Sunday, April 15, 2007

People in Heat, and Me

Updated: The guy who swiped me wasn't wearing a baseball hat, he was wearing a toque. This confused me because I THOUGHT it was a baseball hat, but when I reached out to grab the brim there was nothing there, which made it look like I was casting some sort of "back off, jerk" spell in the air. A really clumsy spell.

First off, on the right, that's Meagan and me tonight. Meagan owns Scaredy Cats and is a super-cool, wonderful woman. We also used to own the same boots. Whenever these boots frustrate me or hurt me, I tell myself that Meagan used to dance in them, and then I feel alright.

A person can't have a good night every night. If we somehow managed to always have The Best Night Ever, we'd no doubt get horribly bored.

I've learned that the best thing to do when going "out on the town" is to expect the worst...that way I won't be disappointed. Somehow, though, every time I expect a LITTLE MORE than the worst I end up having a disturbing night with the people in heat.

There are only two bars in Kitchener/Waterloo that I'm comfortable in: Club Renaissance and Club Abstract. While I love so many of the people at Renaissance, I hate the music, so I tend to find myself at Abstract...which is usually pretty quiet and calm and protective of Yours Truly.

Nobody can pretend that, at a straight bar, I don't stand out. And I'm the first to admit that I enjoy being visible and standing out, mainly because I think I DESERVE it. I'm not necessarily a BETTER person than the average, but I'm certainly different.

For me, the ideal night at Club Abstract is a lot of comfortable dancing and a lot of sweet people. Too much of that can get dull, for sure, but every year or so -- at unpredictable moments -- the stars align and the bar becomes packed with...well, "Flotsam."

Much of Flotsam are really sweet people, I'm sure. They tend to be quite young, they dress in a very average and conservative way. The boys are in baseball caps and the girls grind with each other (the "Lesbo Girl Routine"), and their ONLY reason for being in the bar is to find SOMEBODY to have sex with. Everything they do is directed towards the basic need to rut. They don't dance because they like the music, they dance because they want to grab some girl's butt.

This is offensive to me because it ruins all the reasons that I go to Club Abstract in the first place: room to dance, and wonderful songs to dance to. But when the Flotsam is taking up all the room, I start to wonder why the heck they don't go to the 9 OTHER bars in town. And I realize that they're slumming. They think it's a dangerous, spooky bar. They view the "regulars" as zoo animals. Or, equally likely, they're spilling over from Friday night at Abstract, which is about as meat-head-y as you can possibly imagine.

So I'm seeing the Flotsam. Wonderful people I'm sure. But they're taking up lots of room on the dancefloor, and most of them aren't even dancing. The ones that ARE dancing are doing the inexcusable "circle dance," where they all stand in an inward-facing circle just like they did in grade seven. Circles are inefficient shapes that waste space. Tonight somebody told me that girls did it to "avoid boys." That's bull...boys always come up from behind anyway.

Now I'm engaging in stereotypical behaviour that is -- objectively -- equally inexcusable. I start to deliberately puncture circles. Hey, if I'm the only person actually dancing to a song, I have a right to claim that enormous empty spot in the middle of your circle. At least that's what I'm thinking at the time.

By doing this I start to make enemies. And on these rare Flotsam nights, I can't afford enemies, because already I'm being scoped out by the men who spy me as an easy target. Maybe they think I'm a girl or maybe they don't, but with me acting all cocky it's already apparent that I have no friends on the dancefloor (and this is the funny thing about Flotsam nights...the "friendly" people are always absent).

So it becomes a stand-off: I'm out there to assert myself, and they're out there to victimize me. Honestly, this is how it happens. Often it's just a matter of some beefy f*cker sticking his fat bully neck in my path, or some guy doing a mocking "pick up the drag queen jig" around me. I deal with these situations by looking as happy as possible, which -- believe me -- makes them SO angry.

But every few years -- like tonight -- I get into a physical situation. As I walked past two of the Flotsam boys, one of them grabbed my skirt and yanked it up. Personally I can deal with this, but for some reason I feel it's my duty to teach men NOT to do such things, even though most of the women I know decide to just put up with it (to be nice), which only perpetuates the behaviour.

