There's an old saying that pictures are worth a thousand words! And it seems everyone had an opinion about the very recent wedding of hairstylist Michael Cole Smith, and his husband Jamil Smith Cole, a black Minneapolis gay couple. Their wedding photographs were displayed on gossip sites, in private emails, of through all the black hole's and hoes of cyberspace.
It all started when a (now fired) Atlanta secretary working in Morehouse College's president's office, used company resources (and company time) to send out a much too opinionated rant against the couple.
Almost immediately, the black gossip sites lifted the wedding photos, picked up the story and launched one of the most vile homophobic tirades in recent memory. Oh! How they carried on something awful as only they can do! But they weren't the only ones!
Some black gays also joined in the fracas, and our comments were just as mean-spirited! While the sistahs, wishing they could rip out Michael's flowing tresses, blasted the wedding details, they also ripped black gay men in general, blaming us for the fact that they can't find what they call an "eligible" man. But the gay brothas seemed to make a quick judgement call by attacking the newlyweds for not totally representing "us" as "we'd" like to be represented! Huh? The two opposing factions seem to be in agreement about one thing - that Cole-Smith's ceremonial outfit was just plain "wrong!."
Wrong for WHOM?
I must admit, his fashion choices initially gave me pause, but the more I thought about it, coupled with the revelation from my on-going personal experiences, I realized everything was completely RIGHT about the Smith-Cole marriage! They had the wedding THEY wanted! Wore they clothes (and hairstyles) THEY wanted to wear! It didn't matter whether I really liked his Superfly-inspired tuxedo train or not. Their choices were good choices because they represented THEM! They did not have to consult me! And as for their getting married or having a wedding, well, they had my support 99 percent from jump! So let me explain about that one percent.....
My partner and I have been together for 17 years! We live in Ohio, and if we never get the opportunity to marry legally, at the least, I want the experience of a ceremony! A wedding! We live on a quiet street in a neighborhood full of well-kept post-Victorian homes, and we're literally making our house a home with committment and .....renovation! We argue, kiss, make-up and plan for our future. We have a real life! We also have a late model luxury car in the driveway that we cannot drive because we don't have the finances right now to pay for the repairs. In the meantime, we're riding in a 20-year-old tore up, broke down, rusty ass, ugly ass white van with a hole in the manifold which means that it's NOISY NOISY NOISY! You can hear us before you see us! But it gets us where we need to go! When we arrive safely, we often look back and say LORD, THANK YOU!
Marvin is Marvin. Those things don't bother him much, but the situation is still quite challenging for me. He doesn't see the sneers, jeers, the frowns, laughs and finger pointing! And then there are those in certain more upscale areas of town who look at us like "Umph! THEM! I thought so!." For some time now, I've felt like they're looking at A PICTURE OF US IN THE VAN and making assumptions about who we are and making judgement calls without even knowing us. Just this morning, some sistah with her hair all over her head came out of White Castle's, threw her trash on the ground, looked over at us, frowned and rolled her eyes as if to say "WHAT A PUBLIC NUISANCE!." She was walking to the bus stop! And we were driving! This was a particularly funny incident but the root of my feelings are anything but! Sometimes, I want to shout "STOP STARING AT US LIKE THAT" but what I really mean by that is "STOP JUDGING ME!"
These types of experiences, and this apparent "judgement" goes right to the heart of that kid, young man and grown man who was constantly judged for being himself and for not being or doing what others thought he should! It reminds me of the constant sting of criticisms, and defense mechanisms of appearing perfect in public just for the sake of appearing perfect in public! It exposes the hidden insecurities of being the only African Americans on our street who aren't able to "represent" just now how we want to or how our parents taught us to!
Intrinsically, I've always known that the van does not represent our real life, who we really are! Well, maybe it does for a minute, but it does not DEFINE us! We often have to go to those "upscale" areas I mentioned to shop, eat and play and when we're in the van, there's always a sense of "go back to where you belong." Even when we're among our own, there's a sense of "you can do better than that/get it together." Insecurites? You bet! I have them! I'm human! But when you know better...what?...you do better!
That's why I retract any previous statements I made about this couple! Statements like "they just had to have known they'd attract at least some degree of negativity by being sligthtly over the top with this wedding." The truth is that they would have gotten it anyway! When a friend sent me the photos, part of the text from a previous email loop was included, and I read the following statement from someone who said "the minute I saw the pictures I can easily determine what kind of neighborhoods they came from and the level of education they have, even what kind of professions they most likely have. But then again, I am not a HATER!."
Oh Really! And this comment came from a black gay brotha! I knew I had to speak up and divest myself of any mess that I was holding! I couldn't be (or allow anyone else to think I could be) THAT rigid. While I was trying to be aghast at someone else's choice of clothing on his very special day, I realized that man is living the life I'm trying to achieve! He actually GOT MARRIED while I'm just CALLING MYSELF MARRIED! I'm told both men are popular, successful business owners, and I'm sure THEY can afford to do the minor repairs on their luxury car without having to drive a hooptie-van! They stepped out boldly and made a real declaration about their love, who they were and what they had and said APPEARANCES BE DAMNED! I'm not speaking for anyone but myself, but I do think a lot of us reacted to some of the photos without thinking first! We looked at it from the perspective of how we would do it. Or if we'd ever get the CHANCE to do it! But some of us reacted out of hatred! And judgement!
And there's my one percent! Today, I renouce it and give it up to the Smith-Cole's a total 100 percent! God bless them!