Yes, folks, you read the title right. This week I’m taking sides from the get-go. This is what happens when you’re a liberal living in a red state. You get to vote against gay-marriage bans that pass anyway, you get to watch elected representatives tell your gay friends they can’t adopt kids, and you get to hear all the conservative religious arguments against “the gay lifestyle” just a few too many times.
This week, we’re swapping ultra-conservative wife Kris Gillespie with liberal lesbian Kristina Luffey.
Kris lives her husband, Brian, and their three kids in a million-dollar home in Texas. She doesn’t work outside the home, instead devoting her energies toward making sure the house and kids are all kept pristine and “excellent.” This is, for some reason, Kris’s word to encompass everything, whether she’s trying to make “the dining experience” “excellent” or parenting “excellently” or whatever. It sounds to me like someone took some self-help course that took just a little too well.
Anyway, in the Gillespie house, dirt, clutter, or any other sign of human habitation is no more allowed than PG-13 movies. The children are very sheltered and obedient. The Gillespies say they live life by Biblical strictures, and judging by the size and expense of the house, its furnishings and Kris’ multi-carat diamond jewelry, this is working out for them just fine. So far. Doesn’t the Bible say something about rich men entering the kingdom of Heaven and camels fitting through the eye of a needle?
Also, I will point out that Kris and Brian are an interracial couple, which will be relevant later, due to Kris behaving like a judgmental bigoted beyatch.
Kris will be swapping lives with Kristina Luffey. Kristina lives in Arizona with her partner Nicki Boone and Nicki’s daughter Lizzie. Lizzie is perfectly happy to have two moms, and Kristina says she just wants Lizzie to grow up to be whatever she wants to be. In the meantime, Lizzie, who is 8, is allowed quite a bit of freedom, which includes having her own TV in her bedroom and permission to watch PG-13 movies. Nickie says that if you shelter kids too much, they rebel.
Both Kristina and Nicki work outside the home, but apparently Kristina does the lion’s share of housework as well. Lizzie doesn’t really do chores, and dinner – far from being the full-place-setting “excellent” affair that it is in the Gillespie household – generally involves the microwave and paper plates.
Preparing to swap lives, Kristina hopes that Nicki will learn to be less controlling. Kris wants to learn to be more efficient and thus more “excellent.” I am already sick of that word, and it strikes me that efficiency isn’t such a laudable goal, in the grand scheme of life-happiness sorts of things.
Heather Has Two Crackhead Parents, But at Least They’re Straight
Note that Kris does not know she’s entering a lesbian household. So when she enters the house and finds a love note, she thinks it’s sweet. She’s taken aback by the dust on the window blinds – why on earth did she check them? – and dislikes Lizzie’s messy room.
But the truth is brought home to Kris when she comes across the Boone-Luffey reading material. A book on troubled kids and another one on lesbians are all she needs to put two and two together and throw up her crucifix (solid gold, dahling) to ward off the eeeviilll.
Meanwhile, Kristina wanders through the Gillespie house and marvels that she feels like she’s at the mall. She pokes her head into one of the boys’ rooms and notes its complete absence of personality.
Both women have left manuals explaining their lives for the other to read. Kristina learns that Kris’s kids do the yardwork and are not allowed inappropriate reading material, such as – ironically – “Heather Has Two Mommies.” Laughing, Kristina says it’s better than two crackheads.
Kris learns that the Boone-Luffeys eat off paper plates – something she vows to change – and that Kristina does the yardwork – something else she vows to change – and that Kristina and Nicki want Lizzie to grow up understanding it’s ok to be gay – yet another thing she vows to change.
Kris says it’s a very “discriminating environment” because Kristina and Nicki are “preferring” their own lifestyle – doesn’t everyone? – and trying to raise Lizzie in a way that might not be her natural bent. What’s not her natural bent, to be loved by her parents?
Let the Smiting Begin
As the two wives meet the new families, all appears calm on the surface. But Kris tells us privately that she is “extremely uncomfortable” in this environment, and that she won’t apologize for it. From the cheery way she’s acting when actually in the presence of the Lesbian, you wouldn’t know she’s thinking about how Nicki’s going to hell.
Evidently the actual presence of a lesbian lover is enough to confirm Kris’s worst fears, because we never see Nicki actually announce what her relationship is with Kristina. Kristina, however, has no such handy props, and must spell things out for the Gillespies. They sit stone-faced for a few seconds. Then Brian says that “the gay lifestyle is not consistent with our Christian beliefs,” a stance that Kristina says she can respect. Nevertheless, Brian adds, all people should be treated with respect, and his preacher would be highly disappointed in any member of the flock caught treating someone disrespectfully. So Kristina gets to be treated like a human, I guess out of fear of the preacher.
