It Gets Better than Better
I want to do one of those It Gets Better ads. I want to tell our gay kids that not only does it get better, it can get freakin’ fabulous.
For me, the past two weeks have been a tale of two cities, Rehoboth and New Orleans, awash in gay culture and energized by our community.
We made our annual trip to the Saints & Sinners literary conference in ‘Nawlins and I’m surprised to report that we were slightly more saint than sinner this year, foregoing an excess of bar-hopping for rest and relaxation at the hotel pool.
Since this was the first time in a while that Bonnie and I ventured to the Big Easy without a posse, we found making friends a snap. We hadn’t been in the gayborhood five minutes, with our first Hurricanes just placed before us, when a young man leaned over to me and said, “Drink your juice, Shelby.” This steel magnolia was from Texas, and before long we were buds, with plans to meet up the next night. I love our gay culture!
At dinner time, we found a restaurant without a liquor license which encouraged patrons to bring their own. We used our half hour wait for a table to amble to the gay bar down the block, and order cocktails to go. I still smile every time I walk down a New Orleans street carrying a roadie.
“We need plastic cups ” I told the bartender, “We’re taking them to dinner at the corner.”
“Take a real glass, honey, have fun and return it later,” came the reply. We did, take the glass and have the fun.
But all good things must end, so we arrived at the airport at noon Sunday to find our flight home viciously overbooked. We heeded the call for volunteer bumpees, rewarded by free round trip tickets to anywhere AirTran flies. Woo-Hoo!
The down side was spending the next seven hours trapped in the vicinity of Gate 16. There was nothing to do but eat and drink and listen to frunky NOLA jazz on the airport speakers. We spent our incarceration reading a little, but mostly chowing down on alligator sausage, po’ boys, and the ubiquitous red beans and rice. By flight time I feared we exceeded the size limit for carry-ons and would be consigned to the baggage compartment.
As we drove home from the airport at two in the morning, a long weekend of eating and drinking well with others behind us (literally), we saw a flashing highway sign, ”Wide loads prohibited in left lane.” I told Bonnie she’d better pull over to the right.
We got home just in time to continue the over-indulgence on Memorial Day weekend.
As I sat under an umbrella at the Gordon’s Pond beach, surrounded by thousands upon thousands of women, I couldn’t help thinking, probably for the zillionth time in the 18 years I’ve been enjoying that beach, about my good fortune.
If, when I was going through the teeth gnashing and angst of coming out, some 35 years before, somebody had told me I would someday be on a beach, with a great group of friends, surrounded by thousands—literally—of other lesbians, I would have told them they were effing crazy. But here we were. Not only does it get better, but it gets freakin’ fantastic.
And I was thrilled to see the staggering number of young lesbians, poised to carry on Rehoboth’s reputation as Gayberry RFD (even thought they don’t know the reference!) for generations to come.
A second weekend event found us at a block party amid a terrific crowd of folks, gay, straight, young, not-so-young, all enjoying the perfect weather, picnic food, and, in the backyards of the homes along the way, beer. I missed a lot of keggers back in the day, during my angst-riddled college years. As I pumped the keg’s plunger and helped fill many a cup for my friends and myself, I saw the irony. Collecting Social Security and being at a keg party seemed perfectly compatible.
But at my last weekend event, my It Gets Better tale peaked. Bon and I attended a party at the home of women we’ve known to say hello to for years, but had never really gotten the opportunity to get to know. One of the hostesses caught me and Bon on our way out the door and told me the most amazing tale.
Her homophobic dad was forced by circumstances to come to live with her and her partner. It was tense and uncomfortable. But, in a chance encounter, her dad found one of my books on the back of the porcelain horse in the, ahem, library, (which, I have always said is the perfect place for them, short chapters and all) and he began to read. He laughed a little, read a story or two about the consequences of homophobia, and then laughed a little again. After finishing the book, he had some questions, and his attitude about gays began to change for the better. He got better.
Now I don’t know if I deserve all the credit the hostess bestowed, because I’m sure these delightful gals, in a loving and committed relationship, showed Dad the best of marriage equality. But the story made me proud that my long ago choice to write honestly, in the first person, telling about the fun as well as the frustrations of gay life in Rehoboth may have actually done some good in the fight for equality. Hearing that I make people laugh is fun. Hearing that I make them understand, is extraordinary.
So if you know any tweens, teens, or young adults grappling with coming out or coming to terms with gender issues, or whatever else they may be grappling with on the continuum of GLBTQ whatever, tell them I said, “Sure, it gets better. And after that, it gets even better than better.”
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Frying—a Rehoboth Beach Memoir; Fried & True—Tales from Rehoboth Beach; and For Frying Out Loud—Rehoboth Beach Diaries. Contact Fay Jacobs