Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Why Am I Single? Let Me Count The Ways

Seven: Girl Meets Boy

You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere

Anyplace is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we'll make something
But me myself I got nothing to prove



My world had crashed. The exciting life of freedom had turned out to have some very large pitfalls, things I couldn’t fore see as problems I would ever experience. There I was, basically homeless, affected by somebody else’s drug use and my own inability to understand just how pervasive and destructive it could be, even for someone who was on the fringes and not directly participating. In a very real sense, it had re-enforced some of the lessons of my parents. There are bad things in this world. People that did these things were destructive, not just to them, but to people around them and should be avoided like the plague.

It is very painful to admit when your parents are right and they were right twice. Still, I was determined to forge my own way.

Living with Diane (correction to name), Lisa and little Victor was a slightly quieter existence. We didn’t party at the house. Aside from beer in the refrigerator or an occasional frozen Margarita, if we wanted to party, we went out to clubs and came home. Diane would go to some of the local pubs, but didn’t do the whole “clubbing” scene. Sometimes I would stay home in the evenings and watch Victor while the other two went out.

When I went out with the Lisa, we would go down to this little country and western bar with a dance floor called the Silver Rose. It was laid out on an inverse L shape with a small bar along the right front wall, the dance floor and stage directly in front of it and a second square bar in the back. The dance floor was surrounded by a little wooden fence like a corral. Our favorite bartender, Gino, was the most unlikely bartender for a country and western joint. He was more “New Jersey Guido” than redneck Joe. We had a running flirtation with him. Between Lisa and I, we were bound to come up with at least two rounds of free drinks for the evening. This was a relatively safe flirtation since we all understood that Gino had a girlfriend that would kick our asses and we didn’t want to ruin our good times.

I was still drinking a lot of coke at that time. I was the designated driver just about every time we went out. I still had a good time, but I just couldn’t see myself losing control that much and worrying about how we were going to get home. It didn’t bother me either. I still had a really good time and it was fun to watch the craziness.

I loved to dance. Line dancing was just starting to take off again from the lag after the eighties, but I truly loved the partner dancing. Two steps, shuffles, polkas and waltzes. There is something undeniably electric about moving around the dance floor in symmetry with your partner while watching out for the others around you and maybe, once in a while, letting fly with some fancy footwork or a spin or some other swing type dance move.

When I was a kid, my grandparents made all of us grand kids dance together and learn the basic steps to the waltz and basic partner dancing. During their day, they had been great dancers, going to the clubs and listening to the big bands. Dressing up and dancing was the club and social scene of their time and they thought we should all know how to do it. Talk about pain and awkwardness. Try learning to do the waltz in a square pattern with your twelve year old cousin who would rather be outside jumping his bike over ramps or playing GI Joe or whatever who also was the owner of two big and growing left feet. Can you imagine the amount of eye rolling and huge sighs of persecution coming from the participants?

The worst was when we had to trade partners and I had to dance with my middle brother. That quickly turned from dancing, to shoving to outright trying to wrestle each other on the ground and beat each other to a pulp. Dancing lessons were over quite quickly after that.

They did stand me in good stead when we started making the country and western scene. I was no Ginger Rogers, but I knew the basics and could make it around the floor without tripping and killing myself or other dancers. It was a nice change of pace as well. The pressure of the hip-hop club scene to just stand around like big hanging slabs of good-looking meat was a little less. Jeans and boots and T-shirts or western shirts were the norm and guys would actually come over and ask you to dance and could actually dance. Most of the time.

The people there were also a little less urban, a little less prone to look at a girl from Kansas as some backwards hick trying to swim in the sophisticate’s pool. It was also full of an eclectic mix of people from all over the country. Philadelphia had a big Naval Station at that time and Fort Dix was not far off. That meant that there were a lot of girls and guys from all over the country circulating in the clubs. By far, I had met the most people from the mid-west and southern states in the country and western clubs we began to frequent.

It also meant that people understood where you came from and didn’t ask you bizarre questions about life on the plains.

I recall a particular conversation while sitting at the local hairstylist waiting for my “three month” hair cut. A conversation that was bizarre in the number of times it was repeated in some form or another through out my stay on the east coast.

I was sitting in the waiting area along with a woman who was approximately sixty and another young woman who was maybe eighteen. We struck up a conversation after they heard me ask the receptionist, “Ya’ll have an appointment available?” in my Mid-western drawl. As I sat down in the waiting area, the younger woman asked me, “Where’re you from?”

“Kansas City.”

She looked confused for a moment, “Kansas City?”

“Kansas City, Kansas,” I replied at her prompt.

The older lady put down her magazine and turned to me, “Kansas? I thought Kansas City was in Missouri?”

A common mistake among a lot of people. Kansas City, Missouri was the most populated area at that time, “There is a Kansas City, Missouri, but there’s also Kansas City, Kansas. The whole area used to be one big territory when the city started up. When it was split into states, they used the Missouri River as a marker and the city was split in half.”

“Ooohh,” the older lady said, sounding a bit like Edith from Archie Bunker.

“So, what’s it like?” the younger woman went on, “Are there tumbleweeds? Do people still live in sod houses?”

