Author's note: I don't really publish here on LJ anymore, since you can find enough of my thoughts over on my blog (JadedElegance.Net) and on my FB feed. However, since this was originally meant as a space for me to publish private thoughts I didn't need all my friends to see, and nobody really remembers I'm over here, it was a perfect home for this blog I composed yesterday.
After composition and posting of this blog, it caused some tension and negativity between myself and the friend discussed in the blog, so much so that I decided to remove the posting out of respect for his viewpoint. However, out of respect for my viewpoint, and because I think the post was both significant and well-written, I'm going to put it up here. After all, perhaps when I'm 80, I'll want to remember this incident. :)
September 28th, 2011
It's been awhile since I've been able to really get out of the house and enjoy myself in the way I used to. No, I'm not referring to my decade as a "no-sleep-until-the-sun-comes-up" party girl, but simply being able to go out with friends and have a good time has been difficult. My "mystery illness" has left me with a social stamina of about 3-4 hours, and of course, if I'm taking my medication, I'm not supposed to drink alcohol or even caffeine. On top of it, since identifying that certain types of lights and noises are "triggers" for aura, panic attack, and migraine (in that order), choices are often limited to dim, dark, and soothing places. (I suppose I now require ambiance for even the most ordinary and platonic of outings, taking my "high-maintenance" meter up a notch.)
Fortunately, I've had a few friends, as well as The Guy I'm Currently Dating, willing to be sensitive about all of these issues and get me out of the house regardless, even if it's easier for me just to hang out in my dimly lit room and Facebook. *laughs* The outings aren't always a success...last weekend, we didn't make it to our destination before severe panic followed by a killer migraine occurred...but it means a lot of me that my friends are willing to try. Especially when I've let them down recently, more than once. (I hate standing people up or breaking engagements at the last minute.)
Oh, wait. I guess that was bad phrasing on my part. I seem to be OK with breaking engagements at the last minute. Plans with friends, however, I stick to! *laughs*
In any case, a relatively new friend in my life is an interesting character I'll dub Random Chicago Guy (RCG), because we met randomly, and he is a guy from Chicago. (I'm not too creative with renaming people, sorry.) We've known each other out and about on the social scene for a year or so, but rarely talked. I'm not sure why, other than the social scene is odd; I'm in a committed relationship, he's not attracted to me, and fate never determined we should have a serious conversation about anything that would indicate we have things in common. So, you know how it is: you run into people, you say hi, but one or both of you is more interested in talking to other people, so you don't get around to becoming friends.
However, Random Chicago Guy has become a good friend to me in recent months, likely because he reached out to me when I started dealing with all my illness-related issues, and being out of "self-centered extravert mode" that shows up at parties sometimes, I actually took the time to open myself up to a new friendship and really get to know someone. And, the more I got to know this guy, the more I realised we have more essential things in common than is probably good for a friendship...along with enough differences to keep it interesting. (and potentially controversial.)
I have a good group of friends, but the ones I can sit with and talk for hours about everything under the sun are limited, and those that most closely qualify are in other cities. So, when Random Chicago Guy decided it was a good idea to drag me out of the house yesterday, even after a terrible day of cab annoyances and doctor-related frustrations and sheer exhaustion, I agreed. We ended up in Decatur Square, an area I love and don't get to see too often, and after that, a lovely bar called Prohibition.
I've wanted to go to Prohibition for quite some time, but the problem is, my friends never have. The reactions have spanned everything from "That sounds so pretentious and stuck-up" to "They smoke CIGARS?" and "Who pays $13 for a drink?". However, my friend loves the place, and I easily see why. It's very New York to me (although, let's face it, the speakeasy bar trend hit NYC half a decade ago), something reinforced by the presence of a very attractive, very personable bartender from NYC...and once worked at the Blue Owl, among a zillion other places. (remember the Blue Owl, certain NYC friends? ;) )
It was a lovely way to spend an evening, and fortunately, nobody was actually smoking cigars, and it was the perfect setting to talk, both to my friend and the attractive (and most likely gay) bartender, over particularly strong and inventive drinks.
Afterwards, we were still in a "Let's go out!" mood, only to find that one of my favourite spots, Cafe Intermezzo, was closed...as well as everything else. As a result, we ended up at a dive bar that didn't look terrible from the outside, but had the (mis)fortune to be sandwiched between a well-known strip club and a seedy-looking motel. So, really, I might have guessed what to expect, but I'm up for most things, and you can't be too picky at 2:30 AM. However, we'll just say it was in direct contrast to the first bar, both in atmosphere and the type of people you'd find there.
Things really got interesting when an extremely busty blonde in her late 40's, made up to appear in her late 30's, showed up and sat out next to me. Since she was displaying her double D's like well-earned trophies, both the bartender and my friend immediately noticed her. I suppose my impression wasn't quite as favourable, since big boobs don't distract me from my observations of others; I saw an aging stripper so "up" on coke to be barely coherent, talking in tangents that were often impossible to keep up with. However, none of that made a bit of difference when it came to guys in the bar fighting to get her attention. In fact, at one point, my friend was so enthusiastic to pay attention to her that he quite literally knocked me off my chair (I was sitting between them), and so I offered to relocate.
