Today, as we observe the Fourth of July holiday in the U.S., I’m thinking about the permutations of family, the people we invite to the cookout, the ones we’ll be watching the fireworks with. Perhaps you’ll be with your parents and siblings, your kids, your kids’ kids. Perhaps you’ll gather with close friends, with neighbors, reunite with your pandemic pod.
Last week marked the conclusion of Pride Month in the United States. Pride is broadly a celebration of L.G.B.T.Q. rights, but for many members of queer communities, it’s also a celebration of their chosen family.
Chosen families are created outside the structures of (and often in place of) the traditional nuclear family. In the case of the Bickersons, a group of about 10 to 20 queer women, most of whom live near Asheville, N.C., this means raucous Thanksgivings, fishing trips and three-day birthday celebrations. It’s also meant working on one another’s homes, helping each other get sober and providing love and support when one of the group is ill.
“We didn’t have to censor,” one member of the Bickersons, Lenny Lasater, told The Times. “We were real, we were honest, and we could expect to be met with compassion and understanding.”
When a family of origin is absent or unsupportive, a chosen family is essential. And even if your biological family is intact, cultivating close, supportive relationships with neighbors, friends and colleagues can provide welcome kinship, as many of us found during the pandemic. The pandemic pod was a temporary chosen family, born of necessity. People who might otherwise never have fetched groceries for one another or shared strategies for locating toilet paper, let alone discussed issues of life and death, were suddenly one another’s confidantes.
Once you’ve known the rewards of that sort of unexpected intimacy, it seems silly that any chosen family should be temporary. While people, at varying speeds and comfort levels, move on from the most pod-intensive stages of the pandemic, is there any reason the love, the interdependence, the podsgivings shouldn’t continue?
The beauty of the chosen family is that you opt into it. There’s freedom in that, an opportunity to cocreate a community that suits your values. Take the Old Gays, a group of “grandfluencers” who live in a house together in the California desert and create videos for their 7.6 million TikTok followers. “As you get into old age, moving into a nursing home is what’s expected, and many older people buy into that plan,” said Robert Reeves, a member of the group. “What we’re doing, through the strength of our friendships and our mutual support, is changing the course of the way one lives their life.”
Do you have a chosen family? Tell me about it. In the meantime, enjoy the holiday.
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ARTS AND IDEAS
A street-food classic’s moment
There’s no such thing as too much fried chicken. The variation currently taking the U.S. by storm: Taiwanese fried chicken, marinated in soy sauce, rice wine and five-spice powder.
Chefs are reimagining the street-food staple. They’re tucking Taiwanese fried chicken into sandwiches and steamed buns, serving it atop sliced white bread with pickles and drenching it with sauces in acknowledgment of regional American specialties, Cathy Erway writes in The Times.
“It symbolizes Taiwanese cuisine, obviously, but for me, it brings back memories,” said the chef David Kuo, who is based in Los Angeles. “Eating something with bones in front of the TV was the ultimate fun.”