For a moment, I couldn’t tell if this girl was being a smart ass or was really that unaware. Looking at her though, I could see she was asking these questions in earnest. Besides, we had been brought up to be polite, “Well, no,” I smiled with a little laugh, “Sod houses went out of style a long time ago and we don’t have a lot of tumbleweeds in the city.”

“Do you have running water?” this from the older lady again.

“Uh…yeah,” now I was getting a little flustered because I was being tag teamed by two urbanites who had apparently not left the confines of Philadelphia and the surrounding suburban areas their entire lives, “I lived in a city, you know, but even when we lived down on the farm we had running water.” I didn’t add that during the winter the pump would freeze up and we’d have to go down, break the ice off the top and haul water back up to the house in thirty gallon barrels on a sled. Even that was over ten years before that and we’d lived in the city most of my life.

“Oh. I didn’t know if you had to use outhouses or what.”

Now I was really embarrassed and started thinking these two ladies had to be shining me on. You didn’t have to drive that far outside of the Philly city limits to see dairy farms with outhouses still sitting on their property even with the advent of city water projects. I let off with a bit of a wise crack and started really pulling the accent out, “No, Ma’am. We had running water. The only time we had t’ use the outhouse was in the winter when the pipes would freeze up.” Which wasn’t completely untrue when we lived down on the farm and our water was supplied by afore mentioned well and pump, but was certainly not the case in the city or suburban areas.

Now the younger woman was really getting into the question and answer session. “Did you milk cows?”

I was really thinking that people just couldn’t be that ignorant about the mid-west. I mean, I did just say I lived in the city, but I decided to play along, “Uh…no ma’am. They won’t let ya keep cattle in the city limits.” The closest I had ever been to a milking cow was when we lived down on the farm for those two years and my grandpa would drive over to the local dairy farm, that was big enough to do it’s own pasteurization, and buy our milk and buttermilk fresh. I was about ten then.

“Oh. I always wanted to know what it was like to milk a cow.” Uh-huh. Obviously, this young lady thought that the milk in those plastic gallon jugs was squirted in there by some fresh-faced young farm girl sitting on a stool and doing the job by hand. She had no idea about a modern milking facility with the six vacuum hoses hooked up to each cow in a big dairy barn while they munched on hay and feed or the nineteen vaccinations and steroids said cows were shot up with in order to obtain the copious amounts of milk required to feed the masses in the city. She also had no idea that a cow was likely to kick the crap out of any poor beggar that tried it with cold hands or the difficulty in even aiming for the big round hole in the top of a bucket. The dairy farmer down the road had been kind enough to give us a demonstration of the “old technique” when we kids were curious about why their dairy operation didn’t match our urbanite idea of milk collection.

I was really thinking that these ladies needed to get out more and see some of the world. Me, the girl from Kansas, was starting to wonder what all the hoopla was about the alleged sophistication and intellectualism of the east coasters that didn’t even know where their milk came from.

“Can I ask you something?” I looked at the older lady inquiringly, “Do you still have Indian problems?”

That’s it. These ladies had to be playing me. Nobody could be that foolish. On the other hand, being brought up to respect my elders and all, I started picking my mind for what she might be referring to. There had been some difficulties with the local tribes who wanted to start up gambling facilities and were demanding the right to control more of their money. There had been a couple of large demonstrations and the local tribe had blocked the federal employees from coming on the reservation.

“Umm…what sort of “Indian problems” are you referring to?”

“Well, you know, do they hang out at the trading post, get liquored up and cause problems in town?”

This lady was perfectly serious. I really started wondering what they taught people in schools out there. I mean, what was the last thing they learned about? The 1861 land grab? Sod houses, tumbleweeds, outhouses and Indians. These people spent waaaay too much time watching “F Troop” or something. They definitely needed to get out more.

I wanted to laugh. I could feel in bubbling up inside of me and threatening to come out from between my compressed lips, but, we were raised to be polite, “Uh. No ma’am. We don’t have any “Indian problems” anymore. Pretty much everybody dresses the same these days and you can’t tell the Indians from the rest. Besides, we don’t have trading posts anymore. Just Wal-marts.”

“Oooohhh.” Edith Bunker again. I was spared further inquiry by the two ladies being called back for their hair appointments.

Yep. Interesting conversations, repeated too many times to recount here.

I was country, when country wasn't cool


That was what was nice about hanging out at the country and western places. A lot of the people were from some place else, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, you name it, they came from there. They had similar experiences, both urban and rural, and they didn’t ask you bizarre questions about life on the plains.

The other nice thing was the general atmosphere. Generally, the night wouldn’t pass without at least a couple of guys asking you to dance. Not that they all looked like George Strait or danced like Fred Astaire, but it was comfortable and, if you knew the people well enough, nobody minded if you danced with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Trading dance partners was not unheard of for a dance or two and nobody got bent out of shape as long as you weren’t actually flirting or making a play for them. That was a no-no in any social setting of course. And, it was not unusual for a girl to ask a guy to dance particularly, if you had danced with the guy before.

