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Doughnuts and

Doughnuts and


When is it all right to tell drivers who advertise their bigoted politics on their bumpers exactly what you think of their self-righteousness?

MARRIAGE = MAN + WOMAN, the bumper sticker screamed from the butt of the flesh-colored SUV. My husband, U.B., spotted it first as we pulled into the parking lot of a Maple Donuts franchise in my hometown, York, Pa. Anxious to make a beeline into the shop and share one of my favorite childhood treats with my family, I pulled the red rental car right up against the sidewalk. "She's in there," U.B. said, indicating the SUV driver, "so you could go inside and call her a c---."

The woman was at the counter asking for directions from the salesclerk. Their transaction had just wrapped up when I walked in, and the SUV woman--who was petite, with no-nonsense, short-cropped hair--walked toward the door. On impulse I spun on my heels and followed her out to the sidewalk. "Excuse me, is that your car with the 'marriage equals man plus woman' bumper sticker?"

She turned halfway around to look at me. "Why yes," she said smiling. Her teenage son was approaching from the other end of the strip mall.

"Well, that's my family in this red car," I said, pointing to U.B., who was extricating a wad of Silly Putty from the golden curls of our daughter Stassa in the backseat. "And you're a self-righteous bitch."

Her smile faded and her eyes widened as I continued, "You put your politics on your car, so you asked for it."

U.B. told me afterward that the woman looked as if she had seen a ghost. Her son, about 13, opened his mouth wide in a stunned half-smile, suggesting that he too thought his mom was a self-righteous bitch. They both picked up their pace and scurried back to the safety of their car.

At dinner that night in a nearby college town, where we were celebrating the opening of a show of my photographs and U.B.'s sculpture, the curator of our exhibit, Molly, said, "Bumper stickers open dialogue. She had it coming."

My ex-boyfriend Steve, who had introduced me to U.B., observed, "But you attacked the person instead of her opinion." U.B. said, "You wouldn't have done this five years ago, when you still had your establishment job. You're ballsier."

I had blurted out my feelings in the heat of the moment. Calling the opposition names is never effective. The woman no doubt went home and told her story of being called a bitch by some homosexuals. I could have left out the "bitch" part and engaged her in meaningful dialogue, politely introducing her to the kind of family she had never met, and perhaps swaying her opinion.Will Shank (right) with his family

But na-a-ah! People who advertise their opinions on their bumpers think that they are safe behind the wheel, where other drivers can only grumble their opposing views while passing them on the freeway. As this woman peeled the backing off that sticker and put it on her car, she probably thought smugly that all of her neighbors felt the same way and that she was performing a cheerful public service. She needed to know that she, and her community, were not necessarily right. Just righteous.

We hadn't gone to the trouble of getting married at San Francisco's City Hall during the Valentine ceremonies of 2004 for nothing. We were not the type to shut up about marriage equality.

I had felt vindicated in a small way. And with my heart still pumping adrenaline, I had gone back into the sweet-smelling store and bought a dozen doughnut holes: three glazed, three cake, three cinnamon, and three chocolate.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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