In Arizona, Nicki wastes no time; she takes Lizzie and Kris out to eat at a gay restaurant. Nicki chats happily about how there are six gay families on their street alone, and how most cities have areas where gay families tend to live. Kris nods, and Nicki says she seems very open-minded.
Poor deluded Nicki. Kris is anything but. “I can’t tell you the hostility that I’m feeling right now,” Kris says – to the camera, of course. Evidently she’s upset that Lizzie is being put into the depraved and dangerous environment that IS women eating cheeseburgers with the people they love.
Kris says kids are impressionable and mimic what they see, suggesting to me that her own kids are in deep trouble. “You go to strictly gay habitats, you increase the chances that they would be promiscuous,” Kris adds. Ok, stepping right over the ludicrousness of her promiscuity argument – “gay habitats”?? What are they, orangutans? Is this Wild Kingdom? “Behold, the wild urban homosexual 30-something in her natural habitat.” It’s not such a rare sighting as you might think, Kris.
Back in Texas, Kristine is having an easier time of it. Living Kris’s life involves little more than watching while Brian and the kids spit-polish the house and yard. She thinks Kris has it made.
She seems to change her mind a bit when it comes to “the complete dining experience.” Using a chart to figure out where all the many utensils go, she helps the Gillespies set the table. Brian’s a micro-manager, and Kristine thinks the kids aren’t so well-rounded, due to their total lack of freedom. They’re “groomed to be perfect,” she says.
In Arizona, house and yard work is being done by Kris, under Nicki’s watchful eye. The day is topped by a lovely microwaved meal, which Kris chokes down and claims was delightful.
Kris goes to work for the first time in seven years, after taking Lizzie to school and opining that Lizzie doesn’t get enough attention, what with both her parents working.
Kristine asks the Gillespie kids if they have televisions in their rooms – no – and says they’re great kids but that Brian treats them like babies. She asks if they’re ever spontaneous, and warns that they’ll be cut loose when the rules change.
Kris catches Lizzie watching a PG-13 movie and thinks she has too much freedom.
The Answer to Discrimination! Pretending!
Finally, Kris’s true feelings have reared their ugly head. She has brought up the hot-button issue of gay marriage, and we join the fight already in progress.
Kris says God is very clear that marriage should be between a man and a woman. This pisses Nicki off, and she says all men are created equal and that there are over a thousand rights that she can’t have because she can’t get married – for example, she can’t make medical decisions for Kristine should Kristine become ill or incapacitated.
Kris answers that no one is coming to Nicki’s door telling her she can’t live with Kristine or go to gay bars. She says the discrimination against gays is not like the discrimination against blacks, because gay people can fake it – they can keep their mouths shut about their sexual orientation and no one will be the wiser.
“You can pretend not to be gay,” Kris says.
“Why would I pretend not to be something that I am?” Nicki shoots back.
This is where Kris’s interracial marriage comes into play, because it wasn’t that long ago that there were laws against her marriage to white Brian.
“How would she feel if it was pre-1967 and she couldn’t marry the man she wanted to marry?” Nicki asks. “They thought that was perverse.”
The irony appears to be lost on Kris.
The time has come for the women to impose their own rules on the households. Kristina is out to liberate the Gillespies, while Kris is out to subdue.
-- TVs and computers in the kids’ rooms
-- No more chores for the kids
-- The kids are to invite their friends over for a nice noisy sleepover
-- Brian will join her at a gay bar for dancing lessons
-- She hangs an American flag on something in the house
-- Nicki is to work outside on the lawn to understand what Kristina does
-- Lizzie is to clean her room and her bathroom, because chores build character
-- Nicki will put a dollar in a jar every time she uses profanity
Kris also wants to give Lizzie a “Princess Day.” I guess “Queen Day” is out of the question. Also, Kris takes Lizzie’s TV away, while Lizzie cries.
The Gillespie kids are lovin’ life. They’re thrilled with their new computer access, and excited about their sleepover. No longer forced to clean, they absolutely don’t, and their pristine rooms are quickly approaching shambles status. They find that Brian, unable to break the habits of a rigidly-lived lifetime, has made his bed, and they retaliate as only very sheltered children can – by messing up his sock drawer. Ooh, the horror!