The patrons were an interesting mix as I said, local rednecks (pineys), truck drivers, navy men and the inevitable number of young women that followed the navy guys to the clubs. The navy guys were a rowdy bunch. Beer and dance floor etiquette were important. Don’t drink another guy’s beer and, if you bump into somebody on the dance floor, you’d best say “Excuse Me”. Don’t mess with a guy’s hat. Messing with a guy’s hat was tantamount to kissing his girl, unless you were a cute girl of course. The cute girls with their tight jeans and half shirts could get away with just about anything. These were the same cute girls that made the rounds. They had dated just about every cowboy/navy guy in the club and were “known”.

Reputations were lost and made in a close-knit community like that. Hanging out there for a while and getting to know some of the cowboy/navy guys, I had pretty much determined that I was not going to be one of those girls. The ones that the guys all stood around talking and laughing about at the back bar. The ones they all tried to avoid after a while. I was there to dance and have a good time, not become the topic of ship bunk gossip.

Or, if you’d rather, I was still a square.

But that was okay. It meant that I got some respect and every drunken Seaman or Petty Officer wasn’t trying to get me to take him home for the night. It also meant that, if some drunken guy pestered me, one of the guys I had made friends with would come over and tell him to take a powder. Of course, it helped I was from Kansas. I was one of them, a transplant in the strange and hectic world of the urban east coast.

I discovered there that chivalry was not dead. When you were dancing with a guy, he would be the one to go backwards a large part of the dance. That way, if you bumped into somebody, the guy took the hit, not the girl. When you would turn together, the guy would pull you in close. It did make the spinning easier, but it was essentially to keep you from bumping into the others on the floor. Last but not least, if a guy was drunk on the dance floor and he kept bumping into you and your partner, he would either be advised to leave the floor or be met with a right cross.

I know it doesn’t sound very liberated of me to be talking about “chivalry” and men punching each other over a violation of politesse. Maybe chivalry was not the right word. Maybe “courtesy” is the right word. Surely there were important courtesies and general politeness amongst the women and across the genders. When you were trying to pass somebody in a crowded area, people just didn’t barge by and knock your drink out of your hand or push you into others. You said, “excuse me” or “thank you” and “you’re welcome” at the end of a dance. Everyone was polite. Most of the time. There was always a few that had one too many or the Navy guys that just came off of a three day drill and were finally allowed off the ship or base. Now, those guys could get rowdy.

“Rebel Yell” wasn’t just a song by Billy Idol. It was a fact of life in a place like that.

One Sunday evening, we were down at the Silver Rose. Lisa and I were bored and decided that we were going to go down and just hang out. Even on Sundays, there would always be a few people down dancing and enjoying a few drinks. Particularly, with the shifts that the Navy guys had to work, they could be found down there just about any day of the week.

The biggest ship in port was the USS Constellation. It was an aircraft carrier in dry dock for repairs and upgrades. It had been there about three months out of a two-year plan for dry dock. It had just come from a long trip through the Magellan Straits after leaving San Diego and dropping the jets and flyboys off at the Norfolk Naval Air Station in Virginia. This was where a lot of the Navy guys hanging out at the Silver Rose came from. After their previous six-month tour in the Pacific post Desert Storm and the long journey to their new station in Philly, the guys were looking to tear it up. They could be very liberal with their money. Most of these guys were young and lived on the ship. They didn’t have a lot of bills. Maybe a car payment, but even that was rare among them. They had a lot of free money and weren’t afraid to spend it. Buying drinks for a whole group of people, including some they didn’t know, wasn’t unusual.

On this night, a small group of guys were there along with some of the regular “pretty young things” and they were whooping it up at the end of the dance floor. One guy seemed very popular and was the most outgoing in the group. He was also the one spreading his money around the most, although, that didn’t really account for his popularity. It seemed that he knew everybody and he was dancing with all the girls. Even the ones he didn’t know. I could see that he was a very good dancer. Some of the girls that weren’t as good, he would slow down on the floor and show them how to move their feet, step into turns and do a little spin. The kind of things that made dancing a little more fun.

He was about 6’2” and weighed about 190 maybe 200 pounds. He was big, but he was very light on his feet. His jeans were starched and pressed with a crease down the center and his shirt had the same treatment. You could almost hear it crackling as he moved. He also wore a Stetson. Not the beat up New Jersey redneck version of a cowboy hat that was straw and might actually even have a band of feathers or a big rattle snake head in the middle (reminiscent of the eighties urban cowboy), but the kind you expected the Marlboro man to wear. He was also wearing “Ropers” which were low-heeled cowboy boots with a rounded toe. After you hung out with these folks, you could start making out the difference in who was who and what their background was.

Pointy-toed cowboy boots were unlikely to be worn by actual “cowboys”. Those were referred to as “shit kickers” or “cockroach killers” because you could corner a cockroach and still kill it with the pointy tip of the boot. Those boots and snakeskin boots were most likely local rednecks, truck drivers or general “urban cowboy” types. “Ropers” were popular amongst the cowboy set because most of them had participated in some sort of ranch or farm life or even the rodeo. Low heeled boots didn’t get hung up in the stirrups and were better for “bull dogging” a steer. High heeled “shit kickers” would get stuck in the mud or dirt and could result in a serious knee, hip or groin injury from the quick stop and twist. Not that you couldn’t get hurt in low-heeled boots, but the odds were better for it with the high-heeled variety.

