Sunday, October 5, 2008

The F-Word

I had a mildly unpleasant time at Friday night's bowling party. I didn't get home from the office until about 7:30, at which point b&c pretended that I hadn't told him that we were proceeding directly to the bowling portion of the evening rather than joining everyone else for dinner first. How exactly he thought we would make it to Baltimore by 7:15 is something that I didn't bother to ask him, since any answer he gave would have been difficult to reconcile with the fact that I'd told him, specifically, that we weren't going to dinner with the others because there was no way we could get to Baltimore by 7:15. Anyway, he began to prepare dinner at that point (i.e., 7:30), and, because God forbid that he should just eat a sandwich or something, when I shook myself awake and came downstairs at 8, he told me that I should just go without him because his pasta wouldn't even be cooked until 8:15, and then he didn't want to rush his dinner, and then we'd be out late, and he'd be tired, and, hell, I don't know, maybe he mentioned the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand as a contributing factor. I may have stopped listening at some point. I said, "Are you sure?" and, when he said that he was, I left. I was a little bit put out, principally because I was extraordinarily fatigued, and I'd been counting on him to drive so that I could get a forty-five-minute nap on the way. On the other hand, I'd been very surprised that he'd decided to go to the party in the first place. He doesn't really like or get along well with the people who were going to be there, and, in the absence of extreme fatigue and an intense desire not to drive, I'd have preferred to go to this particular party by myself. (For the record, I'd rather go with b&c than by myself to most parties, especially any party not including a high proportion of Republicans.) So my pique was counterbalanced by a slight sense of relief. Mostly, though, I was just too tired to maintain anything approaching anger. We're talking thorough exhaustion here: every time I saw myself in a mirror Friday, I'd say, "Dude. Really?"

J. had warned me that the bowling alley was hard to find. "In a totally nondescript location" was how he'd put it. But I found the address and then I found a spot on the street, and then I walked back to the address, and then I took the elevator to the second floor, and there it was, a somewhat upscale bar (for Baltimore, anyway) with bowling lanes. Or perhaps it's a bar that would be upscale, were it not for the bowling lanes. Bowling (especially duckpin bowling, which is harder and harder to find these days, even in Maryland) is hella fun, but despite the many attempts I've seen or read about recently, bowling cannot be made upscale. You can certainly make it expensive, but, well, the phrase that comes to mind here is one that a certain local blogger has declared verboten. And, really, there's nothing wrong with either lipstick or pigs, but never the twain shall meet, right? Bowling is wonderful as an entertaining activity with solid working-class origins. Go, throw some balls around, and drink beer, which, as it happens, is also what you should be drinking with a great many pork products, particularly a pulled pork sandwich. Similarly, drinking an $8 Martini (and let's remember, please, that we're talking Baltimore here, not Manhattan, so eight bucks is an expensive fucking Martini) doesn't enhance your bowling experience. It just makes both the bowling and the martini less satisfying. I wasn't even going to get into the fact that what they were calling Martinis had Vodka in them, but, hell, let's not pretend that this paragraph hasn't spun so far out of control as to be irredeemable. Anyway, to recap: bowling -- good; Martinis (with Gin) -- good; beer -- good; bowling with beer -- even better; bowling with martinis -- stupid; Martinis (with Vodka) -- evil; bowling with Vodka drinks posing as Martinis -- Dick Cheney evil.

Anyway, I found the bowling alley, but there was not, sadly, much of a party. Apparently, a number of people had canceled at or near the last minute, including a couple who did not show up because one of them claimed to have a meeting with a client. At 9 pm on a Friday night. (And, no, he isn't an escort.) Anyway, aside from J. and his boyfriend, there were only two of us. We spent not quite two hours bowling, and then we went back to J.'s apartment, where J. turned on a baseball game, and then he and the other two guys immediately took out their laptops and got online. I was kind of WTF? but I didn't want to be rude, and, again, I was far too tired to be truly angry, so I watched half an inning of the game, excused myself -- citing fatigue and the lateness of the hour -- and drove home.

I'm pretty sure that Miss Manners wouldn't approve of inviting people into your home and then ignoring them so that you can read realclearpolitics, but, hey, whatever. My annoyance was substantially ameliorated by having just spent almost two hours hurling balls at pins (duckpin bowling is the Amélie of recreational sports: it is impossible to engage in the former or watch the latter without being caught by a good mood), and I couldn't help feeling sorry for J. It sucks to have people cancel on you at the last minute, especially when those people are supposed to be your friends. The people who canceled were all people who'd stayed with J. at his place in Rehoboth, and I'm pretty sure that what it came down to was that spending a Friday evening bowling, even with free drinks thrown in, simply wasn't as attractive as a weekend at the beach, so that it was a lot easier for them to find better offers. That they felt no particular compunction about canceling a previous engagement for a better offer is unfortunate, but not uncommon. Bowling is a lot of fun, but it's just not fabulous.

