I’m from a small town in North Georgia. It isn’t that small anymore. Now it’s a commuter suburb for Atlanta. Now it has cul-de-sacs upon cul-de-sacs filled with identical floor plans and clogged streets filled with families trying to get from one Walmart to the next before Junior’s next soccer practice. I left long before this though. I was probably 15 or so when we got our first chain “sit down” restaurant. Actually, we got two- an Applebee’s AND a Po Folks built right next door to one another. They were THE place to go out. We thought we had really come up in the world.
The BFF graduated a year before me and I made it my life’s mission my senior year to put my head down and try to survive that last year without him so I, too, could get the hell out of there.
I attended college classes that year so I was able to avoid everything but a couple hours of actual high school per day. All I wanted was to move to Atlanta. Well, actually I would have moved to just about any city, but Atlanta was realistic and I was a kid from a small town so Atlanta seemed big enough. To put it in perspective, my family used to drive to Florida in the middle of the night to avoid the horrors of Atlanta. Seriously, we left for every trip at like 1am. Still in our pj’s, we’d be scooped from our beds and placed in the backseat so we could be out of Atlanta before the light of day. You know, when the crazies come out.
All my 14/15/16/17/18 year old selves wanted was to get out of that small town and away from the small town (read: small-minded) way of life and way of thinking. I was ashamed of my Southern small town upbringing.
Other than my BFF, I really rarely had contact with people from back home. I roomed with one girl my freshman year, but after that my run-ins were just that. Maybe I’d see one out at a restaurant in Atlanta, maybe a Braves game, maybe a current friend knew a friend who had a friend named Noel, which was the name of my boyfriend in college (read: last boy I ever dated) and current friend says “How many guys in Atlanta are named Noel? Is this your ex-boyfriend?” only to find out it isn’t my ex, but a guy from high school who I kinda dated in that weirdo high school “hanging out” way. Yes- I dated (sort of) two boys named Noel.
So enter Facebook and enter all these people I used to know about a million years ago. I’m as nosy as the next person (okay, maybe nosier) and I have to say I relished getting a peek into everyone’s lives so many years later. It was like a class reunion without the hassle of an actual reunion. It was great to see old friends happy in their adult lives- married, engaged, out of the closet, traveling on a wing and a prayer, successful in so many ways, having babies, raising children, raising sheep, raising eyebrows. Some have moved out of our small town and some stayed. A lot stayed. It was fun to see how much growing up and experiencing life can really change a person and how some things and some people never really change.
I’m a big believer in taking ownership of your life instead of allowing others to dictate your happiness. If someone brings you nothing but misery, then you need to extract that person from your life. If you’ve tried and tried, who’s really to blame for continuing to let them make you so unhappy? Obviously, I’m not talking about serious abusive relationships here. I’m not blaming the victim, but I see so many people who let toxic relationships seep all this ugliness into their lives until they’re drowning in it. I have enough spectacular people in my life that I don’t see enough or talk to enough- why should I waste time/energy on someone who at their core doesn’t want the best for me or my family? It may sound harsh, but I think life is just too short.
With that said, I really believe this to be true for cyber-friendships. I remember when this hateful, awful woman was running for Governor last year. She did nothing but spew hate and decided her greatest asset to set her apart from the other hate-mongering Republican was that she hated gay people and their families more. The thing was, she used to be a reasonable human being, but to win a Repub nomination in GA these day you need to really hate the gays. We’re really horrible people so it’s understandable. I know my marriage has personally made your life hell and if it hasn’t yet- we’ll work a little harder.
Soooo, I posted on FB that if you planned to vote for this woman that was promising to vehemently oppose my marriage, jepoadize the future of my family as well as all my gay friends’ families (she was on a kick about banning gay adoption) then you needed to de-friend me. I had 2 people take me up on my offer. One whose husband worked for the woman and the other I think was my renter, but I’m sure she was looking for any excuse to sever ties since she and her dogs were busy ripping up my yard and not cleaning anything- ever.
I had expected more. I was sure more than a few people have me “hidden” so maybe they didn’t see the bigot roll call. Or hope beyond hope- some people who had planned on voting for her thought about how it would affect my family- someone they actually knew. The other hate-monger ended up winning, but he’s always been a giant ass, so at least you can respect him for sticking to his guns.
Please note that I CAN be friends with Republicans. But, in the same breath I would never vote for a Democrat that made his campaign about destroying anyone’s family. That’s just me.
Thinking I’m bigot-free, I go about life. Then one day I get a message on my wall from a girl from back home asking me how I get to travel constantly. I tell her. She replies something back, but I can’t read it all because my eyes are focused solely on “wife”. She put my wife in parenthesis. Parenthesis.
I’m livid. I’m disgusted. Steam is coming out of my ears. I instantly get a private message from another friend asking who this idiot girl is and how do I know her. I calm myself. I remember that this girl, who I was never actually friends with growing up, is from my hometown. She then chose to move to an even smaller town up in the mountains. I reply that my wife doesn’t require parenthesis. I reply that we’ve been together for almost a decade and married for almost half that. She replies with some lame “no offense intended”.
I reply to my friend’s message that this girl is just someone I used to know and she’s obviously ignorant. Except as I’m typing I think about how she isn’t ignorant. Can anyone who watches television (fact: 99% of Americans own at least 1 television) actually claim ignorance? Gay people dance around tables in your daytime talk shows. Gay characters are on soap operas. Entire shows have revolved around gay characters. Gay families are portrayed in your favorite primetime shows. Unless you are part of that 1 percent, I call bullshit on your ignorance. And even then you still know gay people. We’re 1 in 10, so even that town in the Andes on the Chilean border with a population of 7 probably at least has one bisexual.
I de-friend her.
She sends request after request and finally a message asking me why I de-friended her. I answer honestly. She replies honestly and to my utter amazement it was actually a misunderstanding. She didn’t know I was gay and really thought I meant “wifey” as in how she refers to her close female friends. I accepted her apology and her friend request.
I watched a video last week from ABC where they set up a gay family in a restaurant and had an actress waitress berate them in front of everyone. The point was to see who would stand up for these people and who would do nothing. It was set in Texas. Over half the patrons ended up saying something to the waitress. One guy wrote a note to the family that seriously had the wife and I in tears.
They had done this same experiment in NYC the previous year and barely anyone stood up for the family.
I’m from a small town in North Georgia. I still (technically) live in Georgia. Yes, the majority of my neighbors (70% to be exact) voted to ban my marriage. Yes, the majority of my neighbors will always vote for the conservative, even if that conservative wants to hurt my family. But, when it comes down to it, when push comes to shove and my neighbors are standing face to face with another human being- I truly believe they will do the right thing.
The values in the South are so many times mired in our ugly history. They are tainted with the opinions of men who evoke the name of God in their selfish pursuit to try to become a god. I am a Southerner, born and bred, and am guilty of forgetting how strong our values really are and how loving we can be to one another.
But, thanks to a girl I knew a million years ago- today I remember.