Kris tries to teach Lizzie how to properly clean a bathroom, telling us that “you want to just gently show the more excellent way.” Get OFF that word, woman! Lizzie is no less irked than I am; she rolls her little eyes and huffs that she knows how to clean a sink, and she doesn’t need to be babied.
Lizzie is her mother’s daughter. Kris goes outside to show – maybe less gently – Nicki the more excellent way to dig yard holes. She also makes Nicki put a Republican sign in her yard. One more for the Log Cabin Republicans?
Nicki finally can’t hold back, informs Kris that she knows how to dig a #$%$ hole, takes her $1 profanity fine and offers to put in a $20 right now for all the cussing of Kris she plans to do.
At the Gillespie household, the sleepover has begun and chaos reigns. Poor Brian, outnumbered, can only ask kids to please not sit on his glass, breakable coffee table. Kristina is worried that he didn’t enjoy it, and asks him about it later; Brian assures her, to her surprise, that he did have fun, because the kids had fun, and that she probably did it better than he would have.
In Arizona, it’s Princess Day. While Lizzie first balks at actually being forced to wear a tiara – “That was kind of babyish,” she says, giving me hope that she’ll never be turned into a pageant princess – she does enjoy having a day in which someone makes her cookies, takes her to the movies, fixes her hair and generally requires nothing of her.
“This is what it means to parent excellently,” intones Stepford wife Kris.
In Texas, the Two-Step is All about Moving to the Right
Kristine is making good on her threat to test Brian’s true tolerance levels. She takes him to a gay bar for a dancing class. Yes, Brian, the right-wing church-going Brian, is two-stepping with a man. I bet he was thinking, as too many straight men seem to when confronted with gay men, “I hope he doesn’t grab my ass.”
Brian’s partner reported back that Brian was shaking like a leaf. But he did a good job, and says he had fun, that people were nice, and that they didn’t judge him and he felt like he didn’t judge them. He’s just lucky they didn’t meet his wife.
As the swapped wives prepare to return home, the Gillespie daughter says that Kristine brought “a different kind of light” to their house, a sentiment I quote because I thought it was sweet, and because her mother is likely to squash it out of her before she gets too much older.
Brian has learned he wants to prioritize his life differently, so there’s less work and more fun.
Nicki says she’s going to be less controlling, because she never wants Kristine to feel the way she’s felt under Kris’s thumb.
Judge Not, Lest Ye Shall Appear as a Beyatch on National TV
The couples reunite, kiss, and sit down together to go over the experience. Kris wastes no time in being more offensive than ever. She says as a traditional Christian, she guards her children against the exact type of influence that Kristina and Nicki represent. She thought their house was an “immoral place” and is offended that either her minor daughter or theirs is around the immoral influence. She also makes a reference to sexual predators.
Nicki goes off, saying that 98 percent of sexual predators are straight white men.
Kristina breaks down. She says Kris is taking a good experience and making it ugly, and thinks Kris’s own children would disagree with Kris. Brian defends Kris, saying she’s just being a protective mother.
Kristina says she’s insulted that Kris would insinuate that Kristina would ever hurt Kris’s daughter, and tells her that her assumptions are based on pure ignorance. Go, Kristina!
But Kris isn’t done. She tells the two women that they are “depraved” and “freaky” and that she was “really upset” at being thrown in with them. She says they’re just “shacking up” and that they didn’t bring anything to the table. In other words, they are most definitely not excellent.
Kristina starts crying. She says she did bring good things to the table, and that if Kris can’t see that, it’s her own problem. “I don’t understand why people like you have to hurt people like us,” she says. Very good question. Let me tell you now, open-minded and tolerant people everywhere – Kris is the kind of bigot you need to be scared of. Don’t be worried about the ignorant bigots; it’s the smart, articulate ones who are dangerous.
An Unexcellent Ending
Since the swap, the voiceover tells us, things have changed a lot. Nicki helps with the house and yard work, and Kristina sees an improvement in Nicki’s control issues.
At the Gillespies’, the daughter is taking Kristina’s lessons about self-expression to heart and doing more art. Kris says the swap has reminded her how much she loves Brian. She says nothing about it teaching her anything about tolerance and understanding, so I guess it didn’t, which is a pity.
Brian says it was a positive experience, and the kids say they liked Kristina. Kris prays, of course, and that’s the end of this whole ugly mess.
People who live in a bus, versus a mortician. Um, ok.
Criticize excellently. firstname.lastname@example.org