Latest ‘Domestically Disturbed’

Playwright and writer Topher Payne

I was bombarded with Facebook messages and emails. Everyone sent me the same couple of links. An organization in Chicago claimed Chick-fil-A had seen the light of reason and kindness, and intended to change their ways. “Yaaay,” said my friends and colleagues. “Just wait,” I replied.

Turns out the policy in question was merely a reminder to Chick-fil-A employees (and the country) that the company treats all of their customers equally. I have never doubted that Chick-fil-A is willing to take my gay money. My problem is that they then use my gay money to fight against my gay rights. This practice remains unchanged.

I understand people love their damn waffle fries, but I’m gonna need y’all to let this company go. You just can’t fix some folks, and interacting with them will only frustrate you and embolden them. I will give you an example.

Over the past five years, we’ve had a series of ups and downs with our next door neighbor, a paranoid schizophrenic from Jamaica whom I lovingly call “Crazypants.” During those halcyon early days of home ownership, she appeared to be a pleasant, if slightly quirky, elderly woman who mostly kept to herself.

About two years ago, some wires frayed in her mind, which launched a campaign of delusion-driven terror, accusing me of installing listening devices under her house, as well as sneaking in at night and taking pictures of her sleeping.

Let me be clear: I don’t have time to maintain a flower bed properly, let alone clear a few nights a week to photograph an unconscious old lady. And what would I do with these pictures?

Is this like a sex thing?

Anyhoo, after a lengthy battle involving posting signs on our respective houses and multiple visits from various DeKalb County authorities, Crazypants and I called a truce. It happened last November, while I was hanging Christmas garland. I think she’d switched meds or had coffee or something, because it was the most lucid I’d seen her in years.

She still believed someone was taking pictures of her at night, but was willing to accept that it most likely was not me. Since then, it’s been all quiet on the suburban front. I’ve even taken misdelivered mail right up to her door and exchanged pleasantries, just like normal, sane neighbors do on TV.

Last week, I followed my usual routine of letting the dog out in the back yard while I sat on the back steps with my coffee, thinking about my current writing project.

Crazypants came barreling out her back door, headed in my direction. With our privacy fence, all I could see was her shock of peroxide blonde hair making its way toward me like a purpose-driven dandelion.

“I know you took pictures of my laundry room, Thomas!”

She calls me Thomas. Don’t know why, don’t care. Just glad she doesn’t know my actual name.

“No,” I said. “That is not a thing that happened.”

The angry dandelion then unleashed a stream of agitated expressions in a language I don’t speak, and floated back into her house. I was more disappointed than usual by her latest mental collapse. I had been deceived by the seemingly calm water, only to be attacked by the shark again.

I can no longer assign any blame to her for this. Crazypants does not change. She may throw her crazy in my face, or she may remain silent, but it’s always there. The constant flux lies in my expectations. I interpret her lack of open vitriol as a sign that things are improving. They are not.

This lesson also applies to Chick-fil-A. Their disgust and disdain for LGBT Americans has always been there, long before the open attack. They’ve grown silent again with the hope of luring the public into forgetting, and some will.

But do not be fooled by these deceptively calm waters. They do not change. They will not change. Their values, like the logic of Crazypants, are fundamentally flawed, and we should adjust our expectations accordingly.


Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at