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“Only In Yellow Springs…”

OK, so here’s the thing:

I had encounters with two young couples this evening while doing my laundry here in Yellow Springs. The first couple (let’s call them “Couple A”) consisted of a boy and a girl, both in their early twenties; both were of the earnest and amusing sort that one might find in a Dorothy Parker or Trevanian short story.  They had come into the laundromat after I arrived, and responded to my usual cautious “Hey” with cheery “Hello!”s. He was glib and besotted; she was equally besotted, but shy and a little unsure of herself, as well as being the smarter of the two (so smart, in fact, that she let him think he was the smart one). I gleaned these  characteristics while overhearing their banter in the muggy laundromat, smiling to myself and trying to remember if I’d ever been that young, or earnest, or lucky. When the timer went off on the washers I was using, I transferred my clothes to my usual three dryers and, gathering up my purse and tea, went outside to sit in the cool night breeze and read my Kindle while waiting for my clothes to dry.

Even industrial dryers take awhile to get the job done when one is washing, well, EVERYTHING, and I’d been outside for half an hour or so when I met the second couple of the evening (let’s call them “Couple B”).  They were walking toward the parking lot, on their way home from an evening’s entertainment in the Springs. They, too, were a young couple, and, filled with the bonhomie after watching Couple A play “Barefoot in the Park,” I smiled at the passing couple and went back to my book. This couple was made up of a young man and a young woman, both in their early twenties; they were polished and yet ratty in a way that only hereditary affluence seems to make possible; the smell of Axe and TiVo’d “Jersey Shore” episodes was thick in the air. The guy, a scruff-beared alpha male with a backwards baseball cap and arms that had lifted many a weight but cracked only a few books,  was pontificating about something, and when I smiled up at them, he broke off his monologue and stepped quickly away from me with an odd, guttural sound; they kept walking, but he recovered and said, just loud enough for me to hear, “Only in fucking Yellow Springs.” His girlfriend darted a glance at me, and looked away hurriedly, prompting him to resume his story. They rounded the corner and reappeared a few moments later in his customized cobalt-blue Hummer (and, not to be Peppermint Petty here, but OF COURSE it was a fucking Hummer). I saw him sneer through the window and then they took a hard turn, driving out of town and away from any contamination I may have threatened.

While I can’t be certain what set him off (does he hate fat girls? Did he clock me as trans? Maybe he just really, really hates George R.R. Martin and his readers?), I got the message. I sat there, feeling the same burn creep up my neck and into my face that I’ve felt a thousand times before. Nobody changes someone’s mind with a streetcorner confrontation, but as I sat there, feeling judged and angry and somehow violated, I wanted to grab that young man’s gym-honed arm and say, “I came here to be myself. I came here because the people I’ve met here are kind, and generous, and accepting of difference, and do not make it their mission to cause suffering in others, provided said others don’t litter or try to extract the natural gas from their yard. In short, I came here to get away from people like YOU. Yet here you are, a rogue meteor of bigoted assholedom, spinning through the universe in your own icy cloud of self-absorbed white male privilege, uncaring of what worlds you may damage or destroy as you slam into them.

And aren’t you lucky? Traveling through life without ever knowing what it’s like to wake up every single morning wishing you could undo the accident of your birth? Isn’t it wonderful to be young and have a pretty girl on your arm? Isn’t life just a sterling silver bowl of cherries?

But it’s not enough, is it?  No, it never is. It’s not enough that you have all these things and stride through the world like somehow, somewhere, Carly Simon is writing a song about you. No, you have to reach out like a Dickensian villain and kick the puppy, because, hey – you can. It’s not like people who are different have feelings, or problems you’ll never encounter, or a soul-crushing disconnect between their bodies and minds that has driven them to the very brink of despair. Whether it’s a puppy, or a black kid, or a Muslim, or an overweight, bookish transwoman minding her own goddamn business except to give you a smile and wish you good evening, it’s all the same to you. It’s your world, and we’re just living in it, right, chief? Well fuck you, Charlie.”

