Day 2 of Gwen Bell’s December blogging challenge. The prompt for the day was ‘Best restaurant experience ‘09.’ I was going to write a post tonight about a cavernous, Kubla Khan’s pleasure dome type restaurant in New York City. I had avoided going to this place since its opening several years ago because I’d told myself that I don’t like big flashy restaurants. I like intimate quiet ones. I live inside the spectacle that is Manhattan and don’t crave more of it. But then one night the stars aligned and I found myself there in the middle of fashion week no less, packed with designers and models in neon stilettos.
It was an amazing night. My friends and I joined a birthday party full of Londoners on holiday at a long communal table, and ate delectable dumplings dripping with exotic sauces while being expertly cared for by friendly staff. There was none of the cool, sneering attitude I had expected to find in a place designed to see and be seen.
Then I remembered that I knew the guy who had probably made most of the restaurant's final hiring decisions. I had worked with him as a waiter years ago. He had the rare ability to bring up both the morale and the efficiency of an entire crew of jaded, exhausted performers, misfits, and immigrant restaurant workers. He'd thrown me several life rafts of encouragement during my first wobbly weeks of working at a big midtown restaurant fresh out of school and freshly dealing with being just another waiter/aspiring artist in the city.
Kindness was clearly valued in the staff here. Wow. (I hadn’t let on that I knew any managers, so the kindness couldn’t be chalked up to deferential treatment).
I'd cut myself off from ever going to this big restaurant before because in a blanket statement I'd decided, ‘I don’t like restaurants like that’. This is what I was going to write about, but then the news of the New York Senate’s vote 38-24 against the gay marriage amendment came in, and after dinner tonight I crawled into bed and turned out the light. My body felt weighted down by lead balloons.
I had stupidly thought that my beloved New York recognized the immense contributions of its gay and lesbian constituency. Doesn’t every straight identified person know a gay couple, a gay family? The anti-gay rights people are cutting themselves off from hundreds of thousands of loving families. It's like my bias against the restaurant that turned out to be my “favorite restaurant experience ‘09”. I had assumed that I knew what it was all about without ever having set foot in the door. The no voters and the people they represent are stuck in straitjackets of rigid beliefs.
Over time, the 38 no votes will be seen to be on the wrong side of history. But in the present, there are families who are denied health and life insurance from their partners’ employers, and there are citizens and commitments that are not being honored with the respect they deserve. It just so happens that the manager of that great restaurant has a long-term same-sex partner, and they have a child together. Today New York has said to them, and to countless others, ‘we don’t care about you’. This has to change.