Yesterday I had to go north to Canadian Tire to get air in my tires. On the way there we stopped at the bank and I decided, which is very unlike me, to not go in. I wanted to just pull my chair off to the side and sit outside in the warm embrace of summer. I got myself positioned and then just people watched. A great way to kill time and, as it's a busy area, the flow of people was endless.
Now, before I continue, I need to tell you that I am very aware of my face. An odd thing to say, no? Well, I am. I have a face that at rest looks angry or disapproving or judgemental or hostile. I have no control over this. I was born with an angry face. In fact, I am seldom angry. That might be a surprise to you who've read this blog over the years, but remember I only post stories that are a very, very small part of my day. So, I know, before an interaction happens that my face may, all on it's own, be giving messages that I am unaware of.
So, back to the flow of people going by. I noticed a young couple holding hands. They were just a shade over twenty, I'd guess, and they held hands tightly. I've noticed more and more LGBT couples holding hands in the downtown core, and I've also noticed that gay people simply don't hold hands like straight people do. Straight people hold hands simply as an act of affection that they expect that everyone will see and not only approve but laud. So there is an ease with which fingers touch fingers. There is a lightness to the touch.
This couple, both pretty young women, held on as if the wind might suddenly yank them apart. They held on as if they were walking through dangerous terrain. And, of course, they are. I imagine we are still years away from same gendered couples can hold hands lightly, breezily, tenderly. I saw in their movements the affection they held for each other, I saw in their hands an act of tenderness, outrageous tenderness. Tenderness as an act of defiance. Tenderness as a political act of declaration. Tenderness as an act of love.
It will not surprise you to know that my reaction was one of complete pleasure. Good on them. Good for them. I was proud of who they were and what they were doing. So, perhaps, my gaze lingered a bit.
And that's when my face got in the way.
The woman closest to me said to me, with quiet anger, "We have every right to walk together holding hands."
I held my hands up and said, quickly, "No, no, I think it's lovely. I'm an old gay man and I never thought I'd see the day where this could happen. I'm just so pleased."
"You looked angry," she said, softening as she explained her tone.
"My face is one of those faces that look disapproving, give me a wimple and I'd look like Mother Superior on a rampage."
She laughed, "You must be gay if you know what a wimple is!"
They were on their way, smiling.
I thought, afterwards, that I understood that quiet, ready anger that she carried with her. Though I'm not angry often, I an not unfamiliar with using anger when necessary and when it was the appropriate tool for self defence. I am not unfamiliar with the dangers that come with declarations of a right to space, a right to love and a right to be. I am not unfamiliar at all.
Two young women took to the streets, in love, and holding hands to assert that love, and assert their right to space and assert their right to simply be.
I was, and am, a little in awe of them.