Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pacific Standards

I had some time to kill after dinner and before drinks with a friend on Friday night in Palm Springs, so I went dancing at The Village Pub.

I didn't stay long, though.

It got a little too grabby for me.

I used to go dancing all the time, whether it was at suburban dance clubs, urban tourist mega-clubs, bars with great dance floors, hotel banquet rooms, or late night living rooms in deep Queens apartments. I could always entertain myself, with or without a cocktail, with or without a dance partner.

But since moving to LA, I haven't really known where to go to strut my stuff (though I've recently discovered the Four Seasons, a surprising little slice of Beverly Hills nightlife).

In Palm Springs, The Village Pub is one of the places to go dancing. Curvaceous girls strap platform shoes on their feet and squeeze their bottoms into narrow miniskirts that could function just as well as a headband. They look unaffected as they get the bump and grind from behind. They drop it like it's hot and mimic every stripper move they've ever witnessed on reality TV.

The guys, of course, love it, and sidle up to them, mostly from the back, undetected until their pelvic protrusions give them away.

As for me, I stand off on the sidelines, purse perched on a ledge, flip-flopped feet shuffling, head nodding and shoulders swaggering to the beat. I wait for a song I really like. Guys approach me and ask me why I look bored. I roll my eyes at them and wave them off.

If the DJ drops a great song, I'll dance by myself, but if someone invites me out onto the floor, I'll go, with one caveat: I don't want to be grabbed. Don't grab my wrist. Don't slink your arm around my waist. Don't try to hoist me on top of your lap. I just met you. We're only going to dance. We don't have to touch. We don't have to dry hump.

This Friday night, one man invited me to dance, and I agreed, until he tried to take me by the arm. I shook him off. He looked at me curiously.

"I'll dance," I said, "but I don't want to be touched right now." It was hot and sweaty in there and I didn't feel like making it worse.

Under arrest, he put his hands up, backed away, and said, "Fine, have a nice night."

I repeated myself. "I'll dance, but I just don't want to be touched...." I was trying to salvage it, because I wanted to dance, and because I honestly didn't mean to offend him.

But why must I be touched?

And not only touched - it's not the loving caresses of fingers stroking my cheek that I'm trying to avoid - but manhandled?

Maybe I've found some strange sense of self-worth. I don't want to be treated like an animal in a petting zoo; I don't want a room full of guys treating me like their scratching post; I don't want to pretend to have sex with a guy who thinks it's more than just pretend and tries to penetrate me through his pants.

I just want to dance.

Even the bouncer, who I joked with on my way in as I paid my cover charge and got wristbanded, insisted on slithering up to me as I stood against the bar, and in an attempt to dance with me, rubbed the front of his sweaty body all over me. Backing away was futile, since leaning backwards over the bar only pivoted my pelvis forward, which is of course exactly what the advancing dancers want.

Maybe I'm old now. Maybe I've become a prude. Maybe not wearing bloomers anymore (which was necessary 45 pounds ago to prevent my thighs from rubbing together) has made me more protective over my exposed lady parts. But I think I've always been judicious about who gets access to my body. In the past, in New York, I guess maybe I just liked a lot more people.

Am I less interested now? Or just interested in less people?

I guess after you experience a romance that's epic and cosmic, and have been fortunate enough to seduce (and be seduced by) not one sex god but two, it's hard to be satisfied with silly little microtransactions with silly little strangers. It's now incomprehensible to have an open door policy when it comes to my body.

So I've built an invisible velvet rope around myself, just big enough for me to dance in on my own. You can stand outside of it and dance with me out there.

From now on, I am my body's own bouncer. VIPs only in my Champagne Room.

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