I'm the first to admit, I'm easily bored in social situations where I don't have anyone to talk to. If nobody is paying attention to me, I wonder why I'm there, when I could be...not there. I can't help it. I'm just wired that way. My friend abandoned conversation in favour of chatting up the large-breasted stripper (which in itself, I can't fault him for...that's the hazard of hanging out with single friends), and there was no one in the bar I personally had any interest in talking to...and vice-versa. So, I was bored to tears. And, the place was rather sad in itself, so it wasn't my best bar experience ever. But when the woman started talking about supporting herself with prostitution, men who mistreated her, and the fact she saw the "assets" she was displaying to the world as all she had to offer, I started to feel seriously annoyed and viewed my friendship with Random Chicago Guy in a whole new light.
I wondered why this exchange bothered me so much. After all, as anyone who knows me well is aware, I don't have any issues with strippers, prostitutes, pornography, or sex workers, as long as they're not active issues/participants in my relationships. (see: politicians.) And, this friend and I aren't attracted to one another in any way that extends beyond friendship---so being ignored while a single friend chats with someone else is hardly a social sin.
I realised what bothered me was watching them interact changed how I viewed this friend. In part, I like him because he's highly sensitive, intuitive, open-minded, and carries himself with a certain amount of class and distinction. I'd never seen him surround himself with people who did not. So, to see him engaged in flirtation with a woman who certainly didn't fit that category, and who openly denegrated herself by saying her body was all she had to offer the world...it seemed wrong for this friend to hear that, and still be captivated by her "assets". I felt disheartened; as if, of all people, this particular guy didn't know better and wasn't immune to that sort of trashy provocativeness from a woman with clear self-esteem issues, what hope is there for every other guy out there? And, one day, should I choose to become more old-fashioned and settle down, am I going to be the intelligent and classy girl sitting at home while my husband or fiance is being approached by that type of woman?
I'd like to think the Guy I Am Currently Dating wouldn't have given her a second look, whether or not he was in a relationship with me...because I think he's that kind of guy. But the truth is, I simply don't know. It's occurred to me that guys don't always employ the necessary standards of looking for class, intellect, good looks, and self-respect when choosing romantic/sexual partners.
I think, more than anything, the situation caused the idealist inside me to experience a small death. Because, as we all know, the world isn't as I see it or as I wish it would be...it is what it is. I'm not sure if it's my friend that caused that blow to idealism...simply because I would have imagined he'd respond differently to that sort of situation...or the woman herself, who was a walking illustration of why people have negative perceptions of strippers, prostitutes, sex workers, etc. I've always been supportive of those aspects of society because, in the best of situations, there is a strange opportunity for female empowerment. (but that's a different blog for a different time.) However, there's also the possibility for female exploitation and self-destruction; drugs, booze, low self-esteem, a string of abusive relationships, and that sad side of things was illustrated to me by this woman. When I tried to open a bit of a dialogue about it, she laughed and said, "Well, I'm not a feminist", as if empowerment and self-respect were not options open to everyone.
So, yes, I suppose she hurt my idealistic and "feminist" side a bit. And it also hurt those things to notice that despite all that, my friend was still paying attention to her, as if through some form of magnetism that made little else matter.
It made me see how and why men make decisions that jeopardize their careers, families, reputations, and so forth. I am aware my friend is not one of those men, nor do I think he would ever be....but the idealistic side of me died a little in being reminded just how easy it is...and why I've had such a difficult time in my life believing in monogamy. Because while my friend is single and unattached, I know full well that three-quarters of the men that approach that woman every day are not. I've been "the other woman", and I've been that woman who feels like her world is falling apart because she finds undisputed proof that the one who claims to love her is jeopardizing that for sex.
Perhaps all of us are wired in that way that makes my idealistic side die a little each time I observe it, and I begin to wonder about the ideals of trust and monogamy, and how most who have those ideals don't live up to them, at least at some point. (Not that poly relationships are necessarily any easier...a whole different set of rules and difficulties and potential ways to be hurt.)
However, I couldn't help watching my friend flirt with a type of person I'd never think would meet his standards of what he's looking for in another person, and yet not care so much, due to sexual attraction. And, I couldn't help but think, "Is that true for everyone?", and if so, can I believe in monogamy without being hurt and disappointed at some point...or hurting or disappointing someone else?
It's easier not to be an idealist, in general. Accepting the world as it is, rather than as you'd like it to be, is a little more simpler, a little less speculative, and means you don't really have to care about situations between other people that have little to do with you.
On the way home, I had a conversation with Random Chicago Guy about this subject, and his slightly different male viewpoint, and I don't think his ideas are wrong, particularly as an open-minded single guy. After all, he is a respectable and intelligent guy that isn't going to see life in the same way as a female nearly 10 years younger. However, I did feel terribly old-fashioned in my processing of the situation, if only because feeling "I would have expected better from you" is something judgmental only your parents should say. :P
I can only hope that the guy in my life would react differently in that same situation, if not out of love and respect for me, than out of idealism and a certain shared way of seeing the world. The thought that perhaps he would not made me terribly sad.
Regardless, I don't think I'll be back to that bar anytime soon!