The Time I Grew Up a Little

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While I’ve attended multiple LGBTQ events in the past, as I’m a proud supporter, this was my first time walking in a parade; the 2016 Encinitas Holiday Parade, that is. When I got there, I remember being too excited to worry about my step-mom screaming her head off about the traffic. I don’t get that. Traffic really isn’t as malevolent as the way everyone makes it out to be. I mean, if you’re running late then I totally understand but, if you’re simply stuck in traffic, then it’s almost relaxing. I’m serious; every second of our day moves so incredibly quick that we can’t even enjoy it. Traffic forces us to slow down, whether we want to or not, so it’s better to just enjoy it versus instantly growing frustrated. So, of course, I drowned out the yelling and focused on the people bundled up in beanies and blankets. There were way too many people, if you ask me. That’s only because I’m scared of big crowds–most people are.

My step-mom dropped us off and we got off the car and to start walking down the street. I grabbed my stepsister’s hand so that I wouldn’t lose her in the crowd. I brought her with me so that she couldn’t cry about me not inviting her later; she’s like that. After sending a few texts, we managed to find our way to our group–the North County LGBTQ Resource Center–by 7pm. I really only knew a handful of people there but, with just my luck, my school had set up right in front of us. Jacob, a guy in the band, called me over and I said hi to him and a few others; if I’m being honest, I made conversations out of nothing just to make sure that I wouldn’t have to go back to my group and talk to new people. I don’t know why I do that, it’s pretty inane if I’m being real with myself. I expect to make new friends without being friendly… What kind of logic is that? None, I guess. I also managed to sneak by to say hi to my English teacher who I may have accidentally agreed spoke ‘way too much.’ I swear I didn’t mean it, I just didn’t want there to be a pause in the conversation because that’s always brutal and I had stuttered out a “yeah” before realizing what I was actually “yeah”-ing to. Thankfully, she laughed it off (a clear example of why I like her as much as I do.) At some point I realized that I would stop doing dumb things if I just went back to my section; it sort of worked.

After what seemed like forever, it was time to share our pride–yes, that means waving around colorful flags. I swear each flag actually means something even if it doesn’t look like it. I mean, I would assume that a pink, blue, and white flag was just a flag with pretty colors. Not that that’s not true, but it’s supposed to symbolize the transgender community. Transgenders are pretty too though, if not more, so I guess it works out that way. That’s the flag my stepsister held. She’s not a transgender but she supports them. People never seem to understand that and I can’t wrap my head around why that is. It’s really like wearing a sports team merchandise if you think about it. People wear Broncos gear but that doesn’t mean they’re a football player. They just support them. My stepsister can carry a transgender encouraged flag without being transgender. She just supports them.

Our colorful group started walking and our leader called out something rather exciting: “If we spread out enough, we can cover 60ft.”

I don’t know. It sounds kind of foolish that that is what got me excited but it truly did. I think it was the pure idea of everyone sitting alongside the curbs would see 60ft of a community and message that I believe in. It doesn’t sound like much but you really have to be passionate about something to get that feeling. That makes me happy too; having something to be passionate about. It makes me feel like I have something to live for–and no, that wasn’t intended to sound sepulchral in the slightest. It’s a good thing, really. I live to be able to express and enjoy what I’m passionate about. If I didn’t feel this way about something, I don’t know what I would be living for.

So, my vivacious 60ft of pride started down the street. I made sure to stand on the side so that I would be able to give people high-fives along the way; the people who did that in parades were always my favorite and I wanted to be my own favorite. Self-indulged? Maybe just a bit. Anyways, I did just that by high-fiving every hand that reached out to me. Each hand was fairly small considering that mostly children partook in this unsaid parade tradition. While walking, a hand attached to a pink-sweatered arm reached out and waved until I got close enough to seal the deal. This arm belonged to an unarguably cute girl with sleek black hair and bangs. She was probably around 8 years old because her endearing grin was made up with a few gaps where teeth would eventually grow in permanently. Once our hands touched, we made eye contact and it was so incredibly heartwarming. Every interaction was heartwarming, of course, but this girl was more than happy to reach her hand out and share a happy moment of her evening with me even if it only lasted for two seconds.

That is, two seconds until her mother pulled her back by her pink hood. I kept looking at the girl and her mother since the occurrence only did so much as to confuse me. And then, it came out: the words that made me grow up a little the second I saw the gapped-smile fade.

“Don’t touch those kind of people, they’re dirty.”

To this day, I don’t know if the lady was referring to the color of my skin or what my group stood for when she used the word ‘dirty’. That really irks me, but either way, it doesn’t make anything better. It’s not that I was oblivious to people who are indifferent, it was just the first time I had seem something of that sort firsthand. I really wish I never had. It was shocking but not in the sense that I didn’t know things like this occurred–it’s hard to explain, honestly.  The thought of pure, happy kids being taught otherwise makes me doleful. In a way, it knocked me off a few pegs. I realized that, despite what little difference I could ever try to make, our social system will never really reach edification because beliefs are heirlooms. Whether you inherit them or not is your choice, but a parent only feeds their children what they want them to believe. That small child, full of innocence I’m sure, thought nothing other than sharing something as simple as a high-five with someone like her. It’s her mother, who’s going to make her divide the people she once saw equal to her into tiers. Don’t get me wrong, to each their own but I can’t fathom the idea of regression. It kills my ambition.

I hate to break it to you, but my fantasy of a perfect world full of rainbows and unicorns died a lot time ago. I don’t think I was ever not faced with the reality and I have no doubt that it took away from my childhood. Seriously, I want the girl wrapped in a pink sweater to have a childhood for as long as possible. I wish I could tell her that; I’ll always wish that. Except, wishes don’t usually come true and I still had to finish walking down the street with a smile on my face and high-five other little kids while the idea of their parents teaching them ‘right from wrong’ haunted me in the process.

I finished the parade alright; it went by a lot faster than I thought too. To be frank, I was worried about the walk in it’s entirety but that’s only because I’m the laziest person you could ever meet. I swear, I could probably break a record for being lazy if I really tried to. Despite it being rather late by the time my step-mom rolled around, it wasn’t all that cold. I thought it would be worse, but I guess I didn’t pay enough attention to the temperature. It’s weird how things like that happen: I usually shiver in 80 degree weather, yet, my clouded mind made me forget about the clouded weather.

I still think about that little girl–probably more than I can take. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s simply a lot to manage and consider. It makes me feel like I can’t sit around and expect things to happen out of nothing–that’s not how life works. I feel responsible for, not just her, but anyone that could ever possibly be under my influence in that sense. It’s actually a terrifying thought if you want to know the truth.  I hope her and her smile are doing okay.

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