Monday, March 30, 2009

Single at 30: Time to Switch Teams?

Recently I experienced a Saturday that I can safely say was very much out of the ordinary. I spent my afternoon at a dodgeball tournament, and my evening at a gay bar.

I haven’t been involved with dodgeball since I was in sixth grade, save for the many times I’ve watched the movie about the beloved elementary school sport starring Ben Stiller. Based on that, I was expecting to see squads of muscular men hurling wrenches at one another to prepare for the event, but in actuality many of them opted to simply drink beer from a can while placing brightly colored sweatbands on their heads and wrists. Most teams were comprised of the kinds of guys that probably do something “officially athletic” (re: someone’s keeping the score) only a couple times per year, and looked as though they were wearing the first T-shirt and pair of mesh shorts they could find. There were a few serious contenders on the scene though, and one guy with a buzz cut that seemed particularly threatening and probably started most of his sentences with the word, “Son.”

The tournament was held in a school gym, which made it feel somehow wrong to be drinking beer atop the bleachers amid random posters made from construction paper promoting the school’s “anti-bullying” policy, but then I’d drank beer many times beneath the bleachers in my own high school, so I warmed up to the idea. The format of the tournament was that each team got to play until it lost three games, and then the two teams that wound up on top got to play for the championship. I was there to support a team of my co-workers who almost immediately lost two games, but then managed to pull out a win so to prolong their inevitable loss in the tournament.

Carrying our team was a random substitute player the referee scrounged up at the last minute to round out the six guys the team needed to play. My friend Mariel and I cheered loudly and obnoxiously for him, as only women drinking Budweiser from the bleachers can, screaming “Go Ed!” to the substitute. We learned later his actual name was Ben.

If you’ve ever wanted to see a grown man freak out at full capacity, you should get yourself to a dodgeball tournament. One of the rules is that your foot cannot cross the center line on the court of play when you throw the ball at the opponents. If you hit someone with the ball and your foot was even an inch over the line, it doesn’t count. Being that this wasn’t exactly an ESPN-sponsored event and most participants were drinking beer all afternoon, the referees didn’t catch everything that was happening – but the spectators sure did. The “sweatbands” team happened to catch an over-the-liner while watching two other teams play, and proceeded to call the ref out on his negligence with the kind of anger usually reserved for things like “blackouts on TV during the Super Bowl.”

Last year’s defending champions ended up winning the tournament again, and a buffet of pizza and wings was unfurled in the gym to conclude the event.

I didn’t think I would feel like going out that night having spent my afternoon drinking crappy beer, but my friend Mariel convinced me to meet her downtown to watch an artist she wanted to see performing. I agreed, with the caveat that we had to end up at the gay bar to go dancing.

A month or so ago, it was Mariel’s birthday and a bunch of people were out celebrating. After many martinis, a group of us decided we felt like dancing and ended up at the “college bar” on a Saturday night dancing in a sea of sweaty, rude students to songs I did not know the words to, and beats that did not make sense to my body (I should mention that few moves outside of the power fist and running man make sense to my body when I’m dancing, but I digress).

The experience left me feeling happily too old to partake in the college go-out scene, but with an insatiable need to dance. Recalling an episode of Sex in the City where Charlotte goes to the gay bar to dance herself crazy, I decided that I too needed to go where I knew the music would be good and the people would be fun.

I knew the moment I arrived at the club later that night that I had found my happy place. “Disco Inferno” was playing, mirror balls were whirling, and many people were power-fisting to the music (that was not a pun).

I made my way back to the main dance area and for a half an hour straight, I danced to songs I knew the words to and felt the kind of calm that only a Britney remix paired with Cosmopolitans can make one feel. And how freeing it was to be able to move about without having to peel layers of inebriated men off of my Seven jeans -- because I should not be able to tell what scent of AXE Effect someone has on without consenting to it. This time nobody was crossing the line into my personal space, and it was refreshing.

But wait…is that girl giving me “the eyes?”

