Why San Diego is Awesome

Ok, so, this video is not why I think San Diego is awesome, but it’s so spot on that I had moments where I forgot that it’s a parody. I’m pretty sure I’ve been to that Rigoberto’s…

And I don’t even need to write a comment because Michael here had the same thought:

Screen shot 2014-01-30 at 3.54.10 AM

Obviously, as a gay female feminist, ‘bro culture’ is not my most favorite thing. When bros are going on bragging about taking advantage of women (or trying to score blow jobs) I tend to get kicky. Otherwise, I’m usually amused by the way they talk and their gentle sort of simplemindedness. Oh, and I love when a brah grasps for those profound thoughts, I really do. Have you ever noticed how their faces soften, their mouths start to form the o-shaped awe of their childlike wonder?

Also, turns out the ridiculously blissful weather is not why SD is particularly awesome, though of course I admit I’m completely dependent on it and I would be utterly lost if it actually snowed ever. I would be embarrassed for myself, except I really don’t care that some people out there are proud of themselves for being “rugged” and “weather-wise” — if I move and need to deal with the realities which come from a variety of precipitation falling from the sky, then fine, I’ll learn. Otherwise I’m busy focusing on weighing my ambitions with my social survival needs — not fantasizing about some zombie apocalypse where my ability to light a fire with a shoelace is going to be important.

All the flowering fruitless plums? That's "snowy" enough for me.

All the flowering fruitless plums? That’s “snowy” enough for me.

Anyway, the weather is not my “big deal” here.  I don’t see a lot of daylight anyway. Not only because my schedule keeps me inside on a computer most of the time but I’ve also kind of elected to avoid the sun and outdoor activities. For example, of course I have surfed (has any local never surfed? Tell me in the comments) but I didn’t really get into it because 1) my glorious princess hair turns to ratty straw with all that sea water 2) I sunburn in 13 minutes when the $4-per-ounce 110 SPF sunscreen is finally battered off my skin by waves & sand and 3) I’m not really a meditative person so I don’t get “totally stoked” to sit on a buoyant piece of foam covered in fiberglass for hours not talking to anyone and collecting skin cancer.

And before the 5th person gives a "helpful suggestion" I *do* own a rash guard.

And before the 5th person gives a “helpful suggestion” I *do* own a rash guard.

Most people will tell you SD is awesome because it’s relaxing, “nice,” friendly… They laud the small town atmosphere and remark that it seems like everyone knows each other (they don’t, but it’s okay, we like pretending).  Also, most importantly, it’s “better than LA.” Which it’s really not, and anyone who says so probably lived there and submitted to the soul-crushing forces and insecurity that comes from being surrounded by beautiful, successful people. I’m honestly not sure how well I’d fare in our city’s big sister but I will say it’s lovely to feel like a big fish in a little lake (or a whale’s vagina).

Those kinds of conversations, about how SD is so nice and the weather is fucking rad, are immensely boring to me.  I’m too young to be grateful for a pleasant atmosphere to the point of making it my perpetual focus of small-talk. (I’d rather just take it for granted.) In fact I willfully throw myself into the chaotic fires of the night. Turns out, this is not a bad place to do that.

The underground scenes in SD are cushioned from the watchful eye of the media and/or your catholic grandparents because everyone is too busy defending how “pleasant” this place is.  They call our city a “town” and drink in the big clear skies and hum the word “quaint” as a daily mantra. The fact that the only problems with this town are First World Problems (although the crumbling sidewalks are fucking shameful) gives us a kind of cushion that allows us to build hidden lairs of resistance.  Or just, you know, dens of sin.

Slowly we will start to face the kind of scruple laid on places like NY and LA, but for now, expectations are low or nonexistent. It’s quite easy to squirm your way out of conversations where you’ve said too much about what happened last night since the imagination factor for the “normals” out here is quite scant.

I think many a creative mind lashes out against the ennui here, and we make our own fun out of thin air. We build playgrounds in the desert, we have subterranean punk shows, we put tails on and dance in warehouses. After two years (I was less cool in college) of paying attention, I finally know where to look. I’ve found something awesome in San Diego.

