Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bang A Gong (Get It On)

I have been getting hit on a lot lately.

I say this not in a self-congratulatory way, but as a mere statement of a very strange fact.

I have come to realize that, in an economic downturn, a cheerful and (for now) financially solvent woman is truly a hot ticket--particularly to the young, the unemployed, the closeted and the thrice-divorced.

I certainly haven't been doing anything different from what I've been doing for the last 20 years.  During that time-frame, to the general despair of all of my friends, I have studiously cultivated the fine art of ignoring pretty much everyone.

The other day, I was sitting somewhere, waiting for something, and, like any normal person, I began picking lint pellets off of my coat.

Suddenly, I realized that, if I have never actually had this coat dry-cleaned and if the coat itself is actually more than ten years old, then there is a good chance that it hasn't been washed in over a decade.

As I was trying to recall whether I had ever attempted to stuff it in the washing machine, wondering whether this would explain why the sleeves seem to be so much shorter than I remember, and extending my arms in front of me to confirm whether or not the sleeves were in fact shorter, I heard a suave, "Hello..."

Another time, as I was reading Junot Diaz's short story collection, Drown and contemplating the cultural and political dimensions of the Dominican-American experience in northern New Jersey, I heard, "Oh, you like books.  I like to read too."

I always find these conversations slightly awkward, because I feel like I'm being asked to speak in a code that I was briefly introduced to in high school but never bothered to memorize because it always struck me as useless and a bit silly.

And yet, I do know enough to realize that when Book-Man tells me he "loved" the movie "Shutter Island," I am not supposed to say, "Yeah?  I didn't really care for it.  It was too long.  I mean, for me, it was like, 'Hey, wrap it up, Scorsese.'"

The look on his face confirms it.  I have committed a flirting faux-pas:  I have an opinion.

For me, the bar encounters are always a little more fun, because they don't stand a snowball's chance in hell and we all know it.  Because most of those who approach are already several sheets to the wind, I can be as random as I please.

(Provided, that is, that there isn't a band playing, because then I can only be as random as I am willing to repeatedly scream something witty into a skeevy-someone's ear.)

One time, a somewhat greasy-looking dude decided that he would attempt to dirty-dance with me.

Now, that's just rude.  I had in no way solicited this attention.  In fact, he would probably have had a better chance of dirty-dancing with Ginger Rogers than he would have had with me.

In my opinion, if you are not Patrick Swayze--and you never are--then this gesture, however well-intentioned, is extremely ill-considered.

Personally, I have a polite and tactful way of reminding people of the wise teachings of Shakira--that, in fact, "Hips Don't Lie."

I stop dead in my tracks, take a small but noticeable step backward, and then stare at Groove-Dude in complete bewilderment.

Ideally, at some point, other people around you begin to wonder why you are standing there motionless, since obviously no one has collapsed or vomited on the floor in front of you.  They then mimic and follow your gaze and sooner or later, everyone is staring at Groove-Dude in complete bewilderment.

And he will never do it again.

(I must admit, though, that quite often people have ended up staring at me in complete bewilderment instead, so you need to be ready to weather that particular storm.)

This particular Fake Fosse came up to me later and said, "Hey, you know, I was just trying to let you know that, if you wanted to dance with me, like hey, I would totally dance with you, if you know what I mean."

I think he actually winked at me after he said this.  Either that, or he had a facial tic.  (I'm still not sure which possibility bothers me more.)

I smiled politely and told him, "Well, I guess that's going to have to be my road not taken."

One of my literary friends later commented, "You're awesome.  You dissed a guy using Robert Frost.  Who does that?"

Alas, I fear, no one.  I took the title of this post from one of my favorite hitting-on-someone songs: T-Rex's "Bang A Gong (Get It On)."  My second-favorite hitting-on-someone song is David Bowie's "Rebel, Rebel."

If hitting on people is absurd and random, why not be completely absurd and random and have a few laughs?

Let me make myself clear.  I would not be flattered to be told, "Well, you're slim and you're weak" or to have it announced publicly, "You've got your mother in a whirl, she's not sure if you're a boy or a girl."

And while the sheer dismay of being told "Your face is a mess" might be offset by the follow-up comment, "Hey babe, your hair's alright," in my opinion, calling someone "hot tramp" or "you tacky thing" is simply a sign of poor judgment and bad social skills.

However, if someone said, "Well, you're built like a car, you've got a hubcap diamond-star halo, you're built like a car, oh yeah," I would simply assume that he's high and although I wouldn't necessarily hold it against him, I would politely move away.

But if someone told me that I seem to have "the teeth of the hydra" upon me, I would wonder aloud whether or not hydra really do have teeth, per se.  This might lead to a conversation about hydrozoa or--more to my liking--Greek mythology and the Twelve Labors of Hercules.

I might learn something new.  I always like that.

And if someone told me, "You're windy and wild, you've got the blues in your shoes and your stockings, You're windy and wild, oh yeah, " I do believe I would let that person buy me a drink, simply because I would want to hear more about his overall impression of my shoes and socks. 

Finally, I would feel quite pleased with myself if someone told me, "Well, you're an untamed youth, that's the truth, with your cloak full of eagles."

I would forget all about the fact that I'm a polite bookworm wearing a coat that is in desperate need of a dry-cleaning.  It's not even a coat now--it's a "cloak," and "full of eagles," no less.

Who cares if I don't even know what that means?  We like dancing and we look divine...


  1. I've been reading your blog since I found it linked through your faculty page several months ago. I don't check it often, but when I do, I always find myself clicking through the archives reading everything since my last visit, and before I know it an hour has passed. You are as captivating a blogger as you are a professor, and that is saying something. Thanks for all the witticisms and wisdom.
    -Jean Louise Finch

  2. Thank you so much! Your kind words made my day.


Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."