Ironed and creased jeans were the other tell-tell. Not just any jeans, either. Wranglers with the leather Wrangler patch on the back pocket and they had to fit right. No guy from Texas, Oklahoma or there about would be caught dead in droopy, un-pressed jeans.

The popular guy was all cowboy. He was also Hispanic. He had black hair, dark eyes and a permanent tan. He wasn’t gorgeous by any means. He had a round face with slightly chubby cheeks and he was wearing BCGs, Birth Control Glasses, which I later found out he had gotten because he broke his own personal glasses and that’s the kind that the military distributed. They were referred to as BCGs because they were so ugly, as the story went, that no guy was going to get laid if he was wearing them. They were ugly. Big, thick plastic frames with big square lenses. Ugly.

Apparently, these were having little effect on the tall guys popularity.

After about two hours of general whooping and hollering and dancing, the big guy came down to our end of the dance floor where we were leaning against the little wooden corral. I thought he was coming to ask Lisa to dance. Lisa was the more outgoing of the two of us and she was cute with her masses of blonde hair and blue eyes. Even though she was a tad overweight, it just put more curves on her and the guys were always digging it. At that point, I wasn’t too damn skinny myself, but I wasn’t going to be mistaken for a parade float either.

He stopped in front of us and asked, “Do you wanna dance?”

He was talking to Lisa. “Sure,” she said with a big smile and they went out on the dance floor where they danced for two songs and he showed Lisa a step or two. She was laughing and having a good time talking to him.

Eventually, they came back to where I was leaning and Lisa introduced me, “This is my friend, Kansas. Kansas, this is Carlos.”

“Hi,” he said sticking his hand out. It was really big, like a bear paw.

“Nice t’ meet ya,” I replied, shaking his hand.

He looked at us and said, “Excuse me, I’m going to get a beer, ya’ll want something?”

“No thank you. I just got a drink,” and I lifted up my full glass of coke.

“Yeah, I’ll take a beer,” Lisa flashed him her beer bottle and eventually he came back handed Lisa her beer and boot scooted back down the dance floor to rejoin his friends.

“He seems really nice,” Lisa said, tipping her beer bottle up.

“Yeah,” I answered, taking a sip of my own drink.

“He’s a good dancer, too. You should go ask him to dance.”

“No way!”

“Why not?”

“Because he asked you to dance. He wasn’t interested in me.”

“Yeah, but he was looking at you.”

“Bullshit, Lisa. Besides, did you see the ten girls down there that were giving you all the evil eye while you were going down the dance floor? I don’t believe in committing suicide just to get a dance.”

“Kansas…”

I rolled my eyes and we both laughed then went back to watching the dance floor. A little while later, he came back up the floor and asked Lisa to dance again.

“No thanks. I’m a little tired, but you should dance with my friend Kansas. She can dance better than I can.”

Oh, God. What was I? Some freaking wall flower that needed her friend to fix her up with a guy?

“Okay. You wanna dance?” and he stuck his hand out.

I really wanted to say “no”. I was embarrassed beyond belief. My friend was pawning the guy off on her friend. That had “loser” written all over it. Me, that is. Loser. But Lisa knew me too well and she stuck her hand behind my back and gave me a shove. I gave her the evil eye and went the rest of the way on to the dance floor. It was a nice easy two-step and we started out.

“Kansas, huh? Is that your name or where you’re from?”

Finally, somebody that actually had a clue that there was a state called Kansas. “That’s where I’m from.”

“Cool.”

“Where’re you from?” I asked. Two-stepping is fairly conducive to conversation if the dance floor isn’t too crowded.

“Corpus Christi.”

“Cool.” After a few more seconds, I asked, “Are you in the Navy?” Like I didn’t know, but it was a topic of conversation.

“Yeah. I’m on the Constellation.” At which point, I had no idea that the Constellation was an aircraft carrier, but I just went along.

“What’s your rank?”

“E-5”

“Pardon? E-5?”

“Petty Officer, Second Class.”

Of course, that also meant that I had no idea where that put him in the hierarchy of the Navy. I was only familiar with Army and Air Force rankings. I was just making polite conversation. We danced around a little bit longer and then, when the song ended, he escorted me back to my place beside Lisa and thanked me for the dance. Then he was gone.

“Well?” Lisa grinned at me.

“Well what?” I gave her a side ways glance as I leaned down on the corral and sipped my drink.

“You should go ask him to dance.” She had a big smile on her face.

“Get out of here. The guy couldn’t wait to dump me off and get the hell away. Besides, he was interested in you, not me. I’m just the chick you tried to pawn off on him.” I couldn’t think of anything that said “loser” bigger than the pawned off chick going to ask him for a dance.

“Kansas…” she laughed a little.

“Kansas nothing. You go ask him to dance.”

“I will.” And she did. They danced around for another song and then parted company on the floor. Lisa came back to our area, “He thinks you’re nice.”

Ahh, nice as in, “she’s obviously your friend and I’m not going to say anything bad about her if I want to hook up with you”. Me rolling my eyes, “Yeah, whatever.”

“Kansas…” and she laughed a little, “You need to loosen up.”

