Tonight we begin Stuffed, a little morsel of a tale about Thanksgiving I hope you’ll enjoy. I wrote the story for a number of reasons; to celebrate the holiday, of course, but for other reasons as well.
For one thing, I wanted to write something uplifting that would bring a smile to your face and give hope to those who may be struggling one way or another this holiday season. I also wanted to call attention to a certain type of person, the type of person all too easily shunned because they’re odd or different or just don’t fit in for whatever reason.
As anyone in the LGBTQ community should understand, it’s easy to be belittled and ridiculed if you’re an outsider. And yet even within our own community there are people who are treated the same way all too often by the rest of us because they don’t fit into our perception of what a gay person should be.
That’s a shame; being different doesn’t mean you’re not a good person, an honorable person, someone we would actually like and admire if we took the time to get to know you better. Stuffed will give you a chance to meet a person like that and to decide for yourself what you think of him.
Stuffed is also more than just a celebration of an American holiday. It’s a tribute to the English language. We know the same word can have different meanings at different times, in different circumstances, or depending upon the context in which it is uttered.
Knowing that, it’s not surprising words have consequences depending on how they’re used; consequences large and small, intended and unintended. As a storyteller, words are important to me and I like playing with them. Indeed, much of the humor in this story depends on the ambiguous meaning of words.
While gay and homosexual are synonymous today, for example, that wasn’t always the case. Years ago the word gay was used more to mean carefree and happy, not as a way of describing one’s sexual preference. Similarly, bread was a slang term for money, not just something you eat.
There are many other words like that in the English language and you’ll meet some of them in this story.
I think older readers may get how I use words in the story better than younger ones although I hope that won’t be the case. But whether older or younger, do feel free to ask if you find yourself puzzling over a particular word or reference and wondering why I chose to use it rather something more common.
Although being narrated by someone much older in contemporary America, Stuffed mostly takes place years ago . The specific year I had in mind for the events described in the story was 1970. We’ll be spending a lot of time in the seventies over the course of the next year for reasons I’ll have more to say about later.
As for this story, I chose to set it in 1970 for a number of reasons. For one thing, it was the only year in the decade when there was a Friday the 13th in November; a small detail to be sure, but one an aspiring writer needs to pay attention to.
More importantly, 1970 was the year after the Stonewall riots took place in New York City. Stonewall is traditionally considered the coming out story for homosexuals in America; and yet, although things were beginning to change, the process was a very slow one indeed.
Not even many homosexuals used the term gay to describe themselves in 1970; at least that’s what I’ve been told.
Originally I had intended to say a few words about Thanksgiving itself in this post, but a few became many and I decided it might be better to postpone my comments about the holiday until next Thursday. The one thing I would say is that the image above by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris is NOT anything like how the first Thanksgiving actually looked.
It’s a highly romanticized version that captures a lot of the myths about the day, but one that has very little connection to reality. The English settlers of Massachusetts didn’t call themselves Pilgrims, for example, or typically wear the kind of somber, black clothing depicted in the image; and they certainly didn’t wear silver buckles on their shoes as often portrayed.
The Native Americans who participated in the first Thanksgiving, the Wampanoag, did not get their food from attentive women while sitting on the ground. Nor did they wear the type of blankets and feathered headdresses depicted in the image. Indeed, they are shown dressed more in the style of Native Americans from the Great Plains of America, not New England.
But Americans love the image nonetheless precisely because of the benevolent myth it perpetuates; that the so-called Pilgrims and Native Americans lived in peace and harmony. They did, but only for a very brief period.
By the way, I strongly encourage you to click on that image. You’ll get a much better view of the painting in all its rich detail.
I’ll have more to say about myth and reality next Thursday. For now, I’ll just reiterate my hope you enjoy the story, the first serving of which is now available for your consumption over at The Annex.
Have fun reading as we put the basic elements of the story in place.