I met Dan Savage in the East Room of the White House at the pride reception earlier this year. Put lightly, it was slightly awkward at first.
I've been highly critical of the It Gets Better project and was particularly brutal in my opinion piece on the Google Chrome commercial that featured Dan and the project. I'd heard through the grapevine that Dan was upset about my post, but we'd never talked about it. (Other than a handful of e-mails, we don't normally correspond.)
Jerame pointed out Dan and his partner, Terry, to me during the reception. The couple were at the end of the room talking to other guests. Dan wore an "Evolve Already" button on his shirt.
"If it comes to blows, I'm out. You're on your own," Jerame laughed. We listened to the President's speech together and when we turned around afterward, Dan and Terry were directly behind us.
I've enjoyed Dan's writing for years; hell, I even bought The Kid when it came out. Truth told, I'd rather have been meeting Dan for the first time with the proper amount of jovial camaraderie and kudos for your new acquaintance's work that seems to be required when writers meet.
I know how much criticism can burn - especially with the internet to amplify it. Things get repeated and twisted and the keyboard allows people to say extremely hateful things in anonymity. After a while, it builds up and, at times, it can be overwhelming. There's nothing like waking up in the morning, opening Twitter and seeing exactly all the reasons why you suck in your stream.
I was just critical of a Google Chrome commercial, but I'd seen the piece flung around the web as an attack on Dan. Stepping up to speak to Dan, I didn't want him to think, "Oh God. Here comes that guy who thinks I suck."
Jerame stuck around long enough to introduce himself and then bowed out of the conversation to join a group of friends nearby. Dan, Terry and I had a gracious conversation and established that there were no hard feelings between Dan and me.
When we finished talking I turned around and asked Jerame to take a photo of us. We clinked the champagne flutes together in solidarity as Jerame snapped this picture with his phone.
Before he turned away, Dan asked me if I wanted one of the "Evolve Already" buttons and pinned it on my suit jacket himself. The button was meant to poke at Obama about his "evolving" stance on marriage equality.
As we walked away from the White House that evening, I turned over another meaning in my mind. I'd like to believe I've evolved further than the slavering crowd that loves to talk smack online about people they don't know. It's not easy, but the art is finding the path between critic and curmudgeon.
It's easy to tear down. It's much harder to build. Evolution happens naturally.
I've left the button on my jacket and I'll stop wearing it when Obama has fully evolved into a pro-marriage equality President. He's on the right path too.