It's not my place to tell men what they can't do to women, but in any case I turn around and grab at the edge of the guy's toque and say "Don't EVER do that AGAIN!" Later, when I find myself in the middle of an increasingly hostile dance floor, buddy swats me on the back of the neck as he walks past, so I swat him too. This is stupid.

This has happened SO many times. I continue to stand there but I don't even WANT to be there, I'm NOT having fun, but I feel the need to stand my ground. I don't want the bad element of the Flotsam to think they've "won" by chasing me out of the bar with their general idiocy. Most importantly, I'm realizing that there IS a difference between the GOOD Flotsam and the BAD Flotsam, and I've spent part of the night alienating the good.

So tonight I speak to Nigel about it. Nigel wears showy clothing and is usually the other person who gets pushed around on these nights. All night, Nigel has been -- get this -- DOING MAGIC TRICKS for people. By doing this he is marking himself as a non-threat. He's being the "class clown" to avoid victimization. I do this too on more relaxed nights, but I'm at a disadvantage because men don't tend to think that Nigel is threatening their sexuality.

Might I just say for a second that most men come across as threatening in these situations? Do men realize this? I don't think so. I think that many doggedly pursue sex without realizing how claustrophobic they can be. But then a lot of women -- and I'm lumping myself in here -- either don't complain or (in some cases) don't seem to mind such a thing, so who's to blame? Perhaps me.

While Nigel plays the clown, my way of getting through these nights is to put on my sociology hat. Who are these people? What do they want? Why are they here? But for the most part they all just melt into the "sexual stew." It's like watching locusts in a mating frenzy. Intellect, self-reflection, and individuality appear to be completely shut off. They're animals.

Then I step back and realize that *I* am the abnormal one. *I* am the one who isn't perpetuating my genetic line (and thank goodness!). Who the heck am *I* to say that their behaviour is wrong?

Finally -- after many drinks and many songs I didn't want to dance to -- I come to a basic conclusion: we've got different ideas of right and wrong. I don't think you should take up space on a dancefloor if you're not actually dancing -- and I mean REALLY, you jerks, STOP DOING THAT -- whereas they believe they should be able to go wherever they want and pick up somebody, and why the hell is that FAG in the way?


Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your evening. Funny thing is that I feel much the same way you do about the Flotsam, but I am straight and it still bothers me.

I grew up in the 80's and was considered a freak because I had a Mohawk and listened to Depeche Mode and The Cure. In south Florida at the time there were very few clubs for us to go to, and it wasn't until I moved to Tampa, that I found a club to call home. There were about 1200 of us that frequented the club on a regular basis and the eclectic group included all sorts from Mods, Punks, Goths and in a large part a section of the Gay community.

Most nights were cool, and there were usually very few arguements, that is until the local college crowd started to go slumming in our club. Their idea of clubbing was completely foreign to us, sure we would "pick up" but it was usually just a social thing and would normally spend the evening chatting and running to the dance floor when a hot song came on. These people walked in and thought they owned the place and treated the women horribly and constantly started fights. They in an essence ruined the club for many of us, and many people left and never returned.

Fortunately management decided upon a dress code, and unless you came to the club dressed in our "local" garb, then you were not permitted entrance. They left after a few weeks because I guess they didn't like getting dressed up for Halloween every weekend.

I guess I am just long winded and really wanted to say that there is no need or place for their actions. These people have little or no respect for those around them, and none for themselves. They place their self worth on how often they score or intimidate others. I just wish that when they get older they take a look back on their lives and cringe with regret.

If I am out at Abstract some evening and I see the circles forming, I will look for you and offer you my assistance in breaking their ranks. Just look for the old guy with purple hair.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this alot. I absolutely wonder the same thing. Coming from Rural Ontario, I grew up surrounded by this behaviour....the options were simple: beat 'em, join 'em or blend in. Since a gay man is not going to beat 'em all by himself, and joining them was out of the question I opted for the blending in...which does nothing but restrain you and suppress all that you mean to stand for.

