Perhaps it has something to do with my childhood, but I derive an inordinate level of pleasure from bargains and freebies. This may be a residual effect of having a mother who always lifted extra napkins and ketchup satchels from restaurants, whether or not we had eaten there.
When I returned to America after a quarter of a century abroad, I attended Boston’s Pride marches. After all, I had as a young woman been at the very first one, 44 years ago. In those days, we called it a Pride March because it was more a demonstration than a celebration. Our signs were provocative – “We are your worst nightmare” and “We’re here; We’re Queer; Get used to it” and the perennial “Dip me in honey and throw me to the dykes.” We passed out leaflets that demanded, for example, we be taken off the “mental disorder list” of the American Psychiatric Association, which they did in 1973. The World Health Organization only declassified us in 1990.
Anyway, there were all sorts of laws against us, official forms of discrimination, and untold violence, and we protested it all on Pride, back in the day.
On my return to the States in this new millennium, I found Pride had turned into a Parade dominated by floats representing banks, insurance companies, and churches. Bizarre. The institutions we confronted were now distributing bling from moving advertisements.
And here’s where my background kicked in. If I wasn’t going to have political gratification, then at least I’d grab up the giveaways. I used the free laminated carry bag from TJ Max to hold the samples of sunscreen from Harvard-Vanguard and the safer sex kits with items I’d never use. Even if Pride was stripped of all politics and protest, at least I wouldn’t get sunburned.
Then the economic crash of 2008 happened and the freebies evaporated. In their place every single corporation tossed us a nickels-worth of plastic “Mardi Gras” beads. How very tacky can you get? How did they all decide on the same junk? Does the ruling class of marketing have a listserv that conspires to distribute the cheapest, most useless bauble possible?
So last night I thought to myself: If insurance and beer companies and religious institutions can colonize Pride, thought I, why shouldn’t Lillian be allowed to present herself? I spent 12 hours designing a postcard about Lillian’s Last Affair that I could hand out, and then ordered them at no small expense from an online printer. Isn’t it better that people read literature about the variety of sexualities older people are into than fill out the credit card applications that will be shoved into their hands?