It’s difficult to find a context in which I can compliment strangers and they are okay with it. This is not the fault of the strangers. This is because I am a tall white dude, and compliments from tall white dudes historically come with ulterior motives. Generally, people who I compliment assume I want something out of them, and try to get away as quickly as possible.
The exception is drunk people. Drunk people make sweeping assumptions about the world. Either everyone is terrible, or everyone is great. I needed to find a large group of drunk people who were all under the assumption that everyone was great, and compliment the shit out of them.
Luckily, my friends and I found such a place readily available. The Chicago pride parade (and pretty much any pride parade anywhere) would probably be best described as a flash flood of shitfaced party clowns. On Sunday morning, the day of the Parade, everyone is already joyfully inebriated, strutting down the street and waggling their sex parts at everyone in sight. By late afternoon, the street is full of equal parts broken glass and young adults weeping in brightly colored tank tops. We needed to catch these people before the latter stage, and give them a little something to keep their self esteem high.
Thus, the Complimentary Pride station.
We met at Duo’s place a few weeks before the event to build the banner. That’s when we came up with the name, and the idea of putting a fringe of take-away compliments along the bottom. Stuff like “You are Electric,” and “You are a Tiger” and “I bet you can drink the most drinks.” Then, on the day of, Polly and I dragged the sign to a Dunkin Donuts near the parade route and used a healthy quantity of packing tape to secure the pieces into their final form.
And then we ran out of take away compliments. Immediately.
While Polly frantically created another wave of compliments by cutting a fringe into the bottom of the banner, me and the other collaborators stood on the sidewalk, shouting nice things at the technicolor crowd. I quickly realized that this was maybe he one place in Chicago where I could get away with unapologetic catcalling, and it was liberating. My favorite compliment became “YOU ARE HOT. AND I AM NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT THE WEATHER.”
Polly’s arm tired, and I took over writing compliments. People were grabbing them right out of my hands, some of them not even written on yet! People really wanted them some compliments! Early on, I watched a woman take about six for herself, looking at each one individually and nodding. I made her promise to give out the extras to those in need.
When we ran out of our second wave of compliments, we decided to pack it in. It was a murderously hot day, and to be honest I was really really hung over. But even through the dehydration, I felt real joy in the core of my being. I felt … dare I say it … Pride.
We encourage you to come share your Love Letters at the live show! If you post a Love Letters story in the comments here, you get into the show for free.
A Month Of
Stage 773 1225 W. Belmont
Wed July 9th 7:30-10:00
$10 free with a posted story or shared dish