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Analyzing the Sh*t out of Parties: Creatives vs. Nostalgics (Which are you?)

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Sometimes I am inspired by my friends to write, but they might not want to recognize themselves when they read my blog later. Please forgive me while I go off in abstraction la-la-land in lieu of the usual juicy details.

Long story short I went to two different parties and found them to be drastically different. I’ll let you figure out which one I thought was more fun (nvm guessing games are tedious; I’m a “Creative”). Anyway, consider this thought experiment:

I’m beginning to identify two major structures in which a party group can operate. I’ll call them the Creatives and the Nostalgics. If the ideal goal of a party is Fun, then the two groups differ primarily in *how* they attempt to achieve Fun.

How Fun is Achieved

The Creatives are generative, operating much like an improv troupe — simultaneously approaching and redefining Fun. Imagine that a party is a collaborative art piece, and all its members riff endlessly to cascade moment after delectable moment in a very loose and self-reflective jam sesh. They don’t really know what it means until it’s up there on the canvas, and even then it’s up for interpretation.

the-fun-creatives-style

The Nostalgics assume an ideal and seek to return to it. Basically, they’re trying to recreate a Fun they once had. End-goal in mind, for each event or even as the entire basis of their group culture, they will follow, reinforce, or bushwhack a path to the Fun. Their notion of Fun is probably just as fuzzy as that of the Creatives, given that the act of remembering makes it more or less than it actually was. The important point, however, is that they treat the goal of Fun like an ideal, regardless of their understanding of its nature.

the-fun-nostalgic-style

Now, the Nostalgics aren’t always literally pining after the past. While I’ve encountered groups with a nasty infestation of the “remember whens,” there are other frameworks which can be used for this backward-sort-of-seeking of an ideal. Generally the group adopts a tradition. This could be a geek tradition or a greek tradition.  It could be as focused and specific as a “What if we re-imagine Dr. Who in the pony-verse?” fanship or as vast as heteronormativity. They are fond of set activities, such as drinking games, sports, or dungeons and dragons matches, and will replicate the same activities endlessly with no truly intentional variations.

The Creatives certainly adopt frameworks, and traditions do result as a side effect of the same groups of people meeting each other repeatedly, but their understanding of the former is less permanent. Frameworks are borrowed to streamline the communication of a particular idea, and are quickly discarded when the point is made. In other words, frameworks are temporary tools.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Using frameworks can actually be considered a key strength. The inclusivity of the Nostalgic group is only limited by its frameworks. So long as an individual can follow and adapt to a specific framework, they will be able to operate within the group.

In the Creative group, inclusivity is more related to performance, in the artistic sense of the word.  An individual is valuable to the group while they are able to provide fresh perspective, enriching content, desirable challenge, or whatever is up in that group’s particular market. The Creatives are seeking talent, rather than submission to a framework. This hefts more of the responsibility onto the individual’s ego, and will often create insecurity for newcomers (or, really, everyone involved). Creatives risk collapse when they are not able to foster a healthy environment for tinkering with fun the way they do.

The strength of improvising is that submission to such frameworks is not required. In this way, the group is able to be more inclusive of truly non-conforming identities. The nerd might seek the nerd-focused Nostalgic group, the lesbian just the same with her own. The Creatives eschew such outward-facing identities, except as they are necessary to invite new members, and can be a good home for those with more fluid personalities. Overall, what I enjoy most is the freedom from submission.

When the nostalgic group attempts improvising outside of their frameworks with any kind of real fluidity, the result is the surreal. Some individual will get some notion to try on a new behavioral hat, and his friends will respond with, “Whoa, what’s going on right now?” or “Did that just happen?” or “Did I take drugs?”

This surreal effect is a symptom of this weakness: There’s a paradox of looking backwards in that one cannot truly enjoy the moment one is trying to create. The Nostalgic evaluates passing moments (simultaneously looking to future moments) as candidates for the great scrapbook of Fun. What’s missing? The present.