That’s when things started to get weird. I’m no stranger to being hit on, since all it usually takes at 12:00AM in a place where the music is too loud to talk is eye contact lasting for longer than three seconds, but I found myself momentarily confused by this girl that was quite obviously taking an interest in me. I’m also not a stranger to communicating my explicit non-interest in guys that cross the line with me on the bar scene, but this girl was tripping me up. She was respecting my space, despite her optometric solicitations for further interaction. She had me hiding behind my long hair, taking a peek between my bangs just long enough to see if she was still staring at me. It felt like I was a child peering through the door of my blanket fort to make sure my mom wasn't going to come into the living room and give me hell for dismantling the sofa again (those cushions made the best blanket-fort walls!).

For starters, she looked more or less exactly like me. Long blonde hair, average build, same height. Add to that the fact that she was stealing almost all of my moves AND my dance pout, and I couldn’t feign one more second of indifference.

She was working the dance floor from every angle. Breaking it down to J-Lo near the pool table, then flitting over to the stage area for Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You.” When Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” came on, I was coquettishly dancing in place (for fear that any movement in her general direction would give her the green light to totally get in my space and challenge everything I believe to know about my sexuality), but I was not able to stay there long.

You see, the girl continued walking past me shrugging her shoulders and giving me the “I invite you to a dance-off” face, which is apparently a turn-on for me from any sex. I can’t stay still when someone is inviting me to “bring it” and I know that I can. Not only that I can, but also because it is more like a sense of urgency – like I MUST bring it. I become far too excited to remain calm. To me, a good Duran Duran song inspires the kind of enthusiasm that third-graders get when they hear there’s a snow day.

By the time “Poker Face” ended, a remix of the Tings Tings’ “That’s Not My Name” came on (did I mention I love the gay bar?) and the square foot of space I was occupying was no longer big enough to contain me. Like microwaving spaghetti sauce, I was about to bust all over that place in a fury of splattering movements.

I got on stage and started throwing out elbows as if I were alone. Split fingers were gliding smoothly over my eyes, then dissolving into jazz hands somewhere near my hips. Enter the triple hair toss somewhere thereafter, and it was on.

It didn’t take long for my female admirer to join me and we danced together for one song (ironically it was the “Hot and Cold” song by Katy Perry) She took my hand and twirled me around, then laughed and said, “this is where it’s at, girlfriend!” While I did not “taste her cherry chap-stick,” as the aforementioned artist would have suggested, I did smile at her lots and was having the best time out that I’ve had in a while.

By the time I got home, it was nearly 3:00AM. For someone that seldom stays up past 11:00PM even on the weekends, this was extraordinarily out of the norm for me. It’s not that I don’t like to be out having a good time, it’s more that I’ve gotten tired of the bar scene over the years and have learned to invest my time in other things that fulfill me – like training for triathlon, which requires early nights to bed and early mornings in the pool, on the bike or out in the running shoes. These are the things that have come to make me feel good about myself, and the things that I can invest in knowing full well I’ll get something out of them.

It has been a long time since I’ve gotten anything out of a $50 bar tab and a hung-over Sunday morning. To be honest, the best thing about that investment always seemed to be the “these calories don’t count” mentality I engaged in the next morning while mowing through greasy breakfast platters with my friends at the local diner.

What I took away from this random Saturday was that it doesn’t matter what team you’re on – whether it’s in dodgeball or dating, it’s all about having a good time, and not crossing the line!


KZ said...

Right on! That must have been such a fun night!

sHilo said...

Ooh what a fun night! That sounds fun! My last experience in a Syracuse gay bar was interesting! It was right before I cut off my long hair...A guy had approached me and my friends to comment on our outfits. He also complimented my "extensions". I told him I wasn't wearing extensions, but thanked him. Later that night, he commented on it again, and grabbed my hair to yank out the supposed extensions and almost knocked me over.. He left once he realized I was not kidding about it being my real hair! LOL!

Travis Olivera said...

There is so much I like about this post, but nothing made me laugh as much as the fist pump comment. Strange, I just wrote a post about being hit on by a dude about a week ago...