The Middle-Aged Guide to Pride
When you’re happily married and over the Dyke March, sometimes celebrating Pride looks like board-game nights and Trader Joe’s runs.
Illustration by Laura Bagnato
It’s the last weekend of June, and my wife, Lala, and I have slept in because it’s Saturday and that is our God-given right as lesbians with no kids. Today is the San Francisco Dyke March, and we’ve planned not to go. It’s okay if we skip it because we’re middle-aged lesbians, which seems incredibly hard to believe. Lala rocks a blue fauxhawk, and her clothes are either Assassin’s Creed- or Captain Marvel-themed. She spends her mad money on comic books and her free time painting D&D characters that she makes on a 3D printer. I have purple hair, and I’m in a yacht-rock band. I went dancing on a work night last week. How can we possibly be middle-aged?
But Lala was at the very first SF Dyke March, back in 1993, when it was a grassroots movement without a permit to shut down the streets. I’ve marched in so many of them I’ve lost count. I’ve ridden on the back of a Harley in the Dykes on Bikes opening contingent, gripping the waist of the girlfriend of an ex-girlfriend (naturally). I’ve been too drunk at the Lexington, too drunk in Dolores Park, and way too drunk on the BART ride home to Oakland.
We could go to the march today (without the drinking part — I’m in recovery now, which means more money for tarot cards and less time puking in public places during Pride), but why would we? We know who we are. We’ve been together fifteen years, and we still think the other one is hot as hell. That’s something to be proud of.
Pride, the event, isn’t for us anymore. Pride is for the kids. It’s for the new ones, the ones who’ve pilgrimaged from Birmingham and Dallas and Louisville. It’s for the ones who will cry when they see two men making out in public for the first time or when they see big, beautiful women bare their chests and show their top surgery or mastectomy scars without shame. Pride is for the ones who need it.
Today what we need is to go to Trader Joe’s because we’re out of salsa-flavored refried beans. After TJ’s, we stop at the hardware store for a new string for the weedwhacker, and then we go home and refill the hot tub. We do the prosaic married-people tasks.
Then, at 4 p.m., it happens. (It always happens.)
“I want to go,” I say.
Lala looks up from sorting X-Men comics and smiles. “Of course you do.”
On BART, we’re cheered by the fact that there are still rainbow-clad people of all genders clogging the cars with glitter and goodwill. We get off at 16th and Mission, following the herd of queers all drawn by the same last-minute urge.
And when we arrive, we don’t even march. We stand on the sidewalk as the bikes roar past, their engines throbbing in a deafening rhythm.
Then come the marchers.
The new kids are there — baby-faced and vegan-thin and furiously jubilant. The middle-aged dykes are out there, too, and we wave at friends. The older ones are here, moving more slowly but waving their flags more triumphantly than anyone else.
I stand in the gutter, Lala behind me on the sidewalk. She puts her arms around my shoulders, and I lean backward into her warmth as the fog starts to come in. We sway together as a brass band moves past.
Lala is from Boise, Idaho, a city where she learned at a young age what “smear the queer” meant. I’m from a small farming town on California’s Central Coast where “fag” was an often-hurled slur.
We’re together, here, with the rest of the weirdos and freaks who escaped, the ones who are brave enough to glide through these streets the same way they do through life, as themselves.
I take it all back. Pride is for us. It is us.
We don’t stay long — two of our three dogs are old and need to go outside more often than they used to. We have salmon in the fridge that needs to be cooked tonight. As we go through a dark tunnel on the way home, I catch a glimpse of our reflection in the glass — Lala’s looking at Twitter as I knit a sock. She laughs at a cat GIF and shows it to me. My heart swells with love, and I kiss her.
But there’s no way in hell you could pay me to cross the bridge tomorrow for the Sunday Pride party. The Dyke March was enough for us. Plus, we have a board-game night to host.
About the author: Rachael Herron is the internationally bestselling author of more than two dozen books, including thriller (under R.H. Herron), mainstream fiction, feminist romance, memoir, and nonfiction about writing. She received her MFA in writing from Mills College, Oakland, and she teaches writing extension workshops at UC Berkeley and Stanford. Find her at RachaelHerron.com or on Twitter.