I just rolled my eyes and kept watching the dance floor. It was dying down quite a bit early in the evening since it was a Sunday and the only ones left were the rabble-rousers at the other end of the floor, me and Lisa and a few other steadfast patrons. Lisa had gone over to the back bar and was chatting up Gino and playing quarters. A good way to get a few free drinks out of Gino who was apparently bored. I went out on the floor and did a few line dances and then stood by watching the dancers. It was a good way to learn how the spinning and other dance moves were done.

Carlos came back up the dance floor doing a little boot scootin’ two-step move and stopped at my position. I figured he was looking for my friend so I told him she was back at the bar. He said, “That’s okay. You wanna dance?”

Now I’m thinking that I must have looked extremely pitiful standing down there by myself for the last twenty minutes. I was about to become a “mercy dance”. Dammit, I had my pride. And I threw it out the window because I hadn’t danced with anybody else that evening. I figured, “what the hell. It’s just a dance.” So I put my hand in his and he led me to the dance floor.

We danced for about a minute and he said, “You dance pretty good.” Coming from Fred Astaire, that was a nice compliment.

“I’m okay. I don’t step on anybody’s toes, but I can’t do some of that spinning yet.”

“Yeah? I can show you some of that.” He proceeded to show me how to do some spin moves and multiple tandem turns. When the song ended, a fast song came on, “Do you know how to polka?”

As previously mentioned, my grandparents had thought it was important to learn how to do some of the simple dances, “You’re in luck. I can stumble along if you can.” We proceeded to do a very fast paced polka. We were spinning around so fast sometimes that my toes barely touched the ground. He was very tall and this contributed some to the lift I was getting. The floor was pretty empty so this gave us a lot of room to maneuver and it was pretty fun. At the end of the floor where his friends were standing, about three of the girls were standing together talking and, as we passed by, they were giving me the evil eye and then going back to talk amongst themselves.

When that song ended, we were laughing and breathless. A slow song came on and he grabbed my right hand in the classic dance position and started weaving us around the dance floor. He was a very good dancer and we didn’t just do that circle dancing where one leg basically stays in one position while you turn in a little circle. It was definitely more Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger. He even dipped me once.

When the song was done, I thanked him. I know I had a big smile on my face. It was really nice to dance with somebody that actually knew how. He walked me back to my area and then joined his friends again.

At that point, I’d had about three cokes and had to go to the bathroom really badly so I walked over to the lady’s room. As I was leaving the stall, I opened the door and was confronted by the three girls from Carlos’s group. Two were standing back and the third one, a cute little blonde chicky with tight jeans and a half shirt, was blocking my way to the sinks. “I don’t know who you think you are, but you better keep your hands to yourself.” She had her hands on her hips and was looking pretty aggressive.

“Pardon?” I mean, I didn’t ask HIM to dance.

“You heard me. Carlos is my guy and you better back off.”

Right then I was thinking I was going to be in my first ever catfight with a bunch of girls in a bar bathroom. I was also thinking that I had only danced with the guy and I wasn’t going to get in a fight with some chicks over it. No guy was worth it, “Hey, whatever. You can have him. No skin off my back.” I held my hands up to indicate “surrendering the field.”

“Just stay away.” She and the other girls left the bathroom.

I went over to wash my hands and was thinking what a pain in the ass that was. I was more irritated than anything. I mean, if the guy was with that girl, why in the hell did he come over and dance with me? I wasn’t going to get thrown out of the bar because of a fight over some guy. I dried my hands and walked out of the bathroom. I had to walk past the group to go back to my place at the fence. I was thinking that the evening’s fun was over and I should just get Lisa and go on home.

As I walked past the group, Carlos stopped me, “Hey. You wanna dance again?”

Now I was thinking that the guy had a huge pair of cajones to be asking me that right in front of his girlfriend and I told him so, “No thanks. I think your girlfriend is pissed already.”

“My girlfriend?” He really looked confused by that, but all I kept thinking was “dude, you ain’t that good of an actor.”

“Yeah, your girlfriend. She stopped me in the bathroom and told me to take a hike. Maybe you should dance with her.” I nodded my head towards the little blonde chick who was giving me the evil eye along with her two friends.

“That’s not my girlfriend. I don’t have a girlfriend.”

I rolled my eyes and shook my head, “Whatever.” Then I walked back to my place on the floor, got my drink and started looking for Lisa. I was still thinking the guy had some big brass ones to be trying to play his girlfriend off in front of me. I noticed that he and the girl started having a few words. They both looked really pissed.

I found Lisa at the back bar, “You ‘bout ready to go?”

“No. I’m having fun playing quarters with Gino. I saw you dancing with Carlos. You guys looked really good together.”

“Yeah, whatever. His girlfriend just cornered me in the bathroom and told me back off.”

“What? His girlfriend?”

“Yeah and they were just having a fight when I walked off. So, I was wondering if you were ready to go.”

“Alright. I guess we’d better,” and Lisa started getting her stuff together, clinked glasses with Gino and down the last shot.

We started walking back to the front door that necessitated our passing the group at the end of the dance floor again. I was not looking forward to that. As we walked by, I noticed that the three girls were gone and only the guys and some of the girls that were visibly with the guys were remaining. Carlos stopped me as I was walking by, “Where’re ya goin’?”

