As I read Gina Miller's story about the woman who got tossed from Planet Fitness for complaining about a man in the women's dressing room, I couldn't help but think of our family's own fruitcake, Uncle Ginger.
Uncle Ginger started out as Uncle Jim. He was (and is) around 5'6" tall, 290 lbs, with a belly as round as his mostly bald head. Out of all my uncles, he was the only one who was single. He was also the funniest, most stylishly dressed, best smelling, and sounded more like an aunt than any of my aunts (or mother or sisters for that matter). Uncle Jim hated beer and only drank white wine, but never out of a box.
He was never without his long, skinny cigarette in an ivory holder which he liked to wave around with much flourish as he spoke. Uncle Jim was seemingly incapable of exhaling without blowing perfect smoke rings that hung in the air like little cancer donuts. The adults all whispered about him, but otherwise he was just simply Uncle Jim. At least until the Christmas of 1994.
I still remember it as if it were yesterday - the whole family at our house, Christmas music blaring from the one working speaker on our crappy JC Penny stereo, the adults standing around drinking like fish and arguing whether the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were mechanical or kangaroos with special makeup. A feral pack of snotty-nosed kids endlessly ran through the house in a sugar-fueled frenzy that ultimately resulted in the cataclysmic loss of my mom's favorite ceramic clown (asses were viciously beat and my cousin Randy was grounded until the summer of 1998).
The sound of the doorbell. My mom shrieking "Oh my sweet Jesus!" then a stunned silence as my Uncle Jim cruised into the living room bedecked in a glittering silver sequined gown suspended from a massive decolletage featuring the largest fake boobs any of us had ever seen. His short, fat legs were sheathed in what had to be real fishnets and his towering blonde hairdo shimmered in the glow of Christmas tree lights as only polyvinylchloride could. Uncle Jim had never looked better.
I'd like to tell you that our family came together in loving support of a man seeking his identity, but it didn't work out like that. In what will go down in Van Neuter holiday history as one of the ugliest scenes ever, my mother screamed like a possessed mental patient as drunk Uncle Billy tore out Uncle Ginger's boobs and threw them and his/her purse (complete with stuffed pink poodle) into the fireplace, before ejected him/her from the premises, and our family, forever.
Uncle Ginger ended up working at some club until he broke a hip and finally retired to places unknown in California. I still don't know what the hell came over him, but I miss him all the same.