Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Southern Charm

In June, we're planning on heading down to the Gulf of Mexico to spend a week on the Alabama coast, in a little beach town where my family and I spent many summers during my childhood. "Excited" is not strong enough a word to describe how I feel when I imagine a week of nothing but sand and blue skies and roosting and crossword puzzles and fruit smoothies with Justin. No work. No pressure. No stress. No deadlines. Eeek! to the umpteenth power is more like it.

But, unfortunately, this vision is marred a little bit by an experience we had in setting up the details with the small-town Mississippi woman whose condo we're renting while we're in Alabama. You see, I first called her to make the arrangements and she said she'd have to call me back. Before she did, though, Justin and I decided he'd take over the honeymoon planning work, so he offered to just answer my phone when this woman called us back. When she did, he told her he was my fiance and would be coordinating the planning from here on out. After the phone call, he told me that she'd been rather cold and fairly standoff-ish on the phone and had said things like "Where you are you two from?" in a rather accusatory voice. But, we moved forward with it anyway.

The next time Justin spoke to this woman, she was again pretty rude. And in the course of taking down some of his information, she said, "Now, is this Anna I'm speaking with, or which one are you?" Justin paused, and said "No, actually, this is Justin, Anna's BOYfriend, or fiance." At this, there was a long pause, an (almost) audible sigh of relief, and a subsequent total change of tone as this woman congratulated him on our engagement, inquired into Justin's life, and was totally filled with the typical Southern "charm." Of course, at this point we realized that she had mistaken Justin's somewhat high-ish voice for a woman's voice, had assumed we were a lesbian couple, and had not been too sure of supporting this sort of behavior.

Justin hung up from this conversation and came to tell me about what had happened. We both sort of sat in slightly-stunned silence as we recognized conflicting feelings of gratefulness for being the recipients of this woman's newly-found charm, but also bitterness that this charm was so selectively (and arbitrarily!) doled out.

And it's not even that I blame her. At least not entirely. She's an older woman from a small town in Mississippi. Her environment and her upbringing have largely shaped her to have certain views she can hardly call her own. But it still makes me so angry. Angry and sad.

It reminds me in such a personal way that even as we have all this good news streaming forth from Iowa and Vermont and DC, there is still so much work to be done, so much privilege we take for granted (in the sexual orientation realm as well as in so many others), so many people's lives that are unfairly restricted and challenged.

If you haven't seen this yet (and are lookin' for a good cry), please watch:


  1. Don't worry, Anna. I'm sure Mississippi is next in line (...and the Missouri).


  2. oh geez...that's a sad story. we have a long way to go.