Flowers. They are so pretty and they smell real good. I grew up arranging them for competitions. I learned to drive on a dirt road between flower fields. W.C. Fields jokingly called my hometown “the flower seed capitol of the world” when he was there filming The Bank Dick.

I love flowers and I was planning on doing them myself (with some helpers) for the wedding.

My mother was going to be on the flower team, but she started dropping hints that it might be more of a chore than a delight. Eventually, she asked if she could just pay for them to be done professionally. My rule of thumb for DIY projects is this: fun for me and my helpers = DIY. Not fun = hire someone. So I’m looking into florists. Or rather, I’m looking into florists again.

Because I’ve spent the last couple of weeks emailing back and forth with my first choice florist and nailing down details. On Friday, she emailed with a few final questions before putting together her estimate. One of those questions was: what color is your suit and is your bride wearing white or off-white? Uh oh. I’ve only met other women with my first name, but there are men out their who share it and this florist thought I was one of them.

In my response I casually corrected her assumption and answered all her other questions. Then I shut down my work computer, texted my mother to say the flowers were all but taken care of, and headed out to catch my train home.

Later that evening, I checked my email and saw two new messages from the florist. The first one said she had a conflict with our wedding date and wouldn’t be able to do it after all. The second was a short apology for wasting our time. I read them to my girlfriend and said, “well, this excuse is convincing… she hadn’t heard from this other couple in a while, so she didn’t think they were going to use her, but they are and it’s out of town and blah blah blah.”

“That is convincing,” my girlfriend said. “But it’s also convenient.”

Oprah said something about subtle acts of potential racism that I think about often. She said when someone would treat her a little poorly (and I think she meant back in the days when she wasn’t quite so famous), she would wonder “are they just having a bad day, or was that because I’m black?” And you’ll just never know the answer.

I doubt we’ll ever know if the florist’s reason for pulling out is convincing or convenient. I know that the last message I sent her spelled out that we’re a same sex couple. And I know the next time I heard from her, it was to say she’s not available for us. Which is a real bummer.

My brother called a couple of hours after this happened and we commiserated. He said the closer he and my sister-in-law got to their wedding day, the more they found themselves writing checks to keep the forward momentum with vendors. He also said he’d be happy to help with flowers if it came down to it. And he means it. He may be a 6 foot 8 former college water polo player, but he loves flower arranging as much as I do. It made me feel a little better knowing he was in our corner.

On Saturday, we hung out with friends and told them this sad tale of the wayward florist over craft beer. One is a personal chef and said if he double-booked himself, he wouldn’t cancel on a client, he’d hire help so he could honor both of his commitments. Couldn’t the florist have done that? Good point.

This morning on the train to work, I turned this situation around in my head and it made me feel quite sad.

When my girlfriend and I were first dating, I’d do something affectionate in public and she’d say “you’re going to get me killed.” And she was kind of joking, but not really, because she’s been beat up before for being gay.

“Lucky” is a word that feels strange to use in this context, but we’ve been fortunate in that we haven’t really experienced discrimination. I mean… there’s some family stuff. And there’s the nervous anticipation when we walk into a restaurant, or check into a hotel, or rent a car in a foreign place and wonder how many eyes will be on us, or if the customer service will be friendly. And there are those quiet Oprah moments of “was that because…”

We stop holding hands when people are approaching. We kiss in public only when we don’t think anyone will see. Those are habits we’ve assigned ourselves, because we’re wary of testing waters with strangers.

So maybe it’s because we’re careful, or maybe it’s luck, or maybe it’s the freedom granted by a big city in a blue state, but before this thing with the florist, I can’t point to a time where my sexuality interrupted by ability to get something done. I was sad on the train this morning, because I wondered “is this just the beginning?” I’ve worked with probably a dozen people so far on wedding arrangements and only one has proven difficult. But is that ratio going to hold for the rest of our married lives?

I pulled out my phone and scrolled through my podcasts, looking for one to take my mind off my sorrows and pressed play on a recent sermon from the church I (infrequently) attend in Pasadena, All Saints. It was titled “Act as if…” and was delivered by Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay person to become an Episcopal bishop. He talked about the day he was ordained and said there’d been so many death threats, he had to wear a bullet proof vest under his vestments. If you preach about an angry, vindictive God, no one bats an eye, he said. But if you preach about a loving, forgiving, accepting God, people want to take you down. Rt. Rev. Robinson, said we shouldn’t be surprised that this is the case… the Bible tries to warn us: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

He talked about how Jesus heard God say, “you are my beloved, with you I am well pleased” before Jesus went into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Except Rt. Rev. Robinson says he doesn’t think it was a literal devil that Jesus sparred with in the desert. He thinks there was an internal battle within Jesus, just like there’s a battle within all of us. We are told we’re fine just the way we are, but our lives are filled with temptations that can make us think differently. It’s a test. Do we cave? Or do we carry on?

I looked online for a list of LGBT-friendly wedding vendors in Southern California and found the category for florists. On the list, was a shop not too far from our apartment that has the wild and romantic aesthetic I like. I sent them a consultation request and they got right back to me about setting up a date.

“Can you gals send over some photos of flowers you love?”

That’s a question I can answer.





One thought on “When Bias Blooms

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