Thoughts on Pride (or How Bougee Am I?)
A few weeks back John took a week off from work to paint the bedroom. I don’t have any vacation time until October, so I couldn’t do the same. Not that I would have, but at least my excuse was airtight as well as convenient. To celebrate John’s unselfish act, I reserved his Friday night for a nice dinner on the back porch. Sounds cheap of me I know, but we’re trying to save money and I knew he would appreciate the effort. Plus when the evenings are all sparkly and perfect and the garden is in bloom, there is no other place that either of us would rather be.
I drug out a small table from the living room and put a table cloth over it, lit a candle, opened some wine, popped in the Caribbean steel drums CD from Target that I bought and served John Jennie’s spaghetti and meatballs. As we ate we could hear the bubbly laughs, occasional kid’s cry and subsequent parental directives from our neighbors’ homes. Mindy, from next door and Mike and Naomi from two doors down and all of their kids.
I said, “So this is what a date on our back porch sounds like.”
“I like it,” John said. I agreed. We love our neighbors. I’m sorry for people who don’t enjoy theirs, but we couldn’t live without ours. In fact, as usually happens on Friday nights after work, the grown ups ended up sitting around with a glass of wine, this time on our back porch over dessert (a nice way to end a date), while the kids darted around the yard chasing fireflies and drawing from the bottomless wells of energy with which God, for some inexplicable reason, blesses the young.
As we caught up on our weeks and talked about weekend plans, Naomi asked me if we planned to go to the Pride Festival downtown. For those who don’t know, June is Gay Pride Month and many places, including Indy, have a weekend festival and parade to celebrate it.
I hesitated to answer, but finally did. “I don’t think so. You know, for some reason a lot of the Pride Festival in the past has tended to feel like Indy’s version of Mardi Gras to me. I’m probably being prudish, but it kind of bothers me that pride in accomplishment and who we are so frequently has a sexualized aspect attached to it. I’m sure there are reasons for it. Maybe it’s because generations prior were so tired of being told to be someone other than who they are sexually, that Pride ends up being like a shaken Coke can exploding and the festival is what that looks like. Plus we have a birthday party for a friend Saturday afternoon.”
To be honest, Indy’s pride festival is way tamer than Mardi Gras, and I told Naomi this. You might see some leather guys, great looking drag queens, some motorcycle mamas and a few scantily clad go-go boys, but the vast majority of people look like they could be heading to Ribfest or the 500 Festival. The crowd is typically better behaved than most downtown events I go to. And there is even a completely separate family pride event on Sunday where gay parents, their kids and relatives can celebrate without having to explain why that one guy is walking around in what looks like his underpants. But it is the fact that families end up being marginalized from a street event that annoys me a little.
My friend Dave, who is an even bigger prude than I am, thought I was being too sensitive when I told him the reasons I would be skipping Pride stuff this year, “Girl, just get your thong on and get down here,” he said. (Since my mom sometimes reads my blog I should say that Dave was joking. I do not wear thongs. That rushing wind you hear is the world exhaling a sigh of relief.)
Maybe I am making too big a deal of all this. The length of this post would suggest as much. Besides I really do appreciate the spirit behind the event and the enormous amount of work that goes into it.
I remember my first Pride. I was 30 and recently out. I was amazed by the feeling of security that came from knowing I was surrounded by thousands of people who weren’t looking at me and wishing I was someone other than who I am. Thousands of people who would actually stand up for my right to exist, free from fear and inequity. I was encouraged to see young couples and older couples made up of people like me. And it offered a good opportunity to question the value of a mainstream.
But parts of Pride actually seemed to play into the haggard myth that being gay is a lifestyle and not about who we naturally bond romantically with, or relationships or the myriad other things that our community is about. Maybe those last bits are there and I just don’t see them because I get distracted by the hot guys in the Budweiser (or is it Miller Lite?) posters, which would be my problem, I guess, and not the festival’s.
I think it’s okay that the festival was not for us this year. It obviously meets the needs of thousands of other people, and that’s great. We celebrated Pride 2007 in a way that made sense to us. Hanging out in our run-of-the-mill, and still diverse neighborhood as an openly gay couple with our straight friends, our gay friends, our single friends and married friends, our young friends and our old friends, all of whom come from different backgrounds. And always in the back of my mind was a feeling of gratitude for the efforts of out, proud, and often loud gay folks, many of whom were whooping it up downtown and who helped pave the way for our admittedly bougee but sweet Indiana reality.