“Home, James. Have a nice night.” I started to walk by again.

“Hey, wait a minute. I wanted to dance with you again.” And he took hold of my arm.

“Yeah, I don’t think so. Where’s your girlfriend at?” I was starting to get a little pissed about being put in that situation.

“I told ya’, she’s not my girlfriend.”

“Uh-huh, and I’m the Queen of England.” I pulled my arm back and started to walk by.

Just then, several of his guy friends stood up from their leaning positions and blocked my way, “No. Seriously, she’s not his girlfriend.” A few of their girlfriends joined in, “She’s not. She was just hanging out with us.”

I was looking them all over trying to decide if they were just doing their friend a favor. It was hard to tell because, if it had just been a couple of guys saying it, I would have figured they were all just sticking up for their friend and helping him save the play. It was a little different when the girlfriends chimed in. Generally, girls weren’t going to cover for some guy who was cheating on another girl. That would be against the “girl code”. Unless, of course, they hated the girl in question, then she might be on her own.

“She’s not your girlfriend?” I was still debating whether I should accept that or not. Either way, it might be a pain in the ass if the girl thought I was horning in on her territory and it was a fairly insular group of people that hung out there.

“She’s not. I just bought her a drink or two because she was upset about her boyfriend breaking up with her. I was just tryin’ to be nice. I don’t know why she thought I was with her.”

Guys never could get the complication of drink buying down. If a guy buys somebody one drink, you should have no expectations of hooking up. If a guy buys somebody two drinks, it doesn’t seal the deal, but it certainly leaves the question open. As a matter of fact, the two drink rule could swing either way. The girl could think that you were interested and decide that you were “an item” or she could still be thinking that it didn’t mean he was THE guy for the rest of the night. It’s a tricky situation. In this case, the blonde had obviously decided that she was “with” him.

Just then, the swinging doors flew open (yeah, they had swinging saloon doors on the inside doorway), the girl comes stomping back in, grabs the jacket she had left there and yells, “Asshole!” as she stomps back out. She and her friends waiting in the car peeled out of the parking lot.

“Um..I don’t know...” I was still thinking my best bet was to bust a move out of there and let the dust settle. I hated to be in the middle of things like that.

“C’mon.” He grabbed my hand and dragged me on to the floor. Another guy grabbed Lisa’s hand and a few of the other couples he was with joined us.

I didn’t say anything, but I think my lips were compressed and my eyebrows were scrunched down. I was still thinking this was a very bad idea. When you hang out somewhere for a while, you’re bound to run into these same people again and it could be a big mess.

He was getting exasperated, “For the last time, she’s not my girlfriend. As a matter of fact she was going out with Collin who broke up with her because his wife came back. Before that, she was going with John Muenchenhausen and before that, some other guy. I don’t go out with girls like that.”

“Really?” I’m sure my skepticism was pretty apparent. I mean, does a guy really care how many other guys a girl went out with if he’s trying to hook up? Probably not.

“Yeah, really.” He was looking a little irritated too.

I was quiet for the rest of the dance. I was really warring with myself. Part of me was reminding me that guys could play games just like girls do and that there was a probability here that he had changed horses in midstream. Which actually didn’t make me feel to sure about any potential future dating. The other part of me was kicking me in the ass and saying he had done a whole lot more to get my attention than many other guys I’d ended up dating.

After a few songs, we all went back to the end of the floor and he bought me a coke. He didn’t try to pressure me for something else although he was downing coke and Beam like it was kool-aid. Everyone hung out for a while and talked and danced. I knew a few of the girls and some of the guys from previous association so it made it easier.

We went to this little diner up the road when the bar closed. I remember it well because it always had the best eggs and home fries (chunky fried potatoes) and decent coffee for three a.m. I remember when we walked up to the table he pulled my chair out for me. I as really kind of shocked for a second. I’d been up there for almost three years and no body I’d been on a date with had held my chair for me. Then, before the waitress came to take our orders, he asked me what I wanted to get. I told him what I was thinking about getting and, when the waitress came, he ordered both of our meals. I was really thinking, “Wow” at that point. Nobody had ever done that either.

We all laughed and joked. The guys were telling stories about their recruitment nightmares and some of the tamer entertainment they had undertaken during their Pacific tour.

When we left, he walked me to Lisa’s little escort and opened my door for me.

I’ll pause now and tell you, I don’t care how damned “liberated” a woman is. If she is not impressed by a guy with manners, she is either fooling herself or she’s a complete b* that thinks all men suck and men should run away from them as fast as possible. They will make a guy’s life a living hell. I mean, it’s one thing if a girl protests a little, but if she’s downright adamant that the guy doesn’t hold the door, open the door, pull out her seat or anything else, she has issues. Major issues.

Ladies, if you’re reading this and you’re one of “those” and my comment bothers you, let me repeat, you have issues and you should work them out. If you feel your position in life is threatened by a man being polite you probably have other problems as well. Go see a therapist and work it out. (I amend this for the ladies in the military. In a professional setting, when women in the military are in a meeting or at some other professional function associating with her male counterparts, a man pulling out the woman’s chair during these functions can be misconstrued as well as undermine the woman’s authority or position. I don’t recommend it under those circumstances. However, on the same note, ladies in the military, when you leave your post for the day and are associating with a male for social reasons, don’t confuse the necessity of your day job with socializing or male/female romantic relationships. I fully believe you can be a woman that appreciates manners and some demonstration of caring as well as be the hard ass you need to be during the day.)

