How do you celebrate your birthday when the world is seemingly crumbling all around you?
Being that my birthday is always on Labor Day weekend, I wanted to take the long weekend and create an extended celebration. However, with the impending threat of COVID-19, it became clear early in the year that my birthday plans would either result in chilling on the couch or heading somewhere within four hours driving distance (i.e Atlanta). I was not in the mood to make the trek to ATL Pride this year, and the all too familiar sands of Myrtle Beach weren’t an option either. Yet, Savannah was a good middle ground to give me a bit of normalcy to enjoy myself; close to the water with a Southern city vibe. (Note: Savannah also has a mask mandate in the city limits and enforced social distancing protocols; a definite comfort). With the destination set, my boyfriend and I packed up the car and set out for a weekend of much-needed relaxation.
The trip overall went off without a hitch. We spent most of our time walking the streets of the historic district and enjoying the ocean at Tybee Island during the day and eating at the local dive bars at night. A historical trolley tour showed us some of the landmarks and centuries-old architecture around town, and we took in a drag show at the famed Club One in downtown Savannah as well. As much as I tend to avoid the clubs back home, I couldn’t help but to drop it down and channel my inner Megan Thee Stallion put my twerking knees to work in the downstairs bar, rusty as they may have been. I can say that after months of steering clear of more than five people at a time, it was good to see people out drinking at bars and eating in restaurants and to be a part of that.
After a few days, it was time to pack up and head back home to Charlotte. The adventure had come to an end and time to head back to pointless Zoom meetings and the mountain of emails that awaited me. As we drove home and reflected on our time in Savannah, my boyfriend pointed out that all eyes were definitely on us throughout the trip. You see one of the main points of this trip was also for me to show off the new sewing skills I picked up over the past few months. I spent the weeks leading up to the trip in my sewing studio perfecting techniques and watching tutorials on how to create everything from hats, vests, shorts, tank tops, and anything else I would need for a beach vacation. Of course, there were matching masks for each outfit as well!
Though we both received compliments on our style from passers-by, we also got some looks of “what the hell these negroes got on?” Amid all my excitement I didn’t notice the looks and stares, but he was a bit aggravated towards the end of the trip with some of the disapproving glances. He was curious to know why I would choose a city like Savannah to spend my birthday; a city seemingly lacking a significant black and gay cultural scene. Aside from the beach at Tybee Island and the drag bar, there wasn’t much else going on. We both knew full well the probability of having a “hot girl summer” while there was slim to none. Even in 2020, Savannah is very much a classic Southern city: very traditional and low-key. Still, he was concerned that I might be disappointed that all my hard work in creating outfits would go unappreciated by folks who didn’t seem to get my aesthetic.
And he had a point. We were the best dressed anywhere we went in town, even on our chill days exploring the city. Presentation is very important to both of us, so we were always going to look like we at least TRIED with whatever we wore and made sure to put on lotion (yes, there was an abundance of ashiness both on and off the beach). Our exposed thighs, his open shirts, and my neon colors might have been better appreciated at ATL Pride or strutting down a palm tree-lined street in SoCal, but you know what they say about when life gives you lemons. You have to work with what you’re given under the circumstances. This trip was about celebrating life and escaping and I wasn’t going to dim my light for anybody.
So, was Savannah my top choice for a birthday celebration? Not at all. But it was the perfect place to relax, recharge, and realize that at the end of the day it’s not about what anybody else thinks of me or if I stand out in the crowd. As much as I hate to repeat this tired saying, we are truly living in unprecedented times. There’s so much negativity and division happening all around and social media floods us with this same narrative every day. It makes you realize how petty and insignificant most of our worries are. I could care less about some woman staring me down because I’m in a muscle top and red fedora, or a guy side-eyeing me cause my shorts cut off mid-thigh and I have my gold anklets on. Conversely, if I had decided to go to Atlanta for Pride, it wouldn’t phase me if another gay man whispered about me to his crew or tried to size me up from across the bar- which has happened on numerous occasions. You have to ask yourself “who am I living for?”. Is it yourself or the approval of somebody else?
The choice is yours, so choose wisely.