Full, kissable, seductive lips. Smooth, creamy skin. Black hair. Masculine brow. And he’s tall, tall, tall. Cliche and in all ways a Disney prince.
He’s on a rooftop in the middle of a crowd made of straight girls marveling at drag queens, straight boys vying for girls’ affections, and gay boys and girls enchanted by all of the above. We are here today to watch a parade, the finale to a month-long celebration: Twin Cities Pride.
It’s 80 degrees. Sunny. Windless. Humid. The weather is prime for the boastful to take off their shirts, and they do so en masse, but, contrary to the stereotype, the shirtless aren’t Pride’s main attraction. All eyes are on Hennepin Avenue, which today serves as the stage for an annual celebration equal parts party and reflection. Floats, cars, walkers, and banners, representing every facet of the GLBT-A community, soon will march to great fanfare.
Music on the rooftop is a heavy-bass blend of remixed top-40 songs and gay anthems. The crowd erupts when Whitney, Cher, and the Pointer Sisters play. The joy is intoxicating. Subtract from the scene music and weather and the resulting would be a picture to cheer even the grumpiest, most Pride-despising GLBT absentee. Cameras are in no short supply.
I’m dancing when I see him. He’s straight from a fairytale, standing out from the crowd, a statue among chaos. He’s by himself, no doubt in the cross-hairs of many admirers. His beauty is of the order whose members are never seen outside the company of the equally-striking, but there he is, alone and silent.
To my friends I show this Disney prince, and they tease me and tell me to make an approach. But my hair and face are sweat-soaked and ruined, and he is anyway out of my league. I am insecure, and I decide to this man I will remain unknown.
The parade begins. It immediately is clear now to any stranger that diversity and pride today aren’t constrained to sexuality, but beyond and into ideas and interests independent of it. There are musicians, movie junkies, softball players, and rodeo cowboys marching alongside community activists, religious groups, and multinational corporations. It’s exciting in a spine-tingling, proud-of-being-proud sort of way.
Smells delicious and tempting waft from pizza and popcorn vendors below. There are sights of candy-colored stilt walkers, the Pillsbury Doughboy and his brethren, and people dressed in flamboyant Pride-themed costumes. Music plays. Crowds roar. And bright-eyed children proudly stand with their families.
We laugh, cheer, sing, and dance. We drink to our brothers and sisters, to ourselves, and to our history. We toast with strangers and scream “Happy Pride!” to anyone who’ll listen (and, hell, to those who won’t).
It’s adrenaline. Empowerment. Euphoria. Love. All at once. No more wonderful could a packed moment be.
The rush elevates my confidence, and I decide to introduce myself to my Disney prince. I look to where he was to find that he has gone. I search him out and I find the same. Regret’s the word.
The parade ends and celebrants make way toward Pride’s fairgrounds in Loring Park. My friends and I decide to stay a while longer, and over fresh cocktails we share stories from the Prides of our youth, mutually-held and mischief-filled. We gossip about lovers from our pasts and concoct funny, Where-Are-They-Now stories.
During a lull in our conversation, I long for my just-missed Disney prince. I wonder why he was alone, someone so beautiful, and I rack my mind for a reason. Was he too shy to make friends? Too new to the Twin Cities? Or was he an asshole with no hope for friendship?
Suddenly I feel bad for thinking this way, not of him, but of others. I think to what other people I saw alone today, showing off their pride but not their bodies, men unnoticed because they didn’t fit our sparkling, shirtless stereotype.
Among them, I imagine, was perhaps not a Disney prince, but a real one.