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Monday, 01 November 2010

Proud

By Marcia Mayo who blogs at Well Aged With Some Marbling

Just a couple of weeks ago, on a Sunday, I was kissed by a grown man for the first time in more months (okay, years) than I care to admit. And he was good looking!

I was so proud.

Only, too bad for me, this particular man was in drag, sporting a pink Dolly Parton wig, a miniskirt showing off his hairy legs and a sparkly bikini top barely containing his purple balloon breasts.

I’m generally pretty lacking in courage when it comes to writing about topics having to do with politics, religion or anything other than mainstream culture since I know not everyone agrees with my bleeding-hearted, left-leaning ways.

But this time, I’m going take a deep breath and locate my spine in all of this back fat and address something that just might be controversial. I'm going to write about attending this year’s Gay Pride Parade here in Atlanta.

In spite of the fact that I live quite close to where the parade was going to wind its way, I hadn’t meant to go. It's not that I’m against people parading as I love a parade as much as anyone. It’s the crowds I’m against, the not being able to see and being scrunched up next to people I don’t know or even people I do know.

And it's not because I'm against Gay Pride. I'm happy when any group of people can get together to celebrate something that's a part of who they are. I celebrate Thanksgiving as an American and National Left Handed Day as a southpaw and even Cinco de Mayo as a Mayo.

But no, I wasn’t going to go. It was pretty hot out and I had some other things I wanted to do, like take a nap. But I decided to walk on over partly because, just recently, I’d promised my dead mother and myself that I would get out and do things, especially if I’m going to be serious about being a writer. I can’t just write about my pillow case and the back of my eyelids for very long without people losing interest.

So, as I crossed the street to Piedmont Park, I expected to be highly entertained and perhaps just a tad put off by a celebration that sometimes gets a little out of hand.

But what I hadn’t expected to do was cry.

When I arrived at the end of the park by Tenth Street, the parade was already passing by. I first heard the raucous music and kept walking until I could see the top of a garishly decorated float, typical parade stuff. I thought I’d stop by and get an eyeful and an earful and then go back home in time for my much deserved afternoon rest.

But before I knew it, in the midst of the sights and sounds that only Pride Weekend can offer, there came Georgia’s own Congressman John Lewis riding on the back of a convertible, waving to the crowd, and I was undone, a tear peeking out in an embarrassing manner from under my sunglasses.

For those of you who may not know, John Lewis helped to lead the 600 marchers over that bridge in Selma, Alabama on what became known as Bloody Sunday back in 1965. And there he was on yet another Sunday, forty-five years later, at age 70, still working to bring all kinds of people together into what he calls his “beloved community.”

Before I could stanch the flow from my newly-found eye irrigation system, my bank (Wachovia - now Wells Fargo) came by with a banner and a phalanx of banker types. Although I know that all big corporations now have Divisions of Political Correctness and Mandatory Diversity Seminars, I was still touched that they were there, especially when I saw two of their marchers, both male, dressed in pressed and perfect Wachovia shirts, and holding hands. The look in the eyes of one of the hand holders spoke eloquently of the fine line gay people often must walk in order to be who they are while keeping "corporate" happy.

Then came Macy's (my chain of choice for over-the-hill, all-occasion wear) with a banner proclaiming: Macy's Wishes You Pride and Joy! and I could tell that the banner wasn't some last-minute remake from a previous Peace and Joy at Christmas theme. It was brand new and made just for the event; I was sure of it.

That brought more sniffles, a nose-to-sleeve wiping and reminder to myself to return a shirt I'd purchased a few weeks earlier.

Finally, right before I left, my church, St. Mark United Methodist Church (okay I'm an irregular attendee at best, but I'm on the roll) marched by with its usual crowd of the finest folks ever to fight for social justice while still enjoying a pot-luck dinner. I wiped away one last tear and decided it was time to go home.

But first, I stopped and took in my surroundings, saluting with my heart my funny and brave friend in his pink wig and the good people of Atlanta who've allowed and at times even embraced this crazy and important celebration for 40 years and the regular people who, whatever they believe to be right or wrong or innate or learned, try to see the commonalities in All of God's Children.

And, for that one important moment, I was proud.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Marcia, How beautifully you have described this moving experience. Your writing is always fine; this is a wonderful example of "show, don't tell," which I try to get thru' to my elder lady writers I work with. You showed us through your reactions , not superlatives. And how about that hook in the beginning to suck us in?

And your story, Marcia, made tears jump out of my eyes too!

Seeing this parade through your eyes made it a beautiful and proud celebration. It was a time for "the beloved community" as your Congressman put it to come together and acknowledge the worth and dignity of each of us. Thank you Marcia.

I'm another "Bleeding Heart Liberal" and I am proud of you. I eschew crowds too. Maybe I'm missing something!

Thank you for another interesting story. If only everyone could be more tolerant of other folks.

Great story, Marcia.

Thanks for the descriptions of the participants, especially Congressman John Lewis, whom I have admired for many years and the two guys from Wachovia who made me smile when I heard they were holding hands....

Macia, thank you for the joy and the tears that you brought me this morning. I remember well the pain that spilled out of the many interviews I conducted as part of a research project in the early eighties - I remember the couple who were looking forward to spending their anniversary in Provincetown. I asked why that was so special and their answer was that in "P town" they could walk down the street holding hands. My heart hurt everytime I thought of them and so many others who for so long lived hidden lives.

Thank you again, Marcia, for sharing your tender thoughts of this moment in time so honestly and eloquently. Your Mom is proud too, I've no doubt of that.

This was great. And, today, the day after the election when I'm just so worn out from the way we do democracy, it was heartening to read about John Lewis.

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