ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was inspired by discussions with [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and [personal profile] lynnoconnacht. It also fills the "FREE    SPACE: coming out (of the closet)" square in my 1-2-14 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. This poem belongs to the Antimatter & Stalwart Stan thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains some intense material, and some of the warnings are spoilers; highlight to read them. There are good intentions turning out badly, verbal abuse, hostility toward people with superpowers, crappy relationship skills (and some good ones too), self-consciousness, fluff and angst, public rejection, and other touchy topics. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether you want to read onward.


"Pride and Shame"


It took two months for Stan
to muster his courage enough
to decide to go to Proud Horizons,
because despite what he'd said about
disliking discrimination, questioning
his own orientation made him uneasy.

It took another month for him
to talk Lawrence into coming along,
and he was the whole reason for going.

They were definitely Stan and Lawrence,
not Stalwart Stan and Antimatter,
on this particular occasion.

It felt strange to be walking side by side,
Lawrence's silver heart locket bumping gently
against the front of his plain black hoodie,
Stan dressed down in blue jeans under
a sweater of soft yellow and green.

The black dye that Lawrence used
had burned off again, leaving
the bright banner of his hair free
to flutter in the brisk November breeze.

Stan liked it better that way,
even if the starlit glow made it
more conspicuous, because
the dye left Lawrence's hair
dull and lank against his back.

When the two of them reached
the First United Methodist Church,
Stan opened the door for Lawrence
and tried to ignore the way
that the smaller boy's smile
gave him goosebumps.

"Hey, Rudolph, take your
reindeer games somewhere else!"
snapped a girl in a rainbow t-shirt.

Lawrence flinched at the vulgar slurs,
moving closer to Stan so that
they touched lightly along the sides.

"You just blew two-thirds of your rules
in one sentence," Stan said as he
sharply rapped his knuckles
against a sign on the wall.

"Judy, apologize to our new guests,"
said the chaperone, a plump grandmother
to judge from the children's names
embroidered on her vest.
"You did break the rules."

"I'm not apologizing to that,"
Judy said, shaking her head.

Lawrence shivered, a small motion
that cut Stan to the quick.

"Never mind, we're leaving," Stan said firmly.
"Someone told us this was a safe place.
I see now that he was mistaken."

He wrapped an arm around Lawrence,
turned him around, and steered them
both back to the open door.

Stan paused at the threshold and used
the communication function of his fetish
to send Judy a pointed message:
For what it's worth, I have superpowers too.

Her squeak of dismay
gave him a guilty pleasure.

Outside again, they huddled
in the lee of the building,
trying to regain their bearings.

"I'm really sorry about this,"
Stan said. "It's all my fault.
They were awful mean in there.
If I'd known that would happen,
I would never have brought you."

"That cop put you up to it,"
Lawrence pointed out.

"I still thought it was a good idea,
and I talked you into it,"
Stan insisted.

Reminded of the source, though,
he used his communication ability again
to inform Hefty of what went wrong.
We visited that pride club
that you recommended to us --
turns out they hate soups
.

He felt the older man's surprise
at the unexpected contact,
and then Hefty's voice
came back heavy with regret.
I am so sorry to hear that.
My partner and I will speak to them
.

Lawrence pulled up his hood
and started stuffing his hair inside.

"So, will you forgive me?"
Stan asked him.

"I just," Lawrence began,
then swallowed hard,
clearly trying not to cry.
"I just want to go home and
dye my hair so it won't show."

"Please don't," Stan said,
daring to run his fingertips
over the shimmering strands.
"I think it looks nicer like this."

Lawrence snorted at that.
"Well, you're a minority of one."

"It's your hair, though,"
Stan conceded. He smiled,
but the corners of his mouth
kept wanting to turn down.

"I'll think about it," Lawrence said.
At least he stopped trying
to hide his hair in shame.

"Come on, Lawrence, let me
make it up to you," Stan said.
"I'll take you to a movie."

Lawrence narrowed his eyes.
"You've said before that you
don't want to do date things with me,"
he said. "It'll make Angelica jealous."

"Let me worry about my girlfriend,"
said Stan. "What do you think of Frozen?"

"It's a kid movie," Lawrence said,
rolling his eyes at Stan.

"I don't know about you," Stan said,
"but I'm not really in the mood
for explosions or sexy hijinks right now."

"You win," Lawrence said,
and for some reason those words
warmed Stan like hot cider with caramel.