That’s what I wanted to say to him. Even though I knew it wouldn’t make a difference, at least not right away. And even on well-lit streets in full view of other people, transwomen have an unfortunate tendency to end up beaten or murdered.

So I let him walk, then drive, away unchallenged. I let him  think he not only had the right to treat ME this way, but to do it again to the next transperson he meets. And that weighs heavily on my tiny charcoal heart.

Soon after Couple B drove off, the timer went off on my dryers. I went back inside, where Couple A was finishing their own laundry, laughing and chatting in that slightly showy way people have when they’re deliriously happy and want everyone to know it. I started folding my towels, and then, after they packed up, Couple A stopped on their way to the door and said, “Goodnight!” and “Have a good night!”, giving me a little wave as they disappeared into the night beyond the fluorescent laundromat glare. I found myself standing there among the  baskets full of whites and brights, tears in my eyes; I was reminded that I HAD come to this town because I could live my life amid people like them, instead of living a life full of fear of people like the man from Couple B.

Like so many people, I’m often guilty of taking simple courtesy for granted; moving to a town where people not only greet each other on the street, but genuinely MEAN IT when they ask, “how are you?” was a bit of an adjustment for me. Yet I wouldn’t trade it for the world, just like I wouldn’t trade the wonderful group of amazing friends I’ve made since I’ve moved here, or the slowly-developing rhythms of a life lived in joy, rather than fear.

Chances are, I’ll never see Couple B again. They can go about their lives, and I’ll go about mine, and if all the gods of sea and sky are good, our paths will remain mutually exclusive. I was hurt in a way I thought I’d armored myself against tonight, and it would be so very easy to hold onto that pain, and use it to add another layer of charcoal to the tiny lump that resides in my chest. But instead, I think I’m going to hold onto the memory of Couple A. I think I’m going to try to remember that there are places in this world where selfishness, and greed, and “homo homini lupus” are indeed vices rather than virtues.

I’m going to live my life, and love the awesome, amazing and quirky people who share it. I’m going to seek my bliss, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let some neckbearded douchebag from Dicktropolis rob me of one more second of joy. This is my home, these are my people, and if I ever see Couple A again, hey – the drinks are on me.

“Only in Yellow Springs,” huh?

You’d better fucking believe it.

Published in"The Gay."AmericaBloggingIdiotsRantsTransgender IssuesWTF?

27 Comments

  1. You are just so fucking awesome Claire. Fucking. Awesome.

    • Thank you, Teresa. You rock, my friend, and I appreciate your support so much! 😀

  2. i laughed…i cried…i wanted more! YOU ROCK!

    love your friend,
    cj

  3. i thought i should clarify what i wanted more of…i love reading your writings…i wanted you to write more…

    • CJ, you crack me UP! Thanks for your awesome words and your support! 😀

  4. Ignorance and bigotry are an all too common combination. I know exactly how you feel. How a perfectly good day can be blighted by such cruelness. Of course the truth of the matter is that whilst these individuals may well stumble through life from one beer can to the next, and be perfectl happy in their own little minds they will never know the things you know, and never truly ‘live’. This doesn’t help the sting of hatred, however it is shown, but at least it’s a truth.

  5. What I don’t get is why people like this come to Yellow Springs? grrrrrr, how dare they come into our town and be mean, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t challenge him, sometimes we get taken off guard and sometimes it’s best not to feed such hatred with a reaction (although I think I would have felt compelled to put on my hattie jacques persona and given him the stinky eye).
    While you enjoy your bliss, karma will take care of stinky pants.

    • Ha! Excellent. Thanks for your kind words and support! I love this town, and while I hate to see bigoted jerks playing the fool with me or anyone else, it’s reassuring to know that my fellow Yellow Springsians have my back! 😀

  6. Thank you for that beautiful, candid entry, Claire. Loved it! Love you, Love YS! Love Couple A. Wanna kick the “rogue meteor of bigoted assholedom” in the windpipe.

    Have found myself there before w/bigotry. Sometimes I rise to the moment and speak truth to power. Other times I decide the amount of falling on deaf ears outweighs any potential for enlightenment. Still other times, I’m frozen by equal amounts of rage & incredulity. Then once they’re gone I’m flooded w/the best response ever. Damn.