Of course, you may have caught on to my distaste for quasi-spiritual hippie-dippie assertions, but let’s try “situational awareness is important” as a less-cheesy alternative to “you have to live in the moment.” There might be something wrong with me for not putting a whole lot of value in reminiscing. Maybe I had a shitty middle school experience, have no patience for memorizing trivia, or got a 2 on my AP US exam…but I find I’m having the most fun when I keep myself present. The Creatives understand this intrinsically.

the-fun-gallery

How do you know which group you’re in, or — if we assume groups are fairly flexible — how do you know which modality your group is operating within at any given moment?

Signifiers of the Creatives & the Nostalgics

Well, one way to figure out which group/modality you’re in is pay attention to what everyone is doing with their iPhones. Nostalgics use cameras and social media as recording devices. The Nostalgic group meta-analyzes through a rear-facing gaze. Seeing everything through an iPhone lens makes perfect sense, because these groups are very interested in curating a shared history.

Creatives are guilty of the same, of course, because that’s the current norm. But they’ll push the boundaries of social technologies by using them to augment the generative processes. They are interested in finding apps which enrich their environments, or challenging the functions of these devices by using or discussing them in a novel way.  I think this is the only group which is capable of getting together for a group picture (but something crazy-rad like a human pyramid) and then entirely losing interest in the resulting image before it ever makes it to the social media. 

Also, I’ll return to the idea of inclusivity and examine who really qualifies as an outsider in each group. The outsider in a Creative group will feel like the behaviors of the group are “arbitrary” or perhaps “don’t make sense.” Why has everyone decided to pass around a picture from a catalog and treat it like a piece of forensic evidence? And now they’re suddenly having a contest for the best dinosaur stomp? He’s expecting a set framework that doesn’t exist, and, in fact, as soon as he begins to identify one of the temporary frameworks, he may find that it has already been abandoned. He may be the one in the group who is asking “why don’t you want to play [this game] anymore?” The Creatives will seem to him like they idealize randomness, when in fact they focus on some unnamed goal of Fun in the same way a sculptor approaches a wet piece of clay with just the faintest glimmers of an artistic vision.

The outsider in a Nostalgic group will identify with self statements of not “fitting in” because she is “weird” or she may feel “impatient.” She is butting up against the framework which she has already rejected (or maybe never engaged with in the first place). She is out of touch with the realities which inform their interactions, and may even find some of them to be repulsive. If she takes this moment to be arrogant, then she’s already missed the point. And that is, the Nostaligics are seeking comfort on their own terms. There is an ease in their interactions which, if you can swallow the frameworks they choose, gives a sort of consistency to reality that does not quite exist among the Creatives. Being weird all the time is actually quite stressful!

Kitty-leggings-patterned-tights

Qualifiers and Exceptions

I shouldn’t pretend there’s a clear delineation between Creatives and Nostalgics, though there is such a thing as only pretending to be the former. Many times the frameworks which the Nostalgics choose are based on getting “creative,” which is not the same. Though the Nostalgics may decide to really “get out there” and “try something new,” they will treat this style of Fun as an isolated activity. E.g. Let’s All Go Rock Climbing Guise!! Also, do not confuse an entire framework of “acting creative” for Creativity, such as friends who base their entire micro-culture on getting together to throw pots and Raku (they could be either Creative or Nostalgic). 

Of course, since people (me!) ricochet between various groups, they frequently experience both styles depending on the swing of the pendulum.  People show up to a party and change its atmosphere (or disappear in some back bedroom). Entire groups go through changes together. I could even envision a group unit which modulates between Creative and Nostalgic modalities based on some regular change: day or night, sober or intoxicated, winter or summer.

Pushing a Group Around

With this understanding, could I feasibly push a Nostalgic group towards my preference for Creative? Like I said, I’ll see the “this is surreal” reaction if I do this. And while there is some fluidity between the two, in general they are based on competing assumptions about reality. If I try to reject a framework, the Nostalgics might feel like I’m attacking everything they hold to be good and true. Or just, like, you know, making it real tough to have a good time.