Now, where was I? Oh, yes. He opened my door and as I rounded it to get in, he stepped in, pushed my hat up and said, “We’re going to be down at the Rose on Thursday night. Are ya’ll gonna come down?”

“Well, I’ll check with Lisa, but I’m sure we could make it.”

“Cool.” Then he tipped my hat back down, stepped back, handed me in the car, shut the door and walked back to his guy friends who were whooping and hollering some teasing remarks as he approached.

I put the car in gear and Lisa asked, “Did he kiss you?”

“No.” And, boy was I confused.

“He didn’t kiss you? How come?”

“How the hell am I supposed to know? I thought he was going to, but then he just asked me if we were going to come down on Thursday.”

Talk about confusing. If a guy really wants to confuse the hell out of a girl, all he has to do is not do exactly what she was expecting. I mean, men talk about how confusing women are, but, in the game between the sexes, it’s all confusing. Women no more have men figured out than men have women. At least in the dating scene or just getting started. Relationship wise, women tend to learn a little faster than men in the long run, but it doesn’t mean we have a road map to men’s minds and understand every nook and cranny of their thinking.

“Did he ask you for your number?”

“No.”

“Kansas! You should have just given it to him.”

“No way! If he wasn’t gonna ask me for it I’m not going to push it on him.”

We drove home and laughed and talked about how interesting the evening was.

“You wanna come back on Thursday?”

I really didn’t know. Part of me said “yes” and part of me said that I shouldn’t get my hopes up too much. Maybe I should just chalk it up to an interesting night and leave it at that.

“Yeah, I think I do.”

That was the part of me that said, “Don’t be a gutless wiener.”

I might have been a lot of things, a square, goody two shoes and the designated driver, but I was not a “gutless wiener.”

A young cowboy named Billy Joe
Grew restless on the farm
A boy filled with wanderlust
Who really meant no harm
He changed his clothes and shined his boots
And combed his dark hair down
And his mother cried as he walked out;

Refrain:
"Don't take your guns to town, son
Leave your guns at home, Bill
Don't take your guns to town."

He sang a song as on he rode,
His guns hung at his hips
He rode into a cattle town,
A smile upon his lips
He stopped and walked into a bar and laid his money down
But his mother's words echoed again;

Refrain:
"Don't take your guns to town, son
Leave your guns at home, Bill
Don't take your guns to town."

He drank his first strong liquor then to calm his shaking hand
And tried to tell himself at last he had become a man
A dusty cowpoke at his side began to laugh him down
And he heard again his mother's words;

Refrain:
"Don't take your guns to town, son
Leave your guns at home, Bill
Don't take your guns to town."

Bill was raged and Billy Joe reached for his gun to draw
But the stranger drew his gun and fired before he even saw
As Billy Joe fell to the floor the crowd all gathered 'round
And wondered at his final words;

Refrain:
"Don't take your guns to town, son
Leave your guns at home, Bill
Don't take your guns to town."





5 comments:

1138 said...

What was today Kat?
I'm disapointed, I expected more folks from the 'right' to remember.

Jason Rubenstein said...

"I’ll pause now and tell you, I don’t care how damned “liberated” a woman is. If she is not impressed by a guy with manners, she is either fooling herself or she’s a complete b* that thinks all men suck and men should run away from them as fast as possible. They will make a guy’s life a living hell. I mean, it’s one thing if a girl protests a little, but if she’s downright adamant that the guy doesn’t hold the door, open the door, pull out her seat or anything else, she has issues. Major issues. "

I'll add to that: Ladies, give yourself a chance to be impressed. I've been on more than one date where my date has launched herself to the restaurant door, squeaked by me to get to the table (and chair) first, and grabbed the car door handle at the same time I did.. thereby making it impossile for me to enjoy a man's privilidge of manners, if not small-moment chivalry of opening restaurant doors, pulling out chairs, and opening car doors. Maybe this is an L.A. thing, where the speed of life is fast-fast-fast.

But, hey.. we're not all slugs. It won't kill you to see whether the guy actually opens the door before grabbing it yourself.. wait for him to get the car all tucked in with the valet before you assume he's not paying attention.

Kat said...

I think what some women think (as I've been a party to these discussions) is that these little things some how signify that a guy thinks that a woman is unable to take care of herself and that he must do it for her. It goes back to the early stages of the women's lib movement in the 60's and 70's. Something about it signifying the "little woman" syndrome. And, I have known a few men that still believe in that sort of behavior and it is a matter of controlling the woman, but only if she allows it to go there.

This is where we get into the idea of victimhood: do we make it ourselves sometimes or is it completely the other person's fault?

Personally, I think that it's a manner of showing that somebody cares for you and it's not just men that do it. In the same token that a woman might fix a man his favorite meal when he comes to dinner, buys him a tie or special shirt or wears something like clothes or perfume that a guy likes, it's just showing that you care for that person. These things are like little compromises, a little give and take.