J. wouldn't put it in these terms, but what he wants more than anything (except money, but he has plenty of that) is the fabulous life. That's why he bought the house in Rehoboth: he had hoped that it would regularly be filled with successful and painfully attractive (but conservative) 'mos, who would regard him as the leader of the pack. And it sort of works out that way, but only during the season, when he has something that they want, and only if you ignore the fact that while most of those guys are relatively successful, none of them is painfully attractive, let alone fabulous.

For a long time, I had an unhealthy relationship with the very concept of fabulousness. I used to refer to "fabulous" as "the F-word," in part because in most settings, I have about as much reticence about saying "fuck" as I have about breathing. But mostly it's because I used to associate fabulousness (There is, to my mind, no truly satisfactory noun form, but "fabulousness" is going to have to do for the nonce. Also, I am avoiding a discussion of the various meanings of the word, but I am aware that "fabulous" comes from the same root as "fable," and its first meaning has more to do with something that is difficult to believe rather than something that is awesome. Furthermore, while I'm piling on the asides, I will note that if you do an image search for "fabulous nude male," you will find that a lot of people have very unusual notions about what constitutes fabulous, nude, and/or -- especially -- male.) with shallowness, pretense, and, well, stupidity. And while it's still true that if someone who were truly fabulous were to tell me, unironically, that any part of me or anything I'd done was fabulous, some significant part of my soul would perish in a loud and painful manner, fabulousness itself is no longer something I fear. If only because there's as little chance of my being associated with fabulousness as there is of my walking on the surface of the moon. In heels.

But while I might still laugh at people who think they're fabulous when they so clearly aren't, I recognize that there are people who are truly and effortlessly fabulous, and there's nothing whatsoever wrong with that: it's almost admirable. I think there probably is something wrong with, or at least unfortunate about, someone like J. trying so hard to be something that he never will be, but it's his life. And he still hangs out with me on occasion even though he (and pretty much everyone who knows me) knows a) that I'm the antithesis of fabulousness, and b) that I'm very happy being who I am.

Interestingly, the closest I came to an encounter with anything fab this weekend happened on Saturday, when I accompanied b&c to the wedding of the daughter of some of his friends of very long acquaintance. I'd met the bride's parents on a few occasions before. Otherwise, I really didn't know anyone at the wedding, but I pride myself on being a passable plus-one in almost any situation. (In this particular situation, I was helped along considerably by an ample glass of a very nice Pinot Noir at the hotel bar during the two hours between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the reception, a small glass of champagne at the beginning of dinner, two healthy glasses of an even nicer Cabernet during dinner, and a Mojito somewhere in between. That seems to me like a lot of alcohol over the course of six hours, but, well, let's just say that upper middle class Catholics seem to drink a lot more than I do, whether they can handle it or not. The bride's parents had asked us to give a ride to a couple of their friends who live just around the corner from us. These people did not make an especially favorable impression on the ride down to the ceremony, and -- unlike it does with me -- alcohol did not improve them. On the drive back, their speech was slurred, and when we pulled out of their driveway, they were still stumbling towards their front door. I don't understand people who react to an open bar as if it were a bevy of Sirens. Really, being mildly drunk is such a pleasant experience and being very drunk such an unpleasant experience, that I can't imagine why anyone would want to migrate from the former to the latter.) The whole affair was slightly too elegant to be truly fabulous, but it was certainly very nice. At dinner, I was seated between b&c and the bride's father's cousin, whom b&c had dated briefly following his divorce. She was very amusing, and I kept hoping that events would arrange themselves so as to afford me the opportunity to say to her, "You ain't woman enough to take my man." But they didn't, and, upon further reflection, it's probably just as well that she left the table to dance when the band, and its four vocalists, launched into a totally kick-ass rendition of "Lady Marmalade." And it's almost certainly a good thing that I didn't have additional Mojitos, because then I'd likely have gotten confused and turned to her and said, "You know, I'm proud to be a coal miner's daughter," and it's really very difficult for me to imagine that particular phrase being interpreted in any way that reflects favorably on me.

Sitting on the other side of b&c were a couple from Westchester County who told us about their efforts to get their local parish to support a community in Nicaragua. B&c, because of his work in Managua, was very interested in that, but I was more interested in the couple themselves. He was a former priest, and she was a former nun. I wanted to ask them whether they'd met when they were both still under vows, but I guessed that they each had probably left the church for his and her own reasons rather than for each other. And, in any event, it was a lot more fun for me to imagine some sort of torrid Abelard-and-Heloise-in-reverse (and without the castration) romance. I often say that you should never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Facts are, as a general rule, insufficiently fabulous.


John said...

This is absolutely hysterical. Thanks, TED, for getting my Monday off to a (more) painless start.

YvesPaul said...

Speaking of Rehoboth and "You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man", I've been to a drag show in Rehoboth Beach where the hostess Mona Lots did a great version of that song with a frying pan in her hand. Hilarious. It might be shameful but that's my introduction to the coal miner's daughter.