I’ve decided I’m going to push Creativity whenever I can, and when I cannot, treat whatever Nostalgic party I’m stuck in like an inside joke in my own greater pursuit of Fun. I also will be more patient during the Nostalgic moments (which build security) within typically more Creative groups.

And, always, a good Pimm’s cup will set the mood in any situation.

pimms_cup_like_in_Archer_no1

“What did I do last night?” A Detective Story

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cancer-neck-pain-dying-trashed-slept-on-bathroom-floor

My little brother — cosmic-cowboy hole-in-the-brain child of the same kooks that made me — was in town last week. I’d been hesitant to take him out since the last time I’d had drinks with him in public our parents found me sleep-standing against a wall and him shouting fuck tha’ po-lice.

But Katelyn makes a good drunk wrangler (we call her The Handler) and I figured if things started going to shit I’d make use of the zipties I inexplicably had in my purse.

I took him on a test run to a beach shindig where I didn’t know anyone (seriously, no one — the host found me on Facebook and just invited me, like some sort of party talent recruiter). His standby favorite, Steele Reserve, was only available in a three pack so we were playing with fire, so-to-speak. Indeed, with a literal flaming blade he did burn his hair. Yet, he struck down the beach with such furious precision that I was sure he had the beast, his party-monster, tamed. (I can’t speak for mine, however…)

sword-fire-poi-beach

The next night I took him to Fashion Whore, where two of our mutual friends were modeling. My brother asked if he was dressed well enough, and yes the holes in his pants look less like trendy distressing and more like he’s been living in a Berkeley co-op for the past 3-4 years (he has), but his screen-printed and studded leather jacket is a masterpiece. It should be placed on the shoulders of a little girl, photographed back-stalwartly-turned to the camera, and used as his next album cover for Butch Nasty and the Blackout Kids.

Brother + friend dropping Magnums.

Brother + friend dropping Magnums.

I’m not sure if the designers are geniuses or just sewing seashells to women’s clothing they got at the thrift store, but the event felt larger than the artsy-craftsy charm of its pieces. May Star is not short of brilliant for organizing this one; the U-31 crowd was thicker than the usual Ruby Room Merrow group and I’m not the only one who enjoyed watching my friends strutting (and dipping, and gliding, and dancing, and vamping) on the runway. Good show.

I think because my brother spent most of our bar excursion outside to smoke — out of sight, out of mind — I felt comfortable enough to quit monitoring his alcohol intake. And mine. By the end of the fashion show I’d made it through the better part of the third iteration of my “whiskey coke” (Pro Tip: A plastic flask extends the life of an $8 drink). I left it unattended with at least a finger left of pure Evan Williams, so when the busboy swiped it I felt like the universe owed me a drink. A friend of mine was completely neglecting some sort of Red Bull poison, and by the time he left I was basically obligated to finish it. The universe decided to teach me to watch what I ask for, and also provided a full vodka soda. I mumbled something about being a garbage disposal and downed both.

We made it back to a friend’s house, and I don’t remember much there. Luckily drunk-sami became a smartphone photographer so I’ve managed to reconstruct memories of Jenga and flogging.

jenga smile gif

flogger-smile

What no one remembers is if I knocked over all of the Jenga pieces on accident or on purpose.

The rest of the evening I pieced together by various clues. “Babe, why was there a towel by my head on the floor where I slept?” I was apparently making spit noises and giggling, like a giant frothy baby. Solution: towel. I also found a pillow in the bathroom and glimpsed a memory of a puke-filled toilet bowl through the camera-shutter flashback that is my recollection of traumatic happenings. I’m not much of a ‘vommer,’ be the urge from alcohol-intake or flu, always choosing to bunker down with my suffering over the violence of becoming a projectile-mechanism for my own stomach soup. I’ll do anything not to succumb to the porcelain gods’ demands for sacrifice.

