My answer to changing the world is so small, you might be disappointed. You may not even believe me. Because I think one of our most compelling actions is to share our happiness. There is nothing that changes hearts and minds like a good attitude. Joy openly expressed, a smile, a song or poem on the lips is hard to deny. Some days this is difficult. Some days it takes all the courage of one’s convictions. More’s the reason to make the most of the days when happiness comes easy. Like Luke Skywalker’s light saber, joy is a most powerful weapon. Let me tell you a story.
Just before my legal wedding in NC (imagine!), I took a day to myself in Weaverville. I like spending my money in small towns, in independent stores when possible. I was nervous, but I was getting married. It was to be expected. Also, I was marrying another woman. I wasn’t sure of the places I needed to go, how they felt about marriage equality. I did know the flower shop was cool because a former neighbor worked at Brown’s on Main Street, so I started there.
I told Susan I was getting married and needed help with flowers. “Congratulations!” she yelped, and came around the counter to hug me. My confidence grew. A few boutonnieres, roses, and a tussy mussy later, I was ready for the ring. I asked where an independent jeweler might be. The owner of Brown’s suggested I cross the street, but that store specialized in art jewelry. I needed something more traditional. She then directed me, rather reluctantly, to the Karat Patch. I worried about that reluctance, but climbed in my truck anyway and headed for the Karat Patch.
I walked into a really nice, really big family-owned jewelry store. An older woman came out to help. I worried about how I was going to establish the rapport I needed in order to buy the perfect thing. In my boots and jeans, my shaggy hair hanging over the collar of my cowboy shirt, I could tell she wasn’t quite sure what to do with me. Meanwhile, I heard a customer leave, and there were a lot of “God bless” and “We’ll be praying for you” and the sort of thing that could make a less than devout lesbian-looking-for-a-wedding ring nervous.
While I stared overwhelmed at all the bling, a more typical customer came in and she moved to help him. A younger woman was sent from the back to take my case. She introduced herself, shook my hand and asked my name, then said, “Diamonds or color?” I said color. Things got a bit clumsy as I tried to avoid talking about who the intended recipient of the ring was. Finally, I understood I could no more buy a wedding ring for a woman without saying “she” than I could write a poem without picking up a pen first.
As I turned a beautiful little band with diamonds and sapphires, the saleswoman asked me what kind of person the ring was intended for. I looked at her and she looked at me, and finally I shrugged and said, “Well she’s a farmer. She has to be able to wear this ring while pitching straw at chickens, picking eggs, weeding a vegetable garden, or working honey bees. And it can’t come off or get hung up in a glove. You got anything like that?” She smiled and said, “Now that’s a nice little ring you’re holding in your hand, but there are prongs that will hang up in a pair of gloves.” I was amazed. She had dealt with this before!
“Now this ring, ” and she lifted a ring with four sapphires set flat in white gold with little diamonds flashing between, “won’t hang up and is smooth all the way across. This style appeals to a lot of nurses.” “She’s a nurse too!” I couldn’t believe it! I was pretty well sold then, although I stuttered slightly at the difference in price. “Of course, it costs a little more,” she smiled. Of course. But hey, I’d been waiting 16 years to marry my farmer, I had to get the ring that worked! And it was beautiful. And I was in love. The saleswoman seemed happy for me, and possibly happy for herself, too, but that was fine. I paid. I needed it sized and I had a fancy hairstyling appointment. She said, “No problem. We’ll size it while you get your hair cut. Come back and pick it up after that.” What service, I thought!
I got my haircut at Aabanni’s, another splurge, but by this time I needed the head massage with the calming scented oil and the great shampoo. A young stylist, Candace, soon caught my excitement at the wedding, the flowers, the ring. She asked me why I was nervous since I’d already had a civil union and a tenth anniversary party which included a renewal of our vows. (She was probably 8 when we got together.) I told her that this time it was for real, that I never thought I would see this day in my lifetime. She paused in her clipping. “Oh, that gave me chills when you said that.” She warned me against seeing the bride on the day of our wedding and sent me off with my new hairdo.
Back I went to the Karat Patch. I entered the store and everyone who worked there–owners, jewelers, sales people–came out of the back to see my hair and to congratulate me. They showed me the ring, which looked perfect, and I watched as they put it in a beautiful black box with a gold latch, and then into another black box. I was grinning and blushing and thanking them as they thanked and congratulated me. It was a beautiful moment in marriage equality history as these conservative folk caught my joy and excitement and gave it back to me in full measure.
So that is my simple story. Take from it what you will. But know this: joy made that day one of the best days of my life. And for a moment anyway, it was contagious enough for everyone to celebrate, no matter who they were or what they believed. Changing the world is so damn incremental, you have to take the long view. One smile at a time.