Let me start by saying I’ve been mulling over whether or not I should even post this. First of all, I don’t want to keep pouring salt in a wound that I know we’ve worked over many times here at theophiliacs. At the same time, I really think there’s value in looking at things from a different perspective. With that in mind, I only ask that we keep any discussion that follows friendly. We all know what each of us believes, for the most part, so I’m not here to prove a point, just to present a point of view.
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Over the Easter weekend I decided to take the family to Duluth for a much needed break. It still feels weird that I can say “the family” and mean my wife and baby girl. We flew into Minneapolis where we were met by your resident heretic, Jeremy, and his wife, and drove up north together.
We stayed at Fitger’s Inn, which is an old brewery whose upper floors have been converted into guest rooms and suites, and still has a brewery in the lower levels. You can sample their many brews on tap, and buy some to take home if you like. This was the part of the trip that catered to Jeremy and I.
On Saturday morning the ladies wanted to go antiquing out and about downtown Duluth, the part of the trip that catered to the two of them. Now antiquing is a strange pass-time that involves finding old junk you like, among room-fulls of even more old junk, all of which which people have somehow decided is now worth a considerable amount of money, as opposed to fifty-odd years ago when our grandparents tossed most of these items into the everything’s-a-quarter-box at a yard sale. That old cracked plate with the blue pattern your aunt Tilly gave to the Salvation Army is now a hundred-fifty-dollar piece of history. Go figure.
Anyway, we were already out and about town when the ladies sprung this idea on us men. When it became clear it would not be a good idea to lug the baby stroller inside these antique stores because of how cramped they can be, the ladies turned to us with their best smiles and asked if we would like the pleasure of walking around downtown Duluth with a baby.
Now stop for a moment. Picture it; from all outward appearances, Jeremy and I would look like an interracial … well, gay couple … pushing around a baby that we obviously could not have … ‘made’ on our own. This image popped into my head, but I pushed it aside and thought, no way it could be that bad. Could it?
You might be surprised.
We walked around for a while, but the wind off Lake Superior was cold, so we eventually found a diner. The waitress seemed confused when we said we needed a table for two. I think I said something like, “Oh, and the baby, of course.” But it became obvious she was expecting a party of three or four. She sat us down anyway, right next to the entrance, which struck me as a good idea. If things got out of hand, we could dart for the door, I thought.
Then we ordered port, which was mistake number… oh I dunno, probably 5 or 6 by then, I wasn’t keeping track.
So we sat, sipping port in a diner, just the two of us, more than aware of the mounting curiosity growing behind our backs, getting the occasional well-I-never glances. The tension was palpable.
Then the baby started fussing like crazy, and it struck me she was teething, which she’d just started a couple weeks before. My wife just happened to have the Oral Gel for babies stuff in her purse. With her. In the Antique store. Meaning she’d have to bring it to us.
I saw the silver lining and called her right away. She found us in the diner and oh man, you could feel the atmosphere shift. For all intents and purposes, my wife showing up produced a collective sigh of relief. Suddenly the waitress wasn’t stumbling over her words. Suddenly the other couples in the restaurant felt more at ease, commenting on how cute the baby was. The world was right again and maybe we wouldn’t be going to Hell in a hand-basket after all.
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Now I honestly don’t know what it would be like to deal with that sort of attention day in and day out. I don’t know if one could even stay in an environment like that. I do know that I could hardly take twenty minutes of it and I was more than relieved to have everyone know I was straight and married and the baby belonged to us, if only so my friend and I could have a conversation without the fear that we might be facing a lynch-mob by the time the check arrived.
Sadly, I know this actually reveals a level of prejudice on my part, too. True, it shouldn’t matter. But something was fueling the growing sense of judgement in that diner that only my wife showing up could effectively extinguish. That makes me sad for them, but disgusted with myself. As much as I say I’m open minded and tolerant and loving, I couldn’t stand the suspicious looks and glances for a matter of minutes. How revealing.
So I don’t know what the right answer is. I’m not promoting and agenda with this post, or saying to vote this way or that, or telling churches to change their stances. I’m just saying if we stopped for a moment and considered how our many opinions and thoughts on such a complex issue as this might come across to someone outside our particular sphere, we might be surprised how we’re being perceived. This is not an ‘us and them’ discussion, and as such it is with great care, not hastily formed blanket statements and generalities, that the dialogue must be handled, if one intends to make any progress.
And you know, I commend my fellow theophiliacs contributors for doing just that.