Cigarettes, however, are a poison that my body won’t accept. My accusatory finger began pointing like a dowsing rod. Clearly I had an accomplice, since I know full well what cigarettes do to me. I wouldn’t stick another of those emetic sticks in my mouth after half a clove produced an embarrassing wet arc on the Brass Rail smoking patio. I wouldn’t…

cigarette-makes-me-puke-textOh, right. I totally would.

Straight Girls Pt. 1 “Mean Girls” as seen by a notorious Toaster Taker

Consider this a letter to my fellow humans of the feminine persuasion.  Dudes, let me know in the comments if this was at all valuable to you. Frankly, I wasn’t thinking of men when I wrote this. I could write a book on this subject (Straight Girlz), so let’s go ahead and call this Part 1. This has less to do with the “straight” part of “straight girls” and more to do with women in general, but through my personal perspective as a kissing bandit. I have probably smashed faces (and other…) with maybe 3 bonafide lesbian chicks. The rest have been varying levels of bisexual or straight. So very many straight women. I swear I don’t specifically target them. They’re drawn to me — outgoing, harmlessly femme; I think they feel safe and welcomed. Not just the ones that kiss me, but the ones that befriend me also surprise me with their warmth and trust. Often women will tell me “I don’t normally get along with other girls” or “I prefer hanging out with guys.” How do I manage to break down social barriers and engage women on deeper levels? Am I just appealing because they project or sense a level of desire in me (as a lesbian) that they find familiar from men? Is it just my pretty hair? Or am I managing to do something else… My friend wrote to me about her recent experience (anonymity preserved for work reasons):

Friend1Oh. Surprise, surprise. I finally kissed a girl that I liked it. Sami

??

You accidentally a word. Not sure if you finally liked kissing a girl, or one finally liked kissing you

Friend1 haha…I kissed a girl…well…and it worked out anyways it didn’t tweak my usual “that doesn’t work” reaction Sami Sexuality is fluid so maybe something changed for you Friend1

I dunno. There might be a few girls I can kiss and it would work out. I’m pretty sure there aren’t a lot. I’m definitely not anything beyond heteroflexible.

I wanted to know what was special about this kiss. Why, when she’d always asserted that this wasn’t a thing for her, did she have a successful experiment?

Friend1 I think bubbly, friendly, outgoing girls maybe sometimes work for me. I know the first time I managed to successfully kiss one without it tweaking me was similar in that respect. Girls who are a bit oblivious to the fact that I may not actually be bi…and are just super friendly/warm and bubbly, I guess. Sami

You don’t want to be targeted maybe?

Friend1 I think part of it is that for the most part I don’t trust women, in general, because so many of them are so catty…and this personality type tends to be fairly opposite the catty persona that I feel comfortable with it? I mean, this girl, she heard I didn’t feel well and immediately took me downstairs and hooked me up with cough drops and was just super sweet. The more I learn about her…she is a straightforward gal…so, someone I would get along with easily.

Sami

Women in general are nice at the core. I don’t know why they catty front has to be prevalent

Friend1 This doesn’t account for your basic nerd/lezzie girl types I tend to get along with just fine, as well, of course.

Sami It’s interesting to me that you operate with so many categories

Ok, I started to get a little rude. Really though, women need to STOP acting like their problem with other women is other women. If you categorically cannot get along with an entire gender, it might be something you’re doing wrong. My friend rocks for taking my criticism in stride.

Friend1 Haha! I think I do nowadays because I used to just think it was women, in general, that I didn’t get along with. Then, as I got older I noticed there were certain personality types/traits that I got along with a lot better. I grew up, though, with mostly boys for friends. I thought a lot of girls were just plain mean.