I think that people who are unable to accept these things are unable to do the give and take. Lord knows I had my own little foibles. Frankly, I can mow the lawn, change my own oil, hammer a nail, pump the gas and deal with the finance guy myself, but, if I was in a relationship or even dating someone that wanted to mow my lawn for me, I wouldn't freak out. Actually, I'd be pretty damned happy if the guy mowed my lawn or changed my oil. Those aren't things that I necessarily enjoy, they are things I do by necessity.

I think a person that is able to accept these things are people that are secure in their own place and position. They aren't threatened by it. It doesn't change them.

On the otherhand, I really have no patience for simpering women who can't even pump their own gas, largely because I've seen it as some sort of game they are playing with the guy to achieve some backhanded control of their relationship. The "helpless" woman can be just as bad as the ultra liberated variety.

Well adjusted people can do for themselves but don't mind accepting courtesy and assistance. That's basically why I comment on women who might need some sort of therapy to deal with their issues or fears of male dominance.

Women should suck it up a little. In some sense, our movement to liberate has also resulted in some basic common courtesies being lost. Not that I oppose the struggle the women had that came before me. Without them, I might be somebody's secretary instead of the mid level executive I am today.

I think that the pendulum probably swung out a little too far and needs to come back.

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

I tried to get into the country/western bar scene particularly because there were so many more women of apparently much higher quality than in the hip-hop and rock bars, and while the techno dance clubs also had a lot of women you couldn't communicate without screaming your throat raw over the music. But, I just could NOT deal with the music, over time, and eventually gave up on that scene. It just wasn't me.

When it comes to chivalry, I think a lot of modern people misunderstand how chivalry evolved. "Chevalerie" literally meant "being a Knight", and referred to a code of courtly behavior governing a knight's social graces when around ladies of sufficiently high birth. The fulcrum of all these rules and regulations of knightly etiquette was respect. It wasn't to imply that women were weak or unable to fend for themselves or any of that, but simply that when in the company of a Duchess or a Countess or the daughter of an aristocratic merchant, y'don't just grab her and drag her onto your lap and start groping her, the way you might with, say, a serving wench at an inn. If anything, the code of chivalry implied the female objects of the behavior WERE powerful, and could ruin a knight's day if he mistreated her in front of her protective male kinsmen who could command armies and fleets of fire-galleys. The famous scene recounted in folklore of Sir Francis Drake covering a mud puddle with his cloak so that Queen Elizabeth wouldn't get her shoes dirty to walk over it, that wasn't a gesture to imply her "weakness", au contraire, it was a payment of symbolic homage to her POWER. He was implying to the world that this was a woman who had defeated her chief rival, another woman, Duchess Marie de Guise, Dowager of Scotland, and was not a woman to be trifled with.

What eventually evolved with the partial decline of aristocratic distinctions among the classes, was an extension of the code of chivalry downward into the lower societal and economic classes, at least nominally, to where one opened the door, not only for duchesses and countesses and the Queen's Ladies in Waiting, but for ALL women. It was supposed to be an extension of courtly respect to all ladies, regardless of social "rank".

And so the big irony is that feminism flip-flopped it, and suggested that the way a Queen would be treated, who could have a man beheaded if he looked at her the wrong way, that was "disrespectful" of a woman's... "independance".

This is how feminism went very, very, incredibly wrong. Now you have boys practically date-raping girls, and it's treated as "expected", because the chivalry that kept men in awe of female power, was removed as a tool in the feminine toolbox for keeping men in line.

PC has tried to replace chivalry with a chivalric code of its own, (the whole "no means no" paradigm), but it has so little of the SYMBOLIC trappings of feminine authority, that it's no wonder that it doesn't work in modern social settings, such as college frat parties. Without the symbolic respect, you end up eroding the real respect where it counts the most.

As the father of a 16 year-old daughter, I perhaps more than anyone I know, have cause to lament the fall of "old world" culture. And you can best believe, any boy who wants to date her WILL be getting a pop quiz on what "chivalry" means. He'd better study.

Michael_the_Archangel said...

Good posting - again. Had to laugh about the women quizzing you about living in Kanasas City. I've taken a few trips back east, Philly was one of the places. I too was quizzed, quite seriously, about were we still having 'Injun' problems. Like you, I semi-stared at these people like what planet did you just step off of, till I finally realized that they were serious.

It's akin to folks thinking about Alaska and equating it with Eskimos. Yes folks, there are Eskimos in Alaska but you have to search to find them. Relatively few live in villages out in the sticks and mostly they use ski-doos to get around in. Hope I didn't burst anyone's bubble, I won't mention how Hawaii has changed (hint - dugout canoes aren't the main means of transportation anymore).

As for men/boys with manners - neither of my girls goes out with a fellow unless he's spent time over at our place first. If he is too chicken or if he comes over and is impolite to me, my daughter or her mother, the poor dude has to contend with me; and I can be a nasty SOB when I want to be (not a good idea to tick off an ArchAngel). As for the ever popular, "We'll get together behind your dad's back." They always get caught, so it never pays. I can't control what they do, see or hang with at school, but the rest of the time I've got VERY good tabs on where they are.