Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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From the moment Ashlee asked me to be a bridesmaid,
I understood what my wedding gift needed
to be. It wasn’t the set of tumblers
I shipped her from 14th Street, daffodils and dandelions
climbing the sides. It wasn’t helping her angel of a mother
practice her speech, making pencil marks for pauses
and every deep breath. No, my gift
to Ashlee started when she told me Cate from college
would be a bridesmaid, too. Cate, the only person
on my Facebook feed who was a real, live, red-hat-wearing,
rally-going, Fox News–loving, 100 percent-would-vote-for-him-
again Trump supporter. This was around the time
of “shithole countries,” after “grab ’em by the pussy,”
“very fine people,” and Mexicans are “rapists.”
I had just taken a job writing appeals for a refugee-aid group,
my head filled with names and ages of who the Muslim ban
was separating. Remember, you like Cate, I told myself
over and over, months before the wedding. Which — to be fair —
was true. I’d always liked Cate. Still, this could get dicey.
I could see her saying something crass about a specific sect
of humanity and me going off on hate crimes rising
and trans rights in the military and what the actual fuck
is wrong with you? In my head this could awesomely,
epically escalate, with me knocking over tables, wineglasses
flying everywhere. In the name of facts! In the name
of crown thy good with brotherhood! Ashlee would of course
be watching us in her mother’s wedding gown, those eighties
sleeves fluffed to life only to be splattered with red wine.
There’d be no glasses of gold bubbles lifted
to the happy couple, no forks clanging for them to kiss.
Just the sound of me going ballistic
with an egalitarian vengeance no deejay could drown out.
This is why I was on extra-good behavior
when I saw Cate in the bridal cabin the day of the wedding.
I was so nice, in fact, that she asked if I would hold her baby
while she got ready. This is how I ended up cradling
a Trump supporter’s infant. Rocking and whispering
to him softly in the living room. Taking this opportunity
to have ourselves a little chat about the power of diversity
and being a nation of immigrants. We bounced as we went over some key
information he might not have been aware of: how women’s
rights are human rights and empathy makes us great.
We had a few more minutes, so we reviewed the dangers
of misinformation. How just because someone is the loudest
it doesn’t make them right. I like to think I held that
marvelous mini-human for forty-five minutes, but can’t be sure.
However long, it was enough. To get me through
curling irons and hair spray. To pose for the photographer
both at a beach and in a forest. To ride to the church. To spot
my seat beside Cate, her baby, her husband (and his conservative parents!)
at the reception. To hear them talk about guns at the bar.
To make it the day I successfully stood with my friend.
Her white dress glowing. My spine up straight.