Her younger self’s perspective is one that I see perpetuated even by women my age and older. I’ve come to realize that since our society evaluates women strongly on a rubric of “niceness,” failure to perform to the gender is read as “mean.” Saying it like it is? Mean. Standing up for yourself? Mean. Setting clear and firm boundaries? Mean. This analysis is further muddied by the fact that “mean” is also willfully taken on as a strategy by women who see its value in power plays. If a woman (nice) is expected to be docile, and gentle to the point of weakness, then the opposite (mean) is brassy and cruel to the point of strength. Your popular “mean girl” will be perceived as mean both because she is rated on the mean-nice scale and because she draws her ideas of power from the anti-feminine ideal: act like a man to game the system. Then of course she (the popular girl) overcompensates in other stereotypically feminine roles (make-up, clothes) and we hate her for being a hypocrite. You really can’t win. How do I pull people out of this overwhelming network of social scripts and assumptions so I can have a decent conversation, or even make a friend?

Sami Women are obsessed with being nice, at the expense of being fake. Since the opposite of nice is mean, fake-nice comes across as mean Friend1

there you go fake nice=mean at least, that’s how I feel about it disingenuous can’t trust people like that Sami

Thing is, it’s not actually mean. It’s just fake. Get real with her and the fakeness stops

Friend1 that’s a good observation .. “Get real with her?”

I really struggled to explain myself here. It’s not something I had consciously analyzed before.  I just…do the me…and the friends…happen.

Friend1 Maybe most girls are just nicer to you because you are cute so they want to be seen with you. Sami

Haha sure but it’s still fake-nice until they realize I’m going to be real with them Friend1

Maybe I just prefer dealing with women who are real from the beginning…and don’t know how to deal with fake nice.

She makes an excellent point. It’s not her fault if women observe her naturally open and interested nature and throw a wall up in her face. She is fair, genuine, and very used to managing expectations and relating to people (she deals with young-ish ones for a living). But I want to deal with fake nice. I find it immensely rewarding to get people to come out of their shells, even if it is a shell made out of gender shenanigans. Or maybe I’m a jerk that just likes to poke people out of their comfort zones.

Sami Just see it as insecurity. Validate them and the insecurity goes away. Unless it’s insecurity matched by ego/arrogance. Then sometimes you have to call their bluff Friend1

That probably explains the difference I run into between the women I get along with and the ones I don’t in a nutshell. Validate them? Like, “Wow, I really like those shoes (if I genuinely do),” you mean? And what’s up with the “calling their bluff?” What do you mean by that? Sami

Well, like, it’s never something you can do verbally per se. But you can disengage from their bullshit. You have to direct the conversation in a way, don’t react with the script that we all know

And after you call their bluff, you have to be nice for real I typically will kinda zone out when the fakeness is gushing. Then I chime in with the conversation I want to have. Faker will typically get a bit unsettled by this. I look for an opportunity to mitigate her fears. Get her on my sailboat and give her a life preserver Friend1

LOL…I guess that makes sense. I am constantly redirecting student conversations from where they want to take them back to the class concerns in ways that kind of broadside them. I use humor and self-deprication to move them back in the right direction…maybe a mild insult that gets their attention without really insulting them. Kind of the same thing? Make it more comfortable to have a real conversation? Sami

Sure, stuff like that, as long as it’s recoverable. Kinda like hey I know what you’re doing and knock it off, but I understand how you feel I do it too

We hinted at a few strategies.  Let me elaborate:

  • Disrupt the script – do something unexpected
  • Refuse to play the game — you don’t have to prioritize being “nice” over all else. I, for one, get more out of life with “honesty.”
  • Being “fake-nice” will often get misread as “mean” because most women know exactly what you’re doing, at some level. Even if they don’t feel like you’re being mean, they’ll often balk at your apparent insincerity (and they may not even understand why they don’t like your demeanor)
  • …Regarding getting along better with teh menz, they may not see life through this same lens and so they interpret “nice” as just plain “nice.” So maybe that’s why you get along better.
  • Extend olive branches. Make the effort to truly connect. Show that we’re all on the same team here.  If you “don’t play the game” but also skip this step, then you’ll fall into the category of “girls don’t like me because I don’t act like a girl WOE is meeeee”
  • Use the “benefit of the doubt” both to show that you will be considerate to her point-of-view, but also to allow yourself to believe she doesn’t hate your guts already
  • In other words, be “actual” nice
  • Don’t assume that girls are mean and awful and it’s not in any way your fault you get along with boys better.  YES it’s a systemic problem but the only way we’re going to get around it is if we do actual work to relate to each other like human beings and not “mean girls.”

