Our visit to a Scottsdale restaurant that has delicious food and attracts a pretty old, conservative crowd started awfully, but ended beautifully on Saturday night.
Walking in to the restaurant (I won’t name it because I don’t now if the owners would want me to) for an early birthday dinner (I turn 46 in less than a week), I saw a man wearing this t-shirt.
I almost stopped in my tracks, because, well. That shirt just seemed to encapsulate so much of the past few months.
It was mean-spirited.
It was flat-out wrong.
And it was out of the closet, as if it’s perfectly okay to be mean-spirited and flat-out wrong these days, for WHATEVER reason.
Just so I say what is right here, so it is understood. Because this isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact. It’s a fact, and I know it’s a fact, because I actually know a lot of transgender people. Trans people are not perverts who want to see your children’s private parts. Trans people are human beings, and sometimes human beings have to use the bathroom.
The laws like the one that got so much attention in North Carolina actually require people to use only the bathroom that corresponds with his or her birth gender. So a transgender man who has transitioned (meaning that this person might have a beard or a penis and in all ways identifies himself as a man) would be required to use the ladies’ bathroom.
So that t-shirt is not just mean-spirited, it’s also lazy and incorrect. And it put me in a bad mood. I was feeling pretty on edge when we were seated.
And within about five minutes, a table of four men came and sat to our side. There was something about this group of men, who were drinking heavily, who were loud, that gave me a bad feeling. Their energy was … icky.
That bad feeling was confirmed about 10 minutes later, when they were escorted out of the restaurant.
One of the owners, an older white male, did it. And after, he came by our table to apologize for the hubbub.
“What happened?” I asked.
He explained that they complained to their young waitress that the wine was too cold. One of them told her: “You know how you could warm it up? By putting the bottle between your legs.”
I thanked him for throwing them out. He didn’t need my thanks. He seemed pretty miffed that one of his waitresses had been spoken to that way.
As we ate, a thought came to me. It was about the totality of the dining experience so far, and it didn’t feel profound, exactly, as I’d had thoughts along this line previously during the last few months. But it felt more clear than it ever had before.
What’s going on in our country is that segment of our country wants to go back to 1960.
It was a simpler time. Well, it was a simpler time if you were a straight, white male.
The U.S. was the most powerful country in the world. No one could touch us.
If you were a straight, white male, and you wanted a good manufacturing job, you could get one, pretty much no questions asked.
If you were a straight, white male, you could pretty well assume that your salary would be higher than that of a woman, or a Latino person, or an Asian person, or an African-American person.
If you were a straight, white male, you could pretty much say whatever the hell you wanted to say. Pretty much no questions asked.
And to a straight, white male, it was a gentler time. Privilege wasn’t a concept yet. No woman was threatening to become president; no black person was president; no gay person was saying, “please stop using the word faggot”; and trans people seemed to only exist as the butt of jokes.
It’s 56 years later, and so much of that is gone. Almost all of it, really. And suddenly the slogan “Make America Great Again” resonates with so many people. I actually get it. From a certain perspective, it must indeed feel like so much has been lost. And manufacturing jobs? Jobs for people without a college education? Oh my God. What are blue collar workers, what are folks without a college degree to do to make money in this country? I get that, too.
The fact is, none of this is simple. The message “Make America Great Again” is simple, but the problems facing our country are not. It’s not the same country, it’s not the same world as it was 56 years ago. Our enemies are not located within the borders of certain countries anymore. They are here already. They are everywhere, and it’s not always so easy to know who they are.
That’s fucking petrifying. I get that, too.
But we can’t go back. And frankly, we shouldn’t go backward. So many things are, on an objective level, better than they were 56 years ago. That is especially true for those who are not straight, white males.
Gays can get married!
A young, black person can see that the presidency is no longer an impossible dream.
So can a young, white woman.
These are good things. But they also make our country much less simple. Not less great. Just less simple.
After our meal, the owner again apologized and thanked us for being there. We stopped and spoke with him for a second, and he said, “Imagine saying that to a young woman.”
We shook our heads. No, we couldn’t imagine.
“You can’t say that here,” he said. “I’m not Donald Trump.”
Amen, brother. Amen.