We gathered outside for some fresh air around midnight. Exhausted from the rush, but grateful for our tips, we enjoyed the cool breeze and a well deserved after work cocktail. The restaurant was always busy on Saturday nights, but because of Gay Pride weekend, the place was crazier than ever.
There were five of us, me being the only straight one. We sipped our drinks and shared stories, a lovely way to end a busy night’s work.
I don’t remember how many there were, or even what kind of car they were in. I just remember feeling their hatred as they whipped raw eggs at us from the street. The light turned green and they were off. I was baffled, thinking how random the attack was. Then one of my friends spoke as he wiped off the yolk, which was dripping down the front of his oxford shirt.
“This is what we go through every year.”
My head shaking, I extended my arms. We stood there, holding each other in front of the restaurant. Neither one of us said a word.
What can you say about bullies and bigotry that hasn’t already been cried out from every gay person you know? As a straight gal, I knew the best thing I could do in that situation was to just give my unconditional love – the same way my friends have given it to me.
The first gay person I met was in the 7th grade. Fred was smart, kind, and a lot of fun to hang out with. Before I really understood what being gay was, I knew he was different from the other boys, and I felt protective of him. I didn’t like anyone being picked on and, as a white girl growing up in Hawaii, could relate to feelings of not fitting in.
By the time I was in high school I stood out even more. Diagnosed with Grade Four Acne Vulgaris (a serious skin disease), over 80% of my face was covered with blood-filled cysts and deep scarring. It didn’t take long before my class mates started verbally swinging. Although the reasons were different, my gay friends and I were still mercilessly picked on.
Every “Freddy Kruger” and “Pizza Face” left an indelible incision; tearing away at my self esteem. Wanting to evaporate, I found solace in my mom’s liquor cabinet, and started occupying my time getting loaded at home, instead of getting an education in school.
Because of the bullies, school wasn’t what it was supposed to be; it was a place where I felt small – like The Elephant Man in a sea of hipsters and braniacs. I was much happier skipping school, hanging at home with Erica Kane and a tumbler of Chablis.
Fast forward twenty years (which include nude stripping and drug addiction), and I am happy I survived it all. I’m still incredibly close with my gay friends, and through compassion and love, we celebrate the fact we weren’t causalities of our bully wars. The Purple Hearts of our self esteem were earned through perseverance and determination, with a core belief in ourselves to carry us through the land mines of verbal abuse.
The night continued without consequence of the drive by bullies, and one of my friends picked up the egg shells, throwing them in the bushes.
I marveled at his ability to literally brush off the incident.
After last cocktails and hugs good night, I enjoyed my walk home under the stars.
My mind wandered back to high school and wrapped around how far I’ve come. I quietly smiled with every step home, realizing that lessons come in painful packages.
It doesn't feel like it at the time, but when you survive it, being bullied is like getting a first-class delivery in strength and character - and my gay friends and I have it in spades. I suppose we should all thank our name callers and egg throwers, but I wonder if they'd even get it.