Singled Out: The Lesbian Who Wouldn't March
Entertainment publicist and self-confessed skeptic and anti activist Mona Elyafi learned a valuable lesson at the National Equality March for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights!
I must admit that of all the places on earth I could have chosen to spend my October 10-11 weekend, Washington DC was certainly last on my list.
Actually, I take it back. The Capitol was not at all at the bottom of my "Must See Must Go To" hot spots, but at the top of my "Must Avoid At All Cost" destination list as the ultimate # 1 city to stay away from on that one specific weekend.
First of all, marching is not an intense enough workout for me, and as a cardinal rule of thumb, I usually never leave the house with tennis shoes on, unless I know for sure that I'm going to break a sweat.
Secondly, I'm French - need I say more?
Ok I will say more because I can already see the condemning frowns on your disapproving faces. But don't crucify me just yet! The real reason I originally had no desire to partake in the National Equality March in DC is because I am claustrophobic and obviously massive crowds and I are not a good match.
I'm not gonna lie! I had my personal reservations apropos the efficacy, objectively speaking, of calling all the united gay nations of America to in front of Capitol Hill.
Forgive me if I am not a fervent activist but for god's sake I was born in 1971 and the only good fight I fought in my short life was to get my MTV and, later, silently protest against the tragic split up of The Spice Girls.
What can I say? I am part of the "just say no" generation.
All of that changed when on the Thursday before THE march I got THE call.
"I need you to go to Washington DC with me," my client informed.
Of course I didn't say it out loud but was thinking it.
"Sure," I replied, single-handedly sealing my fate for what was surely going to be a laborious weekend.
I immediately packed my bags and, professional ethics required, informed everybody - the clients I was leaving behind in LA and the business acquaintances en route and/or already stationed in DC, that I would be traveling to the nation's Capitol as a publicist ... and a writer too.
Armed with my MacBook, my digital camera and video, my iPhone, my blue tooth, my crackberry, blueberry, strawberry and blackberry too, I arrived VIP style at The Madison Hotel in DC - the official headquarters..
The venue was a zoo. Young kids sporting pro-equality t-shirts had imposingly invaded the lobby. It was a total war zone with myriads of militant rising propaganda banners and billboards in support of LGBT rights.
Naturally I rushed to retreat in my hotel room. It was already too much brouhaha for my poor head, which had just suffered through five long hours stuck on a plane -in coach-- trapped next to a Tom Arnold look-alike who just wouldn't shut up.
I barely had time to rest before my phone went off the hook. Time out was clearly over. And so began the madness...
Juggling between my PR dealings for my client and my journalist reporting duty, I morphed into the energizer bunny - I kept on going and going and going covering everything, everywhere with everybody. My life suddenly turned into around the clock steamy love affair with my fancy high tech gimmicks courtesy of those social networks -- you might have heard of them -- called Twitter and Facebook.
Since I never do things half-assed -- in the span of two days I carbureted on very little amount sleep and food to feed my depleted body.
As a matter of fact, as I am writing this column, my feet are throbbing from the ungodly hours of non-stop walking, running and sprinting to get to the heart of the action no matter what it took. As for my hands, well one of them is soaking in Epsom Salts while the other is agonizingly typing. Frankly, I can barely move my fingers after all the Twittering, Facebooking, iPhoning, flashing, filming and clicking. Oh and let's not forget my eyes swollen shut from all the "squish squish" activities - I hadn't cried in years and now I am facially disfigured.
But, as I was about to find out, it was all worth it.
I arrived in Washington DC a skeptical non-believer but I left with an unexpected, renewed faith. And I owe my spiritual epiphany to this one special man who made a huge difference by absolutely changing my life.
There I was sitting on a couch in the bar area of the hotel trying to regroup my thoughts with a bubbly umbrella drink while the rest of the mass was rushing like bees to honey to get to the adjacent room to hear the man of the hour, Cleve Jones, deliver his informal pre-march speech. I had every intention of joining my fellow protesters but unbeknownst to me God intended differently. That was when I heard my name.
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"Monaaaaaaaa!!!!!" a random gentleman belched out as if he had just won the Lotto.
Of course I gave him my menacing stare - you know the one that diplomatically says "who the fuck are you?"
"Singled Out, right?" he proceeded to say with the same level of flamboyant excitement.
My face immediately changed from mean bitch to sweetheart.
"Yes, that's me" I proudly acknowledged with my sugary voice.
"Oh My God, I can't believe it - I read your columns all the time," my new found hero said.
Wow! I have a fan...for real! Somebody other than my mom reads my column and I had to travel all the way to DC to find out. Who knew?
I contemplated offering him my autograph but at the last minute opted not to for fear of intimidating him - I totally know what it's like to be a fan and the feeling you get when being in the presence of your idol. That's right I said idol!
Clearly what this meant was that I had finally arrived.
I'm a celebrity now and I did it all without being a guest (yet) on Oprah.
Essentially I had been caught doing something noble for my adoptive country and was being rewarded for it.
Now if this sounds like Mona's pontification well it's because it totally is! And you know what else? I lied! All of the above is the fruit of my pompous imagination - except for my fan (I swear he really exists).
Ideally my DC experience should have been about rolling up my sleeves and getting down and dirty with the 150,000 and plus people who admiringly rallied in front of Capitol Hill. But I didn't. Not only did I cab everything, but I also spent all of my time backstage with my client, the other celebrities and the VIPs.
While hyping it all in writing -- as some have done -- would have make me look like the superstar that I absolutely was not, it would have also - as illustrated above - royally made me sound like a total ass.
Admittedly, albeit my innate skepticism, the march did transform me.
Even from my privileged backstage spot, I changed my mind. And with all due respect, it was not because of the Lady Gaga celebrity factor but because of a little toddler who was restlessly running around behind the stage with a billboard twice his size reading "Equality Now." It struck me then that he was truly THE one making history - that, and a certain British singer, who appeared at the march, who showed me that - to quote one of our cab drivers - "IMPOSSIBLE" really means "I'M POSSIBLE."
This one's for you Sunshine!
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