So they went to the theater,
which was full of shrill children
and their harried parents,
the air smelling of melted butter.

Lawrence perked up at the sight
of white cheddar popcorn, though,
so Stan bought the biggest tub they had
and two cups of lemonade because
he remembered that Lawrence
didn't like most kinds of pop.

When the overhead lights dimmed,
Lawrence's hair shone like the moon,
but he tucked it deeper under his hoodie
so that it wouldn't cause a distraction.

Stan could tell that Lawrence
was trying to be careful
not to let their fingers touch
inside the popcorn tub,
but once he got lost in the movie
it happened more often.

Stan found that he
didn't mind it at all.

"She's a soup!"
Lawrence exclaimed
as Elsa made snow for Anna.

"Yeah, Elsa has Ice Powers,"
Stan said, "kind of like Jackie Frost,
or at least that's what I've heard."

Lawrence giggled over "Weasel-town,"
but he seemed particularly tense
about Elsa's efforts to fit in,
and he cried all through "Let It Go."

Stan couldn't even tell
if they were happy tears
or sad tears or both.

Later on, when the trolls
pushed Anna and Kristoff together,
Stan found his own eyes watering
but didn't understand why.

At the climax of the movie,
when Anna froze solid,
Lawrence grabbed Stan's hand
so hard that his fingernails
left little dents in the skin,
but Stan never pulled away.

Afterwards they walked to the bus station,
Lawrence licking white cheddar powder
from his long slim fingers.

"What did you think of the movie?"
Stan asked Lawrence.

"Elsa's parents were jerks,"
Lawrence muttered.

"They made some pretty bad mistakes,"
Stan agreed. "They loved their daughters, though.
I think it's really hard on ordinary parents when
they have to try raising a child with superpowers.
Even if they mean well, most just don't have
everything they need to cope with that."

"I guess," Lawrence said.
"Elsa's powers were beautiful, though.
"I wish --" Then he shook his head. "Never mind.
What did you like best about the movie?"

Watching it with you, Stan thought,
but that was probably inappropriate,
so instead he said, "The trolls.
They were cute little love experts."

Despite the rough beginning,
the day had turned out rather well.

Monday at school went much less well.

"Amy Davidson told me that she saw you
at the movie theater with Lawrence,"
said Angelica, poking Stan in the chest.
"Just what were you thinking?"

Stan spread his hands. "I'm sorry,"
he said. "One of my ideas went sour,
so I bought him a movie ticket
to make up for it."

"And did your injured sense of honor
demand that you watch it with him?"
Angelica snapped.

"Yeah, it did," Lawrence said with a smirk.

"That does it, Stanley Wood!"
Angelica said. "I am so through with you
and the way everybody seems to
throw themselves all over you."
Then she turned and flounced away.

"Well that's hardly a surprise,"
Lawrence drawled, watching her go.

"You're not helping matters any,"
Stan said around the lump in his throat.

"Fine, then!" Lawrence said
as he raked a hand through
his freshly dyed hair.
"Enjoy your life as a loner."
He stormed away.

Stan was not, of course,
anything resembling alone.
News of the breakup
made it around the school
long before lunchtime.

The other boys consoled him
over getting dumped, and
the girls crowded around him
in perfumed, giggling herds.

None of it made him feel any better.

That night Stan did his homework
with his smartphone sitting out on the table,
just in case Angelica decided to call him,
but the glossy screen remained dark.

On Tuesday morning, she
walked right past him in the hall,
as if Stan had turned invisible
or at least unworthy of notice.

The brushoff made him die a little inside.

At lunch, a slim hand caught his shoulder
and Stan spun, his heart leaping with hope
that Angelica had forgiven him.

Instead he found Lawrence.
"What do you want?" Stan asked.

"I want to apologize," Lawrence said.
"I didn't mean to set her off like that.
I'm surprised she didn't go after me
instead of taking it out on you.
So anyway, I'm sorry."

The knot in Stan's chest still hurt,
but it began to loosen a bit.
"Apology accepted," he said,
holding out his hand.

Lawrence just looked at it.

"You're supposed to shake
and make up," Stan prompted.

Lawrence huffed a laugh.
"You are such a boy scout,"
he said, but he shook on it.

"You are such a dork,"
Stan said, but he was smiling,
and when he gently bumped shoulders
with Lawrence, the smaller boy
smiled and nudged him back.

It gave him a little spark of pride
that Lawrence was still willing
to follow his lead after everything.

