“Living in a country where no matter who you are or where you come from, you can grow up and become what you’ve always dreamed of, makes me, Amber Atkins, proud to be an American!”

–Amber Atkins, A Proud American

 

What’s so inspiring about Amber’s run-on sentence is how she truly believed in country pride when she competed in the 1999 Sarah Rose Cosmetics American Teen Princess Pageant. I find people are far less proud nineteen years later. Much has happened since that pageant took place. Saturday morning cartoons went off the air, a shocking amount of people went ‘gluten-free,’ and the documentary that chronicled Amber Atkins in her pageant, _Drop Dead Gorgeous, never got the digital release it deserved. It didn’t even get a Blu-ray release for cry-eye! People find it harder to have pride these days, but I say it is in these trying times we must look at unconventional things to be proud of, or even proud-ish of. I use proud-ish for moments when certain people are allowed to know I pride myself in something, but I wouldn’t scream it off the mountain tops. For example, I’m proud-ish of my tacky taste for almost everything! I await every Fall with glee as I tent outside of the Starbucks on Ponce for days to get my first P.S.L. of the season. The thought of that sweet artificial nectar caressing my lips and gently lubricating the crevices where my tonsils used to be, gets me through some of the toughest days. In fact, I’m drinking one right now!

 

For this year’s Pride celebration, I decided to share a story from my past of a friend who had a hard time choosing between what she was proud of and what she was proud-ish of. Her name was Rhetorica, and back in 2008, she opened up to me about her pride dilemma. More correctly the Pride dilemma, as it was about the Gay Pride celebration. I love Pride! I love seeing people run around drunk, collecting rainbow-colored everything under the Sun.

 

Rhetorica, however, was torn between her two prides that year. She couldn’t decide between staying in Atlanta for Pride or going to the lavish Fire Island orgy that one muscle daddy, doctor throws every year. Her spirit was set on celebrating love and liberation in the city she called home, but her heart was set on getting ‘Lazy-Susan’d’ by seemingly endless lines of New York locals. She was a proud Atlantan, but also a proud-ish Spread-Eagle enthusiast. To help her out, I asked Rhetorica a question. What if you could do both? The thought seemed impossible, so I showed her how to achieve both her wishes easily. We went downtown to speak with the Pride committee (and please don’t fact-check me on this). I marched into their headquarters and asked that we move the Atlanta Pride celebration to a later month. Almost unanimously, everyone agreed.

 

See, in the South, the month of June (universal Pride month) is essentially as hot as the surface of Mercury, and the month of October (Atlanta Gay Pride month) would give people a fun pre-game weekend to Halloween. Rhetorica called me from Fire Island squealing in joy of what I could only imagine was due to her getting to celebrate Pride twice that year. She didn’t have to settle between what she was proud of and what she was proud-ish of.

 

This year, as we continue to brave the unpredictable nature of the world, let us not lose our pride at the small hands of orange-tanned and Toad-shaped obstacles. Let us focus on the random, unconventional joys we are proud of, and those we are proud-ish of.

 

Yours in pride,

Mitzi Pennington

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