Saturday, May 24, 2008

All babies want to get borned

Joel and I tabled on behalf of the pro-choice movement today, at the Dane County Farmer's Market. Let it be known: you have not really ever stood for anything, until you have actually stood up and offered free condoms and pins to complete strangers at nine a.m.

As we both could not fathom being up that early without coffee, we were a few minutes late to setting up our booth. When we got there, we found our appropriate corner, and picked out a spot that seemed to be open. Little did we know that we were actually about twenty yards away from our spot - a gem place that had been overtaken by some hip grandmas.

Naturally, we didn't pay attention to the spot we picked. Naturally, our booth ended up being about five feet away from the "learn how to plant a tomato" booth. The only booth in the entire freaking loop that was geared toward children, and our "VOTE PRO-CHOICE" sign is blaring fearlessly at everyone who passed by.

Let's be clear: Madison is a liberal microcosm, and there aren't a lot of angry conservatives with booths at the farmer's market. Yet if there is any place in the entire market where the pro-choicers might feel a little out of place, it's next to the effing tomato booth. Eighty percent of the people who walked by had children, some of whom would walk casually towards our booth in hopes of a sticker. Joel and I silently held our breath as child after child asked "what are they doing?" to their parents. Some of the parents would laugh as they snatched their children's hands and guided them towards the old tomato planting hippies. Others looked horrified and shuffled them along while avoiding all eye contact with us. A fellow intern warned me of a man who last week yelled "they want you dead" to his two year old son in a stroller as he walked past. Tabling is not for the faint of heart.

This is when Joel started reading the manual on tabling etiquette. Apparently, we were supposed to guide people towards our booth by having a "hook" or a "rap". Joel may not know the ins and outs of the movement but he can market like nobody's business. First he came up with "We aren't as bad as we look". Then, as we started to realize that we were in the family oriented corner, he asked if it would be appropriate to yell "Once they're born, we lay off". Settle down, he was whispering these to me... we didn't get desperate or hard core enough to try anything other than shy smiles and casual waves.

The whole day turned around when a dad signed our petition as his kid planted a tomato. He even took an "I heart pro-choice boys" pin for his wife. When his son came over, tomato plant in hand, the dad didn't flinch as he also took an "I heart pro-choice boys" pin. By the time his kid left the booth, he was decked in a few pins that proudly and confusedly stated his preference for anyone that was pro-choice. I didn't even care that we had to replenish our table's goods- we had made a friend! Who had a kid. The mother came up and told us that they had already visited the PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) booth, and that their kids had been educated what it meant to be pro-choice, and how families can be different. In short, I wanted her to adopt me. Or at least invite me to her son's commitment ceremony to another pro-choice man in about fifteen years.

The sun darkened behind a cloud as a friendly looking woman in a joufit approached our table a little while later. I was going to forgive her for her lack of fashion sense when she hesitantly touched our buttons and literature and sighed.

"You guys. You guuyyyys. Pro-choice??", she clucked like a judgy mother hen. Unable to come up with anything intelligent as she looked up expectantly, I returned with the mother of all inappropriate rebuttals.

"Not a fan?"

Embarrassment is not even the right word. I wanted to crawl into a hole for a hot minute so that I could remember the appropriate rhetoric for the opposition.

"Not a fan," she sighed again. "I like children." I spotted her ten year old son hiding behind her and said a silent prayer that he was not constantly inundated with angry pro-life lessons at the dinner table.

"We like children, too" I responded firmly. If she had been listening to any of our conversations today, she would know that is the truth. There were tons of children all around us today and I enjoyed each and every one of them. Even the four satanic boys that were running laps around our table as their parents spaced out on a park bench.

I feel like that is only one of the stereotypes that we faced today. When a middle aged woman came up to the booth and chatted with us about how hard life was pre-Roe v. Wade, she seemed so wise. If we were older like her, we could appear conscientious about our decisions and cause. As it is, I feel like being a young tabler makes people think you are just really promiscuous and irresponsible. This could not be further from the truth, but the invisible scarlet letter seemed to burn out of my chest all day.

Overall, I'd say the morning was a success. We got twenty signatures or so, and an old woman way past her reproductive age took a condom from the booth. Then Joel and I were mistaken for a straight couple at a booth down the road when we were able to walk around for a bit. You bet I milked that, stroking his back like the adoring girlfriend that I am. We joked around about how the couple at the booth probably pitied both of us for not realizing he's gay. It was a day of judgment, and we were the token sinners.