Being Queer at Thanksgiving

We always go to my uncle’s house for Thanksgiving. My mom is one of the middle children in a group of eight, and he has a large house. It just makes sense. This year was a new experience for me though, considering I only recently came out to my parents and a few of my trusted aunts.

I didn’t know what to expect. My mom made it quite clear she doesn’t understand my “choice” to be queer, and that she didn’t support it. I actually wrestled with the idea of not going back to Omaha at all. Eventually I decided to drive the three hours on Thursday, and come back Friday morning. It ended up being relatively uneventful, but the awkwardness and discomfort still make me squirm three days later.

Though it’s profoundly more acceptable to be queer in 2017 than it was even a decade ago, my family is a little slow to catch up. With strong Catholic roots, and a politically and morally conservative mindset, I was prepared for my mother to be a bit thrown by my coming out. I wasn’t prepared for her to say, “I feel like there are things I can’t talk to you about anymore,” and “I feel like you aren’t who I raised you to be. You don’t hold any of my values.” I realized later, when I had stopped shock-crying, my mom had a very specific path she wanted me to take, and had no idea why I would choose anything else.

When I asked her to give me the space I needed to find myself and figure out my own way, she didn’t understand. When I came out to my aunt while explaining the whole situation, she clued me in. My mom never had a self-discovery period. She decided what she wanted to think, what she wanted to be, and how she wanted her life to be and never wavered. In some ways, I envy her for that. But mostly, I pity her closed minded approach to life and inability to appreciate things that don’t align with her narrow world view.

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A couple members of the Augie family thanksgiving.

So, with this in mind, Thanksgiving was hard for me. Most of the family doesn’t know I’m queer. My mother doesn’t accept that I am. The support I have can’t be used because I’m not ready to deal with the disapproval of the majority I’d face at the dinner table. I spent the night talking about anything but politics and avoiding confrontation. I knew any memories the people there had of me would instantly change should they discover I don’t just like men.

This mindset doesn’t make sense to me, but that won’t change the minds of those who hold it. So my goal becomes establishing myself as an adult in the minds of everyone present, and doing this solidly enough that it can’t be shaken. So when I come out to all of them, they understand I know myself and simply being queer doesn’t change my competency as a journalist, or even as a person. Being animated, happy, and a “good” person are things that don’t depend on my sexual orientation. I needed them to understand that I am all these things, so when they know I’m queer, they accept me.

Can you feel the panic and stress through these words? I spent the day meant for giving thanks terrified. I needed to be accepted, to be acceptable to these people who I knew would likely not understand me. I spent the day awkwardly pretending things were fine between my mother and I, keeping up appearances. When I returned to Sioux Falls, I was exhausted. And soon, I’ll have to do it again for Christmas. I’m still debating how long to spend in a place I’m not sure I can call home.

Wombat Style Shines on in “Glitterbug”

With six successful albums and several additional singles, The Wombats have fully established themselves in the indie-rock scene. Formed in 2003, the three-man group has developed its sound with the talents of Matthew Murphy on guitar and vocals, Tord Øverland Knudsen on bass and Dan Haggis on drums. Their latest album, Glitterbug, pulls evocative lyrics and unique vocal and musical style together to form 13 tracks that shine.

In classic Wombat style, even the track titles are outside-the-box, including “Greek Tragedy,” “Be Your Shadow” and “Sex and Question Marks.” “Be Your Shadow” maintains lyrics that rub against the grain of the quick beat and guitar line with lines like “Kiss me with your fist it’s all right/Wrap your hands around my throat I won’t mind.” The album is filled with paradoxes like “Be Your Shadow;” beats that beg dancing with lyrics that taken out context could be poetry or a suicide note. Many of the songs could use more than one listen to fully comprehend the lyrical nuances.  

“Isabel” breaks the paradoxical trend and matches its musical style to the depressed lyrics. The almost acoustic vocal style pairs with an ethereal score and group vocals. It is reminiscent of a music video of a teen staring forlornly out the window while rain pours outside. Despite its differences from the rest of the album “Isabel” maintains the Wombat style in its double edged meaning. Initially, the song runs parallel to standard recent breakup songs. Fortunately, they cut through that haze to make listeners question what exactly Isabel means, who she is, and why the singer needs her so much. A risky move, but it pays off for the Wombats and results in a worthwhile track to listen to.

The standout song on the album is a bonus track called “Flowerball.” Beneath the vocals, everything sounds like it’s slipping through radio static, fuzzy, but bright and upbeat. It is a song for the end of summer, lamenting things that were not accomplished but celebrating the overall joy that came with what was. With lyrics like “You’re my work of modern art/ And I want more,” the song is the best note to end the album on.

Though the Wombats have a distinct sound, it becomes a bit tired when every beat is the same. Glitterbug proved that, as it found 11 different ways to use the same pulsing, dance-step beat and up-tempo speak-singing that happens in most indie rock albums. What redeemed the reuse of the beat were the guitar lines, but even those shadowed each other in style if not in note. Somehow, they have also figured out how to use their somewhat electronic filter to make their vocals sound different for each song. While the overall pitch remains the same, the tone of the songs’ background vocals swing from hard rock in “Your Body is a Weapon” to top 40 in “This Is Not A Party.”

The Wombats’ Glitterbug brings together the electronic sound of Awolnation and the lyrical style of Bastille to make a sound that finds levity in even the most depressing words. Claims that the album is a bit repetitive would not go unfounded, but the overall impression it leaves resonates. The sheer creativity the group has shown in using the same style 13 different ways makes the album interesting and certainly worth a listen on Spotify.

Photo is the copyrighted album cover of “Glitterbug” by the Wombats.