I was at a party thrown by my friends Jonathan Van Meter and Louis Mazza when they lived on Ventnor Avenue over a barber shop. The party was in full rage, fashionable and creative people populated every room, Charlie Heiser had his ever-present camera snapping artful pictures of all the guests. The tables were full of cheeses and crackers, bottles of alcohol, pretzels, chips, the usual fare of post-graduate young gay men. There was an eclectic group of guests, downbeach doyennes and uptown club-kids, it was the perfect mix to keep things interesting and everyone chatted up everyone else. Jon had a way of mixing his guests like a perfect Martini, it was intoxicating but in a classy way, the perfect blend of ingredients with just enough garnish.
I remember being in Louis' room standing next to the radiator deep in a political conversation with my friend Carol Tadley, Ronald Reagan was the topic. Surprisingly, I was lauding his merits at the time, I admit that I was caught up in his patriotic rhetoric and aw-shucks shucksterisms and she was staunchly, rabidly, anti-Reagan, so much so that I was finding it difficult to counter her arguments with anything of substance. Our exchange got heated at times, both of us were not willing to give ground. As I said, I found my stance wobbly on the facts of his presidential legacy but I refused to concede defeat. I was very young and full of ideas and determination, in that way you are only when you are very young.
Suddenly, she hit me with a direct question, 'Who did you vote for in the last election?'
I looked at her and confessed that I didn't vote and never had.
Her entire demeanour changed instantly and, with a dismissive tone she said, 'This conversation is over. You don't vote, you can't have an opinion.' and she walked away to freshen her cocktail.
I stood there, dumbfounded. Yes, I had been losing the argument anyway but with a simple sentence, she completely changed my entire world view (and destroyed whatever defence I had left). If I am not willing to cast my vote, my opinions are moot. I was not a part of the democratic process. My voice did not matter.
Shortly after this conversation, I registered to vote and have done so in every single election since. I have to say, it's one of the most simplest and easiest things to do but the sense of pride I feel once I hit that button in the voting booth is enormous. I am part of the process. My vote counts.
I urge all of you to vote. Be a voice. Be heard. Be counted.
And thank you, Carol, for giving me this continuing sense of pride as a voter.