Friend1 Thanks for all the insights. I might understand women when I’m ninety. Sami

didn’t know I had them til you asked! Give me more insights on getting girls in the kissing mood! Friend1

Be super nice and helpful and welcoming? Sami

Will try that haha

Guys don’t totally suck (I learned on my birthday)

(Hey guys, I got Prismacolors for my birthday! Enjoy the new doodles.)

I can’t say the last 7 days were uneventful — I had a birthday and 2013 became 2014 — but there isn’t a whole lot I’m willing to share on a website with my real name on it (Summary: lots of booze & bangin’). I do have a little story for you:

On my birthday, I discovered that the place I always think is Redwing but is not Redwing is also not Livewire. Nope, it’s Nunu’s.  But, you can’t blame Kateyln for taking me to the wrong, “U-shaped bar with booths,” because that, Livewire is.  Eh, it’d work. Never expecting much for my birthday, I put up check-in on facebook like my bat-signal and waited to see which friends would show.

I really mean I don’t expect much for my birthday. It’s the 27th of December, and I’ve spent most of those in a car ride to grandpa’s house in SB. My parents made the day special by letting me have the newspaper first and sometimes we’d pick up In’n’Out.  As I’ve gotten older, my birthday has become less of an addendum to Christmas in a bad way (hello child, you are getting a COMBO present and it is clothes!!), and more of an addendum to Christmas in a good way (combo present: DSLR!!!). First off, no one forgets my birthday checks. Also, I haven’t completely abandoned my childhood fantasy that all the lights and tinsel are put up just for me.

The “wrong” bar and my general lowered expectations for birthdays should have set me at unease, but maybe I just feel like I can do anything in a pair of Jeffrey Cambell’s and 1000 square inches of electric-grape leather. Maybe I could even accept free drinks from strangers.

electric-grape-leather-80s-comic-strawberry-blondeThe first person to show up was Katelyn’s bestie. She brought me a wrapped gift that was very obviously alcohol.

no-wine-gift-in-the-barYeah, no, that had to go straight to the car. The two girls left me in the bar to attend to my whiskey and a PBR tall can. I finished the former and took taxes from the latter. Just standin’ here by myself, looking gorgeous and bored. Twiddle thumbs.

Two dudes approached me and the first one said, “Hey, Sarah?” Close enough, and with my face-blind-ish-ness I assumed he knew me. We very quickly established he did not. I’m really good at talking about myself so I slipped in seamlessly that it was my birthday. (I’m lying; I announced it without context like a proud 5-year-old.)

He immediately offered a birthday shot. The way he did all the talking, I figured he was trying to wing-man for his shaggy-haired friend. I thought I knew what was going on there. Whatever, I could take his alcohol and reject his friend. Leather. 6 inch heels. It’s my birthday.

And then something kind of magical happened. The three of us took our shots of bourbon. My friend Marina arrived. He saw I wasn’t alone anymore, and told me he was glad to meet me, he’d be over by the pool table. He was glad to meet me. Past tense. As in he just bought me a shot and would be leaving me alone. I gave him a big hug I was so pleased.

I don’t want to undercut the rarity of these kinds of occurrences. I don’t want to dismiss the damage my gender faces at the hand of institutionalized sexism and asshats. I’ve certainly seen my fair share of bullshit. But something about that moment felt very….normal. Like it happens every day. Like 2014 is going to be different for me.

It’s the serenity that I felt that I treasure most. I know I’ll have to continue sharpening my skills of graceful rejection. I know someday some guy is going to put his hands on me and act like I was asking for it. But this little moment, this freely given shot, makes it worth it to keep my heart open.

Thank you, Bryan, wherever you are, for giving me something special for my birthday.