Discover more from Fern and Joe
So I Took our Grandson to a Drag Show at the Public Library
Fern: Let’s talk about drag shows -- because as you know, this is a very significant problem in Iowa.
Joe: Well, not as much as soil erosion. Or eminent domain.
Fern: I took Joey to two drag shows actually. My response when I heard that our local library was sponsoring a drag show for children was: At the library, of all places? Oh, sounds like fun! I don’t remember exactly how old Joey was then. I think he was about two
.Joe: You took him to a drag show when he still had his pacifier.
Fern: Well, at least he wasn’t smoking.
Joe: Where was I that day?
Fern: You didn’t want to go with us. I think you were creeped out by the concept.
Joe: I was, actually.
Fern: Have you ever even been to a drag show?
Joe: I went to my first (and last) drag show in 1989 in Provincetown, Massachusetts. I saw some really talented performance artists doing impressions of Marilyn Monroe, Blondie, Cher. And they were also pretty good singers. And while they might be described as sexy, they seemed to be in it for the fun and surprise of it all. And the exaggerated costumes, wigs: glossy make-up, stiletto heels, nails out to here.
Fern: How did the audience react? I assume they were adults.
Joe: The audience loved it. It was mostly women, it seemed to me. And men who probably were a lot more comfortable with their feminine side than I am.
Fern: You’re comfortable with your feminine side. You cry at sad movies. You get your feelings hurt a lot more than I do.
Joe: Almost anyone does.
Fern: I’m just not as sensitive as you are.
Joe: Okay I’ll come clean: I don’t like sports, either. And rock concerts, too. To me a concert is just one damn song after another while the people crowded around you are whistling and screaming. And at every concert everybody stands up at the first song and stays standing throughout the whole event. And don’t ask me about how much I hate encores. Just when you think the concert is over and you can finally sit down….
Fern: Some people see men dressed in drag as performers wearing a costume. Like a clown, for instance, wearing a special outfit and makeup to play a role.
Joe: Clowns! Another thing I can’t stand. I’m with Kramer on that one.
Fern: Maybe you are a bit of a fuddy-duddy. (That’s a word I don’t think I’ve ever used.)
Joe: Ok. But what I do not understand, and nobody’s been able to explain to me, is why a children story hour is presented by males in drag. I grew up Catholic, so maybe it’s something my personal blind spots just don’t allow me to see. The closest I’ve been able to come to it is by assuming that maybe it normalizes the sexual spectrum, presents it as something joyful and fun and funny, and not the big scary thing that the priests and nuns of my growing up made seem so grim and joyless.
Fern: Well, in Catholicism, there are men in costume as well.
Joe: Yeah, and that can be scary, too. But a drag show for children at the library? Why at the library?
Fern: I’m reading a great book now, The Library, by Susan Orlean. It really opened my eyes. It’s about the great fire that burned down the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986. Not too many people knew about it even then because it happened the same day as the nuclear accident at Chernolbyl. Anyway, the book tells the larger history of libraries around the world the role of librarians.
Joe: You’re interested in librarians?
Fern: They’re super-heroes actually. Librarians get a bad rap as being stodgy, prissy old ladies. Most librarians are actually activists. And progressives. And librarians are never about banning books.
Joe: So progressive librarians host drag performances for children?
Fern: Exactly. The show at the library was for children. Not what you saw at Provincetown. The atmosphere was not sexualized. There were songs from Frozen. One performer dressed as Snow White. Kids came up and gave the performers dollar bills.
Joe: Like at the Bada Bing.
Fern:No. It wasn’t sleazy at all. It was like tipping a really good street performer. Putting money in the hat. Or giving it straight away to the singer. It gave kids in the audience a sense of agency to go up by themselves and tip the performers.
Joe: I used to love going to the library when I was a little boy, first learning English. Going through the stacks, there was always the excitement of discovery. That’s what libraries mean to me.
Fern: Libraries are more than that now. And good for them. It’s a welcoming place for community. For everyone in the community to learn and to grow and to explore and . . .
Joe: That sounds right. But a drag show at the library? I still don’t get it.
Fern: Hon, it’s never too late to loosen up.