    Also all too true that the trans community can be victims of reprehensible violence. So part of me is grateful you said nothing lest he became violent. But then another part of me wants him to be called out, in the hopes he might spread less venom. Ah, such the dilemma. Regardless, I hope & pray that the mornings when you wake “wishing you could undo the accident of your birth” (hurt my heart, friend…) are few and far between. And I hope that distance is ever widened by the power of love you saw in Couple A, the friendship they extended, the love in YS, the love your Horde has for you and most importantly, the love you have for the example of the miracle of God’s love that you are – that we each are.

  7. So, I kind of adore you. Minus the “kind of”.

    This is beautiful and heartfelt, all of it. Still, for reasons I can’t fully understand at the moment, this was my favorite line: “Yet here you are…” I’m thinking it’s one of those rosy peach moments where so much is said in so few words.

    You’re a writer, Mama. And your heart is one of my faves.

  8. @Summer: Everything I said on el Feisbuk, plus another hearty thank you and (virtual) hug.

    @Shan Aww, thank you, friend. Sometimes the monkeys in the basement of The Brain manage to get something up the dumbwaiter without spilling too much. Thanks for always being a booster and a friend! 😀

  9. And @Banin, thank YOU for being my Blighty-bound compatriot. You are a hoot and a half, and although we always joke around, know that I appreciate your awesomeness in a very serious way!

  10. I’m an overweight, middle-aged, single, straight white woman…but for whatever reason I’ve always felt like a square peg in a round hole. I want to feel like I belong. This is why I want to live in Yellow Springs, too. Thank you. I greatly enjoyed reading your post.

    • Thanks, Cindy! We square pegs have to stick together if we’re going to make it in this distressingly circular world! ;D

  11. Honey I’m so sorry. Stupidity walks in all shapes and sizes and is the worst part of dealing with people. You’re a wonderful, talented woman and he is a teeny weeny.

    Blessings.

  12. Amy AmyNo Gravatar

    THIS is why I love Yellow Springs. Yes. Amazing piece, Claire. I’ve been out in the evenings and on one occasion watched a man be literally picked up and removed from the bar for using homophbic language. Another time, a few friends and myself removed someone using racist language. All, of course with blessings of the bartender. Yellow Springs is my bubble, as it is others’. It’s hard when someone slips in and acts like the very people you try to get away from. By the way, you are enlightening and educating people right now, as I see this post flying around facebook 🙂 Nice work!

  13. @Sharon Thanks! 😀

    @Amy Thanks! I love being in the bubble, and I love that, as a community, we are very vocal about eliminating this sort of hateful behavior (or at least stopping it cold when it crops up). I have to admit that I’ve been a little overwhelmed by all the attention and interaction this post has spawned; it’s certainly opened my eyes to the power of community! 😀

  14. Wow, judge much? While describing couple A & couple B, you went into such detail about the type of people they were and even suggested the television programs they tune in to. You suggest you know something about them based on how they look, dress, walk, and even how they say hello. People like you are no better than Hummer boy.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Jeanette. Conjecture is, to my knowledge, a well-established rhetorical and literary device, and I’m the first to admit that my conclusions and descriptions were informed by my direct experience with both couples. All of us, every day, form impressions based on these factors; indeed, barring the development of telepathic powers in the human genome, I’d say we’re utterly at the mercy of our senses when it comes to analyzing other people, their actions, and the motives behind those actions. I’m a sardonic and wry person, and my literary voice reflects these elements of my personality. In the end, it is not so much a matter of who is “better” than anyone else (‘better” being a comparative whose worth is a matter of both context and criteria) as it is how we treat each other in a variety of situations.

      Thanks for visiting my blog.

