”
And then it’s over, and we’re carrying out the extra rice pudding, and me and my sisters and our 124 tampons pile into the warm car.
This post originally appeared at The Harvard Crimson.