My bigoted valentine

He was a good-looking pilot and he wanted to fly me to romantic places. Then he began ranting about gays, peaceniks and "p.c. girls."

Published August 27, 2003 6:56PM (EDT)

The KKK brought my baby to me

Living in a very conservative part of the country, I had come to the conclusion that the only way a nice liberal girl like myself was ever going to get a decent date would be to move away. When a longtime friend of mine with lots of new conservative friends invited me to a backyard barbecue, I almost turned the invitation down, especially since I was no huge fan of heat, flies or barbecued food. But he was a good friend, so I put on my favorite sundress and went anyway.

I soon noticed two men I had met on several previous occasions. One was a gregarious sort, liberal, and always willing to speak his mind; the other was the complete opposite, didn't speak a word. He was so shy, in fact, that in six years of acquaintance I had heard him speak a total of maybe three sentences.

The other friends were all new, conservative and downright racist. Throughout the party, one man continually spouted angry diatribes against a particular minority and how they were turning the white man's country into a hellhole. Although the gregarious guy and I argued back fiercely, we were no match for this jerk. Before long, I noticed that the two old friends were gone. When I excused myself to go to the restroom, I found them in the living room. They said they couldn't deal with "cross burner" any longer and they were taking off, and so we three bid our host goodbye and took off for the neighborhood bar.

We sat chatting until the gregarious friend decided to call it a night. I was alone with shy guy and not sure at all how I would keep a conversation going. That was when I found out that shy guy could actually speak! He was funny! He was smart! And he was even more liberal than I was. I don't remember exactly what we talked about that night, but I do know that by the time I got into my car to go home, the bar was closed and I was hooked. When anyone asked how we began dating, I would say that "KKK Chad" (as he had since become known in our circle) brought us together. In fact, I even toasted him in absentia at our wedding rehearsal dinner.

I still occasionally toast KKK Chad for bringing my husband and me together and for fueling our decision to escape to a more liberal part of the country.

-- Jamie Cantwell

Homophobes on parade

On a business flight to L.A. I found myself easily chatting with a man in the seat next to me. He told me that he was a pilot with the airline we were flying on and we chatted about the airline industry and flying in general. The flight ended, he asked for my phone number and I gave it to him. I was flattered -- it had been a while since I had dated, much less been picked up by a good-looking professional. We didn't live in the same city, but as a pilot, he explained to me, he could fly anywhere to see me.

He called me the next day and we arranged to meet in San Francisco in a couple of weeks when I was there for a weekend business trip. He would fly up and back in the same night. We would have dinner in Fisherman's Wharf; he said he knew a nice restaurant. We could walk to Ghirardelli Square afterward. I was elated -- I had a romantic first date in San Francisco to look forward to.

But then we kept talking. And he brought up politics. He described himself as "more of a conservative Republican." I responded that I was about as bleeding-heart liberal as they get. We talked more. I tried to be open-minded because I didn't want to judge someone solely on the basis of their party background. There are nice Republicans out there. I should just get to know him better.

He asked me if I was "one of those p.c. girls" who referred to blacks as "African-American." I was calm and patient as I explained feminism and power dynamics in gender relations and how such knowledge did not make me a femi-nazi. After all, maybe he just didn't know. But then he started talking about how horrible it was that those hippie peaceniks were out there protesting and carrying on about being conscientious objectors. I informed him that my father was a conscientious objector. He could tell he had made a mistake and that I was upset, so he pleaded with me to keep our date. "I'll make it up to you," he promised.

So I went with it. Because I don't discriminate on the basis of something as trivial as party affiliation.

A few days closer to our rendezvous, he called to explain that the flight schedule to and from San Francisco had changed and he would no longer be able to fly there and back in one evening. So he would get a hotel room. And what hotel was I going to be at? I felt really uncomfortable and I didn't think it wasn't such a good idea. Blaring sirens were going off in my head. But he persisted and said it would be fun and he would be a gentleman. So I relented. After all, I don't discriminate against Republicans.

We met at the appointed time and went to dinner. The food wasn't great and the conversation was limited since we had banned politics. We spent dinner talking about our jobs, the weather, and growing up. As it turns out, he was the homecoming king at his prom. I was the social misfit who brought my gay best friend as my date. Perhaps in order to endear me to his open-mindedness about gay men, he conversed with me about his interactions with the male stewards on his airline. His comment: "Wow, those people really like to serve."

We finished dinner and walked towards Ghirardelli Square. On the way, we encountered a skinny, cleanly dressed, effeminate gay man walking down the street in the opposite direction, yelling at a friend of his down the block. I wasn't paying much attention -- we were in San Francisco, after all. But suddenly I heard audible sighing and groaning from my date. Getting irritated, I asked him what his problem was. Was he scared or something? He said, "Of course I am."

With disbelief, I asked, "You're serious. You're afraid of that man over there who is half your size?"

He looked at me and said, "Come on, if that man came over and put his hand on your shoulder, tell me you wouldn't be scared."

"If that man did come over," I replied, "it wouldn't be to touch MY shoulder."

I drove him to his hotel and politely said good night. When he called back to tell me how much he had enjoyed our time together and that he wanted to take me to Hawaii, I told him no. I had decided it was just fine to discriminate on the basis of ignorance, racism and blatant homophobia.

-- Beth M. Duckles

By Salon Staff

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