Maybe, just maybe, things would work out.

* * *

Notes:

Proud Horizons is a queer youth group in Omaha, Nebraska.

Stan's sweater is a larger version of this pattern.

These are the principles of Proud Horizons, of which the middle four were explicitly violated.
We each have an unique and valuable story to tell.
• We respect ourselves by respecting others.
• We can talk about any idea.
• We never make personal attacks.
• We believe diversity enriches us all.
• We respect the privacy of group members by maintaining in confidence what occurs in the group
.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a famous Christmas character. He also happens to be a superhero, as evidenced by his very shiny nose -- which makes him an icon for soups and how they get treated. In Terramagne, "Rudolph" is a vulgar term for anyone with a visible superpower, equivalent to n*gg*r. "Reindeer games" is an equally rude term most often applied to a conspicuous soup in the company of an ordinary person, although the prevalence of inconspicuous superpowers means that the combination can just as easily be two soups. Any disadvantaged group tends to collect slurs -- and words hurt.

Oppressed groups may be targeted for many reasons with a variety of tactics. Queer people may be moved to tolerance after experiencing oppression, but others just want to hit back, making the community intolerant of transfolk and people of color. Oppression often spreads, with people who are picked on later picking on those they consider beneath them, and it has a lot of costs. That kind of displaced anger is also a sign of an abusive personality.

"Safe space" is one where diversity is welcomed and civility is expected. In any group that touches on sensitive issues, sometimes people will rub each other the wrong way. Therefore a safe space needs guidelines for conflict resolution, and if people hurt each other's feelings then they should apologize. What makes for safe space is not a lack of friction, but rather a commitment to deal with it responsibly when it occurs.

Lawrence shows a variety of defensive body language. Stan's protective body language is not just an aspect of his heroism, but also a sign of personal interest.

Jealousy is a common emotion that can wreck relationships. It's one of Angelica's flaws. Know how to deal with jealousy in a mature manner.

Frozen is a fantasy movie about magical powers and personal relationships, which dates this poem to late November 2013.

Breaking up is a natural part of romantic exploration. Angelica manages to combine several of the worst ways to dump someone. There are more sensitive ways to end a relationship, and steps for getting over a breakup.

Perfect timing

Date: 2014-07-15 07:18 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I've been working on details for a teen center in Polychrome, and you provided the link to Proud Horizons at a perfect moment.

Angelica came across as petty and jealous in "Look at Me," making the breakup seem inevitable and impending even THEN. She seems to be 'successful' at high school socializing, which to me is rather akin to "Best Cannibal"-- a foreign concept which may or may not be applicable to the native culture, as it's so alien to me I couldn't BEGIN to judge the situation. (High school was so awful for me that I simply buckled down and exploited rules to take enough credits in three years to graduate with FIFTY extra credits, a full extra semester. I hated the place!)

The thing about Stan is, he's a decent human being, an actual NICE person who is probably going to be bewildered by the breakup for much, much longer than Angelica. Part of the problem was her jealousy, and part of it was just poor circumstance. The difference? I thin her jealousy is the bigger obstacle, which, fortunately, means it's HER problem and not Stan's from now on.

I don't know whether I want to ask about the long-range plans for Stan and Lawrence, because I'm having so much fun watching things as they develop. Really great poem, and than you for this one, too.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-15 03:10 pm (UTC)
dreamwriteremmy: Alexis Bledel, a smiling brunette girl wearing a pink shirt, sitting on a bench (Default)
From: [personal profile] dreamwriteremmy
Ow... That reaction from the pride club reminded me of this spoken word poem (trigger warning - explicit references to basically all of the mentioned oppressions in that section within the notes: sexual harassment, domestic violence, date rape, racial slurs, gender discrimination also adult language) Queer Nation by Kit Yan of the Good Asian Drivers performed at the UUA GA 2008. The Good Asian Drivers in general do a lot of songs and spoken word about issues like this.
Edited (correcting a bunch of things) Date: 2014-07-16 01:22 am (UTC)

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-07-23 02:23 am (UTC)
dreamwriteremmy: Alexis Bledel, a smiling brunette girl wearing a pink shirt, sitting on a bench (Default)
From: [personal profile] dreamwriteremmy
You're welcome. Not sure if this will work better but I found another site with Good Asian Drivers audio http://www.sonicbids.com/band/kityan/audio/ (this is a mix of his poems and Melissa Li's songs from various individual & group albums)

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