It’s almost time for DC’s Capital Pride weekend. And in honor of that exuberant expression of homosexual solidarity, I will share with you a story about crossing divides, forging bonds, and finding common ground with people you thought you had nothing in common with.
That’s right, I’m going to tell you how I solidified a loving relationship with my in-laws at a gay pride parade.
I should note that I’m not gay, and neither is Husband. Nor are my in-laws for that matter. But we had a moment in 2009, right there in the middle of some half-naked male dancers, that brought us together in ways I never could have imagined.
It all started with my father-in-law’s 70th birthday. Husband had the brilliant idea to plan a big night out in the city for him, complete with a nice Italian dinner. I threw in a play by Molière. It was going to knock dear old Dad’s dark knee-high socks off.
Yes, the evening was shaping up to leave the perfect impression on my newly minted parents-in-law. That is until I received an ominous email from the theater about an hour before they were set to arrive, warning of rolling street closings for the Pride Parade.
Something told me that a raucous gay street party was probably not the best place to bring my elderly, very Catholic in-laws, no matter how sweet and open-minded they were. Husband concurred. So I consulted the parade route and worked out what I thought were solid alternate directions.
Flash forward a few hours: Piled into the car after a wonderful meal, we made it about 5 minutes before coming to a dead stop at a police barricade. As I paused to assess the situation, a man sprinted by wearing angel wings. And not much else.
I floored it to the left and met another closed road. The curtain was due to go up in 30 minutes. I jerked the car right, winding my way through narrow streets and back alleys until it became clear that walking was the only option.
By some miracle we found a parking spot and ditched the car. The music pumped louder and the crowd grew thicker with every block. Throngs of party-goers in beads and feather boas pulsed around us.
Speaking of boas: I should mention here that in addition to some boxy BluBlocker shades, my father-in-law’s sartorial choices that evening included a set of suspenders and a 5-inch, Flava-Flav-esque crucifix. Two guys in heels and full makeup actually stopped to take his picture.
“This is just dee-LIGHT-ful!” chirped my mother-in-law as we pushed ahead, dodging sloshed drinks and cigarettes. After what seemed like an eternity set to techno, we finally reached an impasse at the parade route. The theater was on the other side of the street, which was filled with floats and dancers.
I looked back to Husband, who was still wading through the revelers with his bewildered dad. Then I looked at my mother-in-law: Gray hair perfectly set, a few beads of sweat trailing down her powdered face, pastel cotton blouse clinging to her round frame. Lady Gaga was pumping from a stereo somewhere behind her. Mother Theresa wouldn’t have looked more out of place.
“We’re going to have to cross!” I shouted.
“THE THEATER’S ON THE OTHER SIDE!”
There was a moment of hesitation as our eyes met in understanding. Then, with a float full of shirtless cowboys gyrating our way (see picture above), I grabbed my mother-in-law’s hand, took a deep breath, and stepped out into the street.
For a few seconds we twirled together between male hip thrusts. Then I reached back for Husband and his dad. And somehow our family chain forged a way through that uncharted sea of leather chaps.
It wasn’t until we were safely ensconced in our theater seats that I really considered what had just happened. I accidentally took my husband’s parents to the gay pride parade. I would either get mad props for spontaneity or they’d write me off as the weirdest daughter-in-law ever and never visit again. As we waved goodbye at the end of the night, I was betting on the latter.
But a few days later, a note arrived in the mail bearing my mother-in-law’s trademark penmanship and festive seasonal stickers. I opened it and read with wonder:
Just wanted to thank you for such a wonderful night on the town! It really meant so much to us. And that parade! It was simply delightful. You know, at that moment, when you held my hand and led me through the crowd—I knew then that you truly loved me like a mother.
Don’t forget to call us! Love, MC and Charlie