This story takes place around 2016, at the time I was *dating a couple who we will call Sparky and Violet.
It was during the summer of 2016 and I wanted to make a surprise visit to a person I was dating, Sparky. (I would never suggest doing this unless you know that the person likes these kinds of surprises and you have someone to coordinate with like their live-in partner.) Violet and Sparky were having a date night and Violet was kind enough to let me crash in after their dinner plans.
The plan was: they would go to dinner and I would meet them outside after dinner in downtown Augusta, GA. If you’ve never been, it’s a pretty typical southern downtown filled with vintage stores, antiquing, quaint boutiques, and restaurants.
Since this was a covert operation I decided I also needed a disguise, my usual style of dress and hair style stood out in most areas. At the time I was sporting a Chelsea haircut (shaved head except for one long lock of hair that functioned as bangs) so a wig was in order. The only wig I had that wasn’t blue, huge or glitter was a long black acrylic wig that gets tangled if you look at it funny and so I also added a baseball cap to help contain it. I also put on shorts, a tank top and a flannel with rolled up sleeves.
When I arrived in downtown Augusta I messaged Violet to let her know I was around. She said they had just ordered food so it would be a few before they would be exiting the restaurant. Since I had some time to kill I decided to get a drink at the bar a couple doors down from the restaurant after confidently walking past the restaurant window in my disguise. **This bar exists in every small town. There’s little to no windows; there’s a few neon signs advertising Budweiser, Coors and Miller Highlife; and when you walk in it’s dimly lit and smells like stale cigarettes and damp rags. The place was mostly empty but there were a couple of tables on the sidewalk directly in front of the bar that would be a great place to wait and keep an eye on the door Violet and Sparky would eventually exit from.
I ordered my beer and asked if I could take it outside. The bartender took my beer and poured it into a red solo cup and handed it back, “Here yah go. Open container laws, you know?” I nodded, sauntered outside and had a seat facing the street. Almost immediately after I sat down a man walked out of the bar and followed me to my seat. “Mind if I sit with you?” he said. “Oh, no thank you. I’m waiting on friends.” I said. He was a thin white man with a grayish tint to his leathery skin, wearing a t-shirt and jeans. “I’ll sit with you until your friends get here then.” he said and sat down. Right away this man revealed he has a problem with consent, but I was in a public space and not in the mood to see what happens if I really push “no” on him so I smiled that awkward smile and took a sip of my beer. “Are you from around here?” he asked and I was ***very relieved to be able to honestly say “no, I’m visiting from Atlanta.” he continued with the small talk and I continued to look hopefully at the door to the restaurant hoping Violet and Sparky would emerge saving me from this tedious conversation. Then the conversation became very problematic.
He leaned in, “Just so you know, my ex wife is from New Mexico so I’m okay with all of this.” As he said “all of this” he motioned to his own face and hair insinuating he was okay with my face and hair (****which wasn’t actually my hair). “Excuse me?” I said. Which is often the response I have when faced with racist or sexist comments because I can’t believe someone would say something so misguided. “You’re Indian, right?” he continued. My eyes widened in disbelief, “I’m Lumbee if that’s what you mean.” He kept going, “Is that from here?” my speech slowed as if I was talking to a child with a head injury “No, North Carolina.” As this conversation took a turn from forgettable to remembered for all the wrong reasons, I was so distracted I didn’t notice Sparky and Violet had left the restaurant and walked right past me.
As my vision returned to normal from the narrow gaze of disbelief I could see Sparky and Violet about half a block away just over my forced beer date’s shoulder. I quickly pulled out my phone and started texting,”I’m here, you walked right past me!” I saw Violet stop, take out her phone to read the message and then turn around and started scanning the sidewalk. I began frantically waving. “My friends are here,” I said with finality. He turned to see who I was waving at. Violet and Sparky started walking back towards me. “I was looking for someone sitting alone and walked right past you!” Violet said. “You’re here!” Sparky exclaimed excitedly. I couldn’t get out of my seat fast enough as I said “have a nice evening” to the man.
As we walked away Sparky commented on my wig “aren’t you hot?” “Yeah, but it’s the performer in me. I’ll take it off when we get to my car.” We dropped off the wig and flannel at my car and collectively decided to take a stroll while we were downtown. We turned onto the street where the bar was, but about a block down walking away from the bar. The man stood up and started yelling “Hey! Tell your friend….” as he spoke, all three of us (who were walking with our arms around each other’s waist, me in the middle) turned around and he stopped dead in his tracks. “Oh” he stuttered “okay…yeah, that’s fine.” I turned to Sparky and Violet, “I think we just blew that guys mind.” Violet responded “who was that guy anyway?” “Just some guy,” I said.
*I’m poly and at the time was dating two people who were in a pre existing relationship. Every poly structure is as different as the people involved. In this particular structure I was dating them individually and as a couple.
** I’m not saying there is a chain of these bars, but rather every small city or town I’ve ever been to has a bar like this that the locals typically frequent. In some cases this local bar will be the only place you can buy a drink for miles. And pro tip: keep your drink orders simple (beer, whiskey are acceptable).
*** To my straight male readers: When a guy, right off the bat, shows he has an issue with consent by not leaving when a person says “no thank you,” and then asks “Are you from around here?” It causes anxiety because you don’t know if this person will try and follow you home or stalk you. And some straight men have learned that women will lie to protect themselves and be safe, so sometimes they follow you anyway. (I’ll write my most extreme example of this in a different post.)
**** His comment about my hair was offensive on two fronts: 1) that cheap black wig was not my hair. (2) Indigenous people’s hair does not look like a cheap acrylic wig.