Friday, January 12, 2018

No shirt, no shoes, no service.

But what about skirts?

Standing at the counter to pay my family's bill at a local diner in no-where Iowa. Maybe if I hadn't driven by a corner vendor selling "Make America Great Again" crap out of the back of a van, I would have thought the diner was cozy. But it was all white people, many older, who stared and visibly distorted their faces at me as I walked by in my kilt. I guess maybe if it was in a proper tartan it would be more palatable? Worst. Meal. Ever.

Maybe the food was ok. I honestly don't remember. I just remember fighting the urge to run out the door. Holding my seat took all of my energy.

It took all of my focus to stand in the line after the meal and just chill. A voice behind me says something about a skirt. Turn around. "I like your kilt. It looks really comfy for summer."

The man speaking is 10-15 years older, shorter than I am, and sporting a worn-out t-shirt. "Thank you! It really is the most comfortable thing I've ever worn." The woman behind him in line tries and fails to hide her reaction.

Bill paid, I say good bye and walk out the door clinging to the thinnest of threads of hope for humanity, restored by a random guy in a t-shirt.

We pile into our car, the kids asking about the conversation with random guy, and I see him leave the restaurant and get into a volkswagen bug with a rainbow bumper sticker. This guy is my fucking hero today. I may be an atheist now, but I still know what it means to let your light shine.

Another town. Another restaurant. Middle of nowhere middle America. Panda Express seemed less shitty for us than the usual road food. There was a logic there, right?

It is hard to communicate what it is like as a man to walk around every day in a kilt. So many people call it a skirt. I guess because it is the Mountain Hardwear brand kilt made of a nice lightweight gray quick-dry fabric it doesn't quite look like a kilt? Or maybe its just too much, no matter what its made out of. Maybe they just jealous of the fabulous pleats. Whatever. Anyway.

The every day experience is a mix of stuff. I know where every reflective surface is when I stand at a urinal because I watch behind me like my life depends on it in public bathrooms. Truck stops are still the scariest. But there are a ton of places in this country where people are working to pass laws (with the support of the local population) that make deviation from their norm illegal. Religious freedom my ass. It is the same argument they used to try to fight equal rights around race.

So when we're in the middle of one of these states with public officials who say sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic things, I'm on constant alert. Stopping for gas feels epic sometimes.

As we get in line at Panda Express, a tap on my shoulder startles me. Understatement.

I peel myself off the ceiling and turn around. "Nice ink, man! Who's your artist?"


For the first 15 years that I had tattoos, they were only under my swimsuit or under swimsuit and t-shirt. I hadn't quite realized what would happen when I got my first ink that was not under clothing most of the time. A tat on my calf was just more ink. But to this guy, it was something worth talking about.

I'm putting these two stories out there because I've held onto them. On the days when the negative bias dominates my experience, real or imagined, these are the conversations that remind me not to believe everything I think. These two folks remind me that while some are trying to harm me for disrupting the man card narrative, there are other folks who need the end of the man card as much as I do.

Shine on, friends.