The end of summer is upon us and that means the kids will be going back to school, sweaters will emerge from our closets, pumpkin will find it way into a many number of our food and drinks, and the last ditch effort for the summer fling is in full force.
My friend just got engaged so I ask her out for drinks, she brings along her friend who is going to get married in two weeks. We pre-drink at my place and end up at the Drake. It’s a Saturday night in Toronto after midnight, so there is a line everywhere, and the Drake is no exception. I politely approach the bouncer at the head the line in the hopes of ascertaining how long the wait will be when the bride-to-be comes up behind me, interrupting my overly polite request:
“We’re here for Dave’s* birthday party.”
“What do you mean Dave WHO?! We’re here for his BIRTHDAY!”
He looks the three of us up and down and I try to surpress a smirk when I see that the five-foot-three bride-to-be has successfully flummoxed this six-foot-two ominous looking bouncer. He unclasps the velvet rope ushering us in, “You still have to pay cover,” he says in a slightly muted voice.
We peer into the dance floor; it’s loud, crowded, and haunted house level dark. Last time I came here a guy spilled his drink down my back. The memory of ice cubes in my panties comes rushing back.
The bride-to-be decides this won’t do: We have to get up to the top patio. The stairs to the patio is guarded by another bouncer who, although he has the physique to match his position, is a baby faced man in his mid-twenties, nervously playing with the radio leading into his ear. She doesn’t even look at him. She starts to ascend the stairs with confidence and we follow until the bouncer puts his arm out like a police officer directing traffic.
“We’re at capacity.”
“We are here for Dave’s birthday!”
“We… We…” He fumbles with his radio.
“How are we going to get the bottle service going if we aren’t up there?! It’s for DAVE!”
This goes on for a little bit, this young man not sure what to make of us, I’ve decided to look unimpressed and aloof to the whole affair and let her do her thing, which at this point I’m realizing she does super well. I’m out of her league when it comes to the cool, confident party girl. At her insistence, he let’s us up the stairs and we find ourselves out on the packed patio.
An extremely intoxicated man approaches me:
“Do you read?”
“What?!” (the music is really loud)
“Do you READ?”
“What do you read?”
“The, well, the fiction kind, and… you know… Books.”
“Weird. What’s the last book you read?”
“Love in the Time of Cholera.”
“I don’t know that one.”
“It’s kind of popular.”
“Who wrote it?”
“Gabriel Garcia Marquez.”
“I don’t know her.”
I just walk away.
We grab some drinks and my friends eye a cute boy with a ponytail standing at the other end. I approach him:
“Hey my friends like your ponytail.”
My friends join us and one starts to play with his hair.
“Susan’s got really long hair!”
He puts his hand in my hair.
“Nah. Not enough volume.”
“Well, fuck you too.”
“I said fuck you too Ponytail, I was just trying to introduce you to my cute friends and you insult my hair!?!”
Maybe I was just a little drunk.
Maybe I was about to get my period.
Maybe I’m just not cut out for this particular crowd.
I’m more comfortable sitting on a patio in Kensington, dancing to 90’s hip-hop at Clinton’s or The Garrison, or even playing Ms. PacMan at Get Well. There’s a certain frequency these places like the Drake seem to function at, where the top 40 music plays with an overtone of YOLO an undercurrent of find someone to hook-up with or GTFO. I’m having fun with my friends, but there’s something about the room that makes me feel uncomfortable, and I’m slightly off put by the obvious desperation of the waning summer and I guess I was putting out a not so great vibe. As one gentleman articulated,
“I’m gonna guess you’re twenty-six.”
“That’s not that far off.”
“I think your friend is twenty-four.”
“I’ll tell her that.”
“The only reason I say you’re older is because of your attitude, you know… You just, you’re talking to me but you got this attitude like, ‘Yeah you’re a nice guy, but FUCK YOU, you know’?”
I thank him for his feedback and try to relax a little. We start chatting with a group of guys who came together,
“So do you party?”
“Ye—Wait. Are you asking if I go out and have fun at parties or if I do cocaine?”
“I go out to parties.”
“Do you want to come back with us and do a mountain of cocaine?”
“Oh, no thank you”
“It’s a very nice offer, really, but no thanks.”
“Because I don’t want to.”
“Because I said no.”
“What did you think we were going to molest you?”
“Well NOW I do.”
We quickly run out of things to talk about.
Being technology obsessed and pretty narcissistic, I take a SnapChat to send out to everyone I know. In the middle of recording a short video, I feel a hand slip around my waist, and a man’s face in my ear.
“What are you SnapChatting for?”
He pinches my waist.
“None of your business.” I take a step back from him.
“Oh… I just… I’m with those guys.” He points to the men my friends are talking to.
“I don’t know those guys.”
He makes a quick exit.
The bride-to-be comes over to me, “What did you do that for?”
“He touched me without my permission.”
“That’s what guys do Susan, you’re hot and they want to touch you.”
I don’t have the time, energy, or blood-alcohol level to explain to her that, although, I am a big fan of being touched, kissed, fondled, fucked, you name it, by men—HOWEVER, this must come with my explicit permission and I am not comfortable living in a world where women’s bodies are seen as public property. Plus, that fucker pinched me really hard.
And then it hits me—Not only am I not cool enough, but I am also too feminist for this bar.
(On this particular night. I’ll go back for like, brunch and maybe a show or just drinks–really not tyring to pass judgement on the Drake as an institution).
I don’t want to participate in a culture where I have to act in a certain way just for the pleasure of men. I’m not against receiving a compliment, but the lesson she was attempting to relay to me is that I should enjoy male attention and accept it as some kind of validation based solely on my physical appearance.
And so my night continues in this fashion. Just being myself, which seems to assure that I will be going home alone tonight. Case in point: A man in a suit offers to buy me a drink and I make a joke about Rohypnol. On out way back down the stairs a woman walking up lets me know my fly is down—AWESOME.
We hit the dance floor and I remember I can’t dance, but fuck it, I’m dancing for me, not for anyone else. A man from the sidewalk sees my friends dancing and taps on the glass, I’m flailing away as they wave and laugh.
I broke one of my rules that I’ve acquired after years of living in the city: Don’t stay on Queen Street West after last call. At the strike of 2:30 the clubs and bars vomit out crowds of unruly, drunk, horny, people all trying to either get food or a cab, and now I was one of them.
I leave my friends at the epic line at the poutine joint, I do have to work in the morning. I start walking down Queen and pass groups of all kinds of folks and I try to hail a cab, but there are none to be found, so instead, I start walking. At this point in the night, as a solo woman, I have to decide whether or not I take a side street where it’s quieter, but that comes with the danger that if someone attacks me there’s no one around, or I take the major streets and deal with the catcalls, but with the safety net of witnesses. (Patriarchy!)
I choose the main streets, walking up Ossington ignoring the calls of “Where are you going?” and “You’re hot!” When I finally reach College I see a cab and raise my arm. When it stops, a man about my age walks up to the door as well.
“Oh I’m sorry, I don’t want to steal your cab.”
“No, no.” he says, “Ladies first.”
I’ll take it.
Let’s say I’m too feminist for the bar, but I’m not above taking the cab based solely on the fact that I am female. I say thank you, and really mean it, and take my silly ass home.
*There is no Dave.