The Lesser Carnivora
Saturday, 2005-03-26 | Classic Gin
What follows is a short introduction to those fundamentally loathsome troglodytes who, while they mostly are content to eke out their pathetic existence on the margins of our great society and this golden age in which it is situated, occasionally afflict their poor manners and primitive affectations upon us and thus violate the longest unguarded border in the world (the border between us and them, good taste and bad, civility and university proto-culture).
The following disquisition is an adaptation of notes jotted variously during my tenure at the Graduate and Professional Students Club at Yale (GPSCY). I have added what K Vonnegut called 'connective tissue' (i.e. the familiar formal indicators of exposition, segues and exegetical glosses/analogues) to my notes in order to make an easier read of it, but what follows will (no doubt and despite my best efforts) still resemble the notebooks of the Naturalists who bravely attempted to make sense of the natural world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (before giving up the ghost and handing the project over to mystics--biologists and chemists).
Before we begin, however, I should preface what follows with a short disclaimer; the events described below actually occurred. None of the accounts described are fictionalized even in part. If the antic stupidity of the nation's best and brightest young scholars is something that has offended you in the past, it's best that you skip this Gin and tune back in tomorrow when subject matter less likely to aggravate your gourd is discussed.
That disclaimer having been made, we begin our study of those who can only properly be referred to as 'the fundamentally loathsome.'
I. The Effete:
There is a certain sort of pantywaist who revels in his reviling effeminacy like it was his God-given mission in life.
One night, when my job was to assess patrons of the pub at which I work a four dollar entrance fee, two gentlemen and a lady entered. The lady was not possessed of any remarkable physical or anatomical traits; the gentlemen look to be from one of the scummier parts of movie-England--they wore Coke-bottle glasses, intentionally uncoordinated, at once shabby and expensive looking ill-fitting clothing and odd caps that could only have been the work of an emotionally unstable haberdasher; these odd fashions exasperatedly drew attention the frailty of their pencil-thin limbs and their desire to be understood as creatures of intellect, rather than of sinew. They also communicated this desire by refusing to make eye contact with anyone in the vestibule except for their lady friend.
The two fellows, members of the pub, were not required to pay the four dollar entrance fee but their female friend was not a member and thus was required to render unto we Caesars of the portal four American dollars. Upon being informed of what would be required of her for admission, she vociferously expressed her annoyance and proceeded to draw her pocketbook and rifle through it. Finding insufficient funds (if any) she looked to her friends, declaimed that she would pay no cover and then looked expectedly at my co-worker and I. We answered her proclamation in our wonted manner, with indifferent silence.
She looked back at her two gentlemen friends in frustration and then instructed them with a jerk of her arm that the three of them were leaving.
Of the lady we can say she was perhaps not very bright--what else can we say of the person who goes to the bars without so much as four dollars in his purse?--or perhaps having a bad day. We can only find her guilty of bad taste, poor planning and/or ignorance. Of the two fellows we can say that they hardly warrant such a favorable appellation.
II. The Stolid:
While it is true that I have only worked as a doorman for a scant six months or so, I have been put into a certain distressing position a number of times; the frequency with which I have been thrust into this certain position in my brief tenure leads me to believe that those who create the sort of situation I am describing are common.
Here's how it happens: a man (it's always a man and he usually appears to be of Asian descent) enters into the lobby. You ask him for his ID. He presents either 1.) an unacceptable form of ID (International Student ID, Work Visa, etc.) or 2.) the ID that he's had since he was first issued a state authorized identification document (usually the ID that exclaims in bold letters that he's 'UNDER 21' until the date of his birth in the year 2001 or 2002 etc.
You either ask him for alternate, acceptable identification (drivers license or passport) or you question the authenticity of his ancient state ID; 'I'm sorry, we don't accept this one' or 'this must be the old Michigan ID--they definitely don't look like this anymore.'
What happens next betrays a profound stupidity: the man with the unacceptable or suspicious credentials immediately assumes a mawkish assertiveness, looking you directly in the eye as if to press the legitimacy of his claim in the face of your authority.
Most people have the good sense not to do this. Most people know instinctively or from habit (i.e. from frequenting bars) that the doorman is last person to whom you want to appear assertive or like you might at some point drink yourself into a state of belligerence. Most people recognize that while the alewife and the barman make their wage by affecting obsequiousness and kinship, the doorman is actually paid to be rude and abusive to you and is thus not the man before whom you should practice brandishing your newfound or seldom-used assertiveness; most people recognize the stupidity of attempting to bully the guy who ultimately decides if, and more importantly how, you're coming or going.
