This particular 4th of July brought back a memory from the summer of 1962.
I had just graduated 8th grade and was looking forward to the summertime after surviving Miss Wolcott’s home ec class. It had been a pretty good school year otherwise. And, in fact, because of Miss Wolcott’s class, I had met and become friends with Michaelann, a classmate who had an equally fanatical crush on George Maharis from the tv show Route 66. So much so that she and I would meet at her house after school to write script parodies of the show ala Mad Magazine style.
We were a great team coming up with funny storylines and dialog. It was good practice and a great way to further worship our mutual celebrity heartthrob together.
School ended and our friendship went on a summer hiatus. I hadn’t seen or talked to Michaelann since the end of spring semester. We had friends in common but I just didn’t seem to have the social skills and relative ease the rest of them had with each other.
I mean, we’re talking about the girl who showed up to the 8th grade class girls’ tea in an improvised outfit of a pretty yellow dress with white gloves, and my mother’s blue springolator heels. I looked perky and pressed even if I didn’t match. Even so, it had taken me some time to get up my courage to attend on such a last minute basis. Nervously, I knocked on the oceanfront mansion’s door. With one up and down look, the mother hosting the tea turned me away. Not prompt or fancy enough for the event, I walked away a confirmed outsider.
Mother was mortified that I had committed such a social faux pas in a town that was staunchly dedicated to everyone who was anyone following social protocols correctly. To do otherwise labeled you a social outcast, someone with no sense of political correctness.
It came as somewhat of a doubly bitter surprise when Michaelann’s mother allowed her to invite some of her friends to be on the town’s Red Cross float for the 4th of July parade. I was not one of them, and watched as their float went by with all the “chosen” on board waving happily.
At the time, it hurt me badly. I took it personally as a slight instead of seeing it as a gift and a validator in disguise. My lack of social standing and means had designated me “politically incorrect” to hang out with.
I was then and still tend to be politically incorrect. Not rudely, at least not most of the time. But when there’s clearly a disconnect between what is fair, and a status quo favoring the privileged few at the expense of the “unchosen”, I feel duty bound to be on the side of political incorrectness because it’s the right side to be on.
Perhaps this is too grandiose an analogy between a missed social opportunity and our country’s current political and societal minefield. But just like then, the parade will continue on. And once again, the parade can try to pass by me and countless others. But you can’t take away a person’s will to be included. You will only fan that person’s desire for inclusion.
And welcome or not, politically correct or not, my place in the parade is where I say it’s fairest for me to stand. And that goes for any other “unchosens” who choose to march for what’s right.