I think that ultimately the establishment (in this case Club Abstract) needs to decide what they want to provide, who they want to provide it too and how it will affect business.

And although you can't stop the occasional infiltration of Flotsam, the establishment can do what Sean said they did with the dress code. Or, advertise what the place is looking for.

Circles are formed. Circles come in many shapes and sizes (the more you drink, the more "oval" it becomes!) Circles are a waste of space and peoples intellect. Gone are the days when cirlces go unbroken. I think you need to form your own circle. Bring in the troops and show 'em what happens when you fire back.
They'll go. And peace will once again rein.

Till then, hold tight and tatoo "fuck off flotsam" on you ass next time that skirt gets flipped up, they will read it loud and clear!

Anonymous said...

> And I'm the first to admit that I enjoy being visible and standing out, mainly because I think I DESERVE it.

True words! :-)
But basically, I strongly believe we are more alike than not, so where does that need come from?
Or is that just making the best of a bad situation?
Me, I am like a labrador puppy. Absolutely miserable when I know I don't fit in the groups *I* want to be a part of. :-0

Adam Thornton said...

"Their idea of clubbing was completely foreign to us..."

I think that's the basic essential difference: a clash of bar cultures. Each bar certainly has its unwritten rules...but since they're unwritten, the rules are rarely followed (or even evident) to people who "crash" them.

Even their way of treating women...I won't let women (as a whole) off the hook here; the guys act that way because the women in their bars accept (and probably appreciate) it. In their bars you're SUPPOSED to grind up against girls you don't know...if they were told not to enough times, they would probably stop.

And the "Flotsam" women are just as bad as the guys in many cases. These women have no trouble goading their boyfriends into acting like bigger jerks than they already are.

Sadly I can't see Abstract enforcing a dress code, since their Saturday night is "new alternative" and there's no real dress code for that. What they could, perhaps, do is brainstorm a way of making the unwritten rules known; I'd love to hear the DJ say "leave the dance floor if you're not dancing" or "stop pawing at the girls," but first off it would sound like a "party pooper" comment, and secondly the majority of the crowd on those nights doesn't agree with those rules.

As it is we at least know that the staff and bouncers are on our sides, but on super-busy nights there's only so much they can watch at once.

Around 2001 -- when trashy Kitchener bars were being evicted -- Abstract was invaded by the lowest of the low, and many people (myself included) eventually stopped going. By 2005 the wave seemed to have subsided. I hope we're not in for it again!

Adam Thornton said...

If they're even remotely literate!

The owners/managers/DJs at Abstract have made it clear over the years that they don't make money from a goth/alternative crowd. DJ Jeff used to complain loudly about the "goddamn water-drinking Goths." I am sure that I will always be protected at Abstract -- they already go out of their way for me -- but they certainly wouldn't enforce new rules if that meant losing half their crowd (the heaviest-drinking half, no doubt).

How did you blend in without actually joining them?

Incidentally, I did a disservice to "Starlight" by not counting it as a comfortable bar in K/W.

Adam Thornton said...

Ha! When I feel excluded from a group, I find myself dismissing and resenting the group, which is a part of my character I'm trying to root out.

I do agree that we're all more alike than not, though I think Sean's on to something when he talks about respect for others, or at least being able to put yourself in other people's shoes.

Which is why when I find myself being a jerk -- elbowing, puncturing circles -- I feel particularly worthless: no better than the people I'm protesting, if not worse (because I think I should know better).

But in a way I feel like I'm defending territory (and not just for myself, but for all the regulars who want a safe corner to dance in).

VanillaJ said...

Well, I'm not particularly interested in fitting in with popular culture, and resent it when my small corner of the world in infiltrated by the Flotsam (aka "Date Rapists" and "Clueless Bitches"). For a long time, I have felt my Abstract days are over, and it happened when there was more of them, and too few of us. I only get amusement knowing that these dimshits think of Abstract as an edgey dangerous place. Edgey, no longer - but maybe more dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Ironically it's only more dangerous when the Flotsam floods in!