Still, there are some who do not. These demonstrate a vanity that springs from baseness and stupidity.
III. The Pecuarial:
Dougray Scott, in his turn as the nefarious Sean Ambrose of 2000's Mission: Impossible II, articulating his frustration with terse invective likens Nyah (Thandie Newton), the film's egregious cat-burglar and female lead, to a monkey. Hurt deeply by her duplicity and perfidy, he accuses Nyah (and through her, broads in general) of moving from man to man with the brutish non-chalance of the monkey as he swings from branch to branch in the jungle. While Ambrose's broad generalization is, like all such generalizations, made possible by the fact that there are exceptions to it, the analogue he suggests for Nyah's infidelity and perfidy is at once recognizable; we've all suggested in similar moments of hurt and frustration that this or that former romantic lover was only clinging to our branch until she could safely grasp on to the next one.
One has all sorts of occasions to observe this sort of animalistic behavior among women (and, certes men) in my line of work. As the untrained mind swims in alcohol, sentiment and gesture both become bombastic and melodramatic; it is thus fairly simple to read the intent of minds and loin even from a distance. Body language, however, is not nearly as damning as a personal account of the simian romantic ethos we are describing.
A certain friend described a certain romantic partner to me once. My friend had been told by his romantic partner that she would be spending her Saturday night (read: 'don't wait up') with her (recently) former boyfriend. As it happens and as is common, the female lead in this tawdry drama left the ex-boyfriend in the dust for my friend. My friend was, needless to say, anxious about his new girlfriend's recent plans.
He said to me, 'So she says to me that she's going to the Foxwoods [Casino] with this guy because it's a place they used to like to go. Can you believe that? I told her that I didn't like it, and she's still going. I don't even know what to tell her now.'
'Did you think about telling her to go get fucked? Because I would tell her to go get fucked--leave a bitch who refuses to respect your wishes where her exes are concerned in the dust, that's what I say.'
It's not so much that she was planning a scam, i.e. planning to participate in an extra-relationship erotic encounter with her ex, that should trigger revulsion here. Rather, it is her unabashedness that makes her condemnable.
The fact of the matter is that she is acting exactly like that monkey in the tree, vacillating emotionally and even physically heeding only the laws of physics, and more importantly, the law of the jungle. This is a woman to whom pleasure is more important than civility, to whose pecuarial sensibility voluptuousness seems more important than loyalty.
IV. The Craven:
The worst sort of coward is not the one who flees from this or that actual conflict. Rather, the worst sort of coward is the one who refuses to admit that a conflict is even occurring; that he has become a contender in any kind of Agon, trivial or terrific.
We are all familiar with the scene: we enter into the company and, in most cases, the home of a former romantic attachment and our former romantic attachment's current romantic attachment. The terms of the encounter are very simple. We, the transgressor, have entered an emotional space and a physical space where we are neither wanted nor welcome. Maybe it's a house party, maybe we were even invited. Our presence is, nevertheless, undesired.
There is always some kind of confrontation--especially if distemp'ring draughts are involved--when this event occurs. Whether it's terse speech, threats, vociferous declamations, pushing/shoving or even a knock-down-drag-out combat, a confrontation is occurring and everyone knows this to be the case.
Some time ago I found myself in this situation. I entered of my own free will into the domestic space of a former romantic attachment and the fellow with whom she partnered in my absence. Opposite me, contending against me in this uptown Mexican stand-off, was a despicable specimen. When introduced, he neither shook my hand nor mustered the courage to look me in the eye--we didn't even exchange so much as furtive glances (each time I look in his direction his eyes were fixed firmly on the floor as though by heavy cords).
I am not the sort of person who seeks confrontations of any kind--in fact, I have a long history of attempting to avoid or prevent physical confrontations (a certain pigeon-chested braggart called 'Troy' owes his very life to my efforts as peace keeper). The behavior of this navel-gazer, my craven replacement, however, deserves acute reproach.
The challenge I presented him by entering into his presence in a familiar manner should have been met--not with violence but with some kind of assertion of self.
The worst coward is the one who thus sheepishly absences himself from his own turf.