Ronnie Polaneczky: Store dresses down bride for being a lesbian

Alix Genter, portrait, in Highland Park, NJ. August 17, 2011 (Sarah J. Glover / Staff Photographer) EDITOR'S NOTE: ALIX-A Ronnie story.
Alix Genter, portrait, in Highland Park, NJ. August 17, 2011 (Sarah J. Glover / Staff Photographer) EDITOR'S NOTE: ALIX-A Ronnie story.
Posted: August 18, 2011

THIS IS ONE of those stories that make me want to say "I'm sorry" to gay people for the nonsense they endure from some heterosexuals who give the rest of us straight people a bad name.

So please, Alix Genter, accept my heartfelt apology that you were denied the chance to purchase the wedding gown of your dreams from Here Comes the Bride. The manager of the salon, in Somers Point, N.J., said she didn't want to be associated with your pending "illegal action."

Yep, that's actually how she referred to your wedding, next July, to your longtime partner (whose name you asked me to withhold in this column, as she's publicity-shy). You plan to apply for a civil union in New Jersey, where you live, and to be formally wed in New York, which just legalized gay marriage. But you're also arranging a big, blowout ceremony and reception for 200 at Normandy Farm in Blue Bell, where your family and friends will toast your commitment.

"We are very fortunate in that our families love and support us," you told me yesterday, from your apartment in Highland Park, N.J., near Rutgers University, where you're completing your Ph.D. in history. "They're so excited about our wedding."

And so it came to be that last Saturday, you were at Here Comes the Bride with a cheering section of six well-wishers helping you try on dresses: your mom and dad, your aunt, a cousin and two friends of the family. Yours is the kind of big, engaged clan in which everyone's involved in everyone else's lives, in a good way.

"The fact that even my dad would come to a bridal shop - that should tell you something about how close we all are," you said of your family members, who hail from Huntingdon Valley but spend weekends in Ventnor (hence your bridal shopping at the beach). "I spend almost every weekend with them at the Shore."

Last Saturday's trip to Here Comes the Bride was a typically fun outing. Your mom packed little "gift bags" of muffins and other munchies, and a neighbor contributed a bottle of champagne. Donna, the store manager, asked you not to eat in the salon - "The dresses are white; we don't want stains," she told you - so you saved the party for afterward.

By then, you had reason to pop the cork: You'd found the dress you wanted, but wondered if the manufacturer could use a more-lightweight fabric in the version you'd wear next summer. Donna promised to investigate, and you left the store, delighted.

So how weird it must have been to get a call on Tuesday from Donna (she wouldn't tell you her last name, and she wouldn't tell me, either, when I spoke with her yesterday), and to have a conversation so different from the one you had with her on Saturday.

Apparently, Donna was stunned to learn, after reviewing your customer-information sheet, that you're a lesbian. On the paperwork, you'd crossed out the word "groom" and written "partner" instead, and then inserted your fiancée's name.

"She said she wouldn't work with me because I'm gay," you recalled. "She also said that I came from a nice Jewish family, and that it was a shame I was gay. She said, 'There's right, and there's wrong. And this is wrong.' "

She also said - and you have the voicemail to prove it - that what you were planning was "illegal" and that "we do not participate in any illegal actions."

"I was devastated," you told me. "I was crying. I called her a bigot; I told her, 'I am a happy person and you are a miserable person.' Then she hung up on me."

You admit to using some choice words when you called her back. But trust me, whatever you said was probably poetry compared with what I believe most decent people would've spewed at her on your behalf.

You know what's strange? When I called Donna yesterday to get her side of the story, she both confirmed your version of events and accused you of "stirring up drama." She said that your writing the word "partner" was basically a provocation, evidence of a need "to show that she's different."

"They get that way," she told me.

By "they," she meant women who were fed up with men because "men can be difficult," and so now they "experiment" with female relationships because they're tired of having men boss them around.

She told me about a friend whose wife left him for another woman. And about a young family member who was molested by a same-sex adult male. And about a gay man who once plunged a knife into a chair in the restaurant where she worked. And - she finally lost me here - something about the Navy SEALs.

"It's a lot of drama," she said.

She also found you "aggressive," didn't appreciate your cursing and thought I should speak with your father before writing this column, as she "sensed" his disappointment in your decision to marry a woman.

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

The thing is, by the end of the day yesterday, after a few conversations, Donna seemed kind of sorry about what she put you through. Granted, she sounded mostly sorry that people found out about it from the negative review you wrote of your experience on the Yelp business website. But she at least reached out to the woman who'd referred your family to Here Comes the Bride in the first place.

"The friend is going to arrange a meeting between me and the parents," Donna told me, to try to smooth things over. For some reason, she didn't think it would be important to include you, even though you're the one who was treated badly.

Again, I apologize.


Email polaner@phillynews.com or call 215-854-2217.

 

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