  15. LaBarceloneta,
    An aquaintance of mine shared your blog on FB and I was intrigued to read it. You have such a talent with words and emoting your feelings. It breaks my heart that you were the object of such mean behavior. So I am probably being naive when I ask my question. Do you consider someone to be a bigot because they judge you for your personal beliefs, or because they disagree with your personal beliefs. I believe there is a fine line. My personal beliefs include love for Jesus Christ and His teachings. IF I truly believe that God has created us all for a specific plan in mind (which I do), and IF I believe He has given me guidelines for living my life according to that plan(which I do), I believe that He has told me that homosexuality was not part of His plan. It is, of course, only one of MANY things He has told us are not part of His plan and that includes fornication, gluttony, lying and others, of which I am guilty and from which I have been forgiven and rescued. I expect everyone to be treated with the respect of a human being, but that does not mean I will be quiet about what I have been convicted is right and/or wrong. The reason being that God gave us life to be lived abundantly and to the fullest, and reality (based on that belief) is that we will only have the fullest life possible by following His plan.
    So, that was a little background to my beliefs and why I would hope my interaction with you or anyone with the scars and heartache biggotry has caused, would be as that of Couple “A.” My question to you is, would you truly be as open to hearing what I have to say about my beliefs presented in a loving, non-judgemental manner, or would people such as Couple “B” turn you off to all people with a different belief/thought pattern as yourself. Because then, you are judging me to be closed-minded and the tables will have then turned.
    Just some thoughts from the heart of someone who hurts for the way this world is broken. Thank you again for sharing. I know it takes much bravery to be so bold and open. Bless you.

    • Hello, Michelle!

      Thank you for your feedback. In response to your question, I would say that I try to follow the Golden Rule insofar that I treat others (and respond to them) in the manner in which I would like to be treated. One caveat I’d attach to this is that I will listen respectfully to anyone, provided their agenda is not to convert or control or manipulate me; I have, in the past, been exposed to many a bigot’s nonsense, and while it certainly has made me wary, it hasn’t closed me off from listening to others entirely. I try to evaluate each person, and situation, individually. I know many fine Christians who are loving, generous and amazing people, and I would never hold behaviors displayed by someone else who also called themselves “Christian” against them.

      Regarding someone as a bigot simply because they disagree with one’s values isn’t good policy. I regard someone as a bigot when it becomes clear their actions are motivated by hateful ideas and desires.

      Basically, everyone is in the “potential friend” category with me until they prove otherwise. Life is too short and too precious to close one’s self off from others, but it is also too short and precious to waste on people who want to introduce hate into one’s life.

      You seem like a very nice person, and I really appreciate you taking the time to phrase your question so thoughtfully. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  16. “Regarding someone as a bigot simply because they disagree with one’s values isn’t good policy.”

    I didn’t get the impression anyone was doing that Michelle? It’s when people feel the right to *impose* their views/values on others that becomes the problem and proves insulting and intolerant bordering on bigotry.

    • Thanks, Corrine. I agree that what really matters is that we remain respectful and understanding as we navigate the waters of life, and try to live in harmony where we can (and defend ourselves appropriately where we cannot).

  17. Claire–woman, you can express yourself! What a pleasure to read something that expresses exactly what I’d like to say in situations like that. We don’t need utopia, we just need to be treated with a little dignity, no matter what race, color, creed, desire or body we happen to be in. Glad to be getting to know you better.
    -c

    • Thanks, Cheryl! Right back atcha, sister! Hooray for friends! 😀

  18. Hey Claire!

    It’s Vanni from SL, you may remember me. I check in occasionally and see what you’re up to, and I wanted to say that I really liked this narrative you wrote. All it takes is one idiot to ruin what would be an otherwise wonderful day. And yes, sad to say, you did the right thing by not confronting Mr. Alpha Male — that could only have gone sideways at best. You were hurt, but you still came out on top, because his world is small, and yours is so much larger. We all have to pick our battles.

    You go girl! *hugs ya* And stop in sometime!

    Moi

  19. Hey, Vanni!

    It’s so good to hear from you! Thanks for visiting my little blog, and for your awesome support! I don’t get to SL very often these days, but I DO need to pop in…Lord only knows what’s become of my various possessions and groups, wilting from neglect!

    Hope to see you soon! HUGS!

    Claire

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