“When I was about to get on the streetcar the other day this guy whistled at me and told me ‘Hey, beautiful.’ Who does he think he is?”
The girl has kept one hand on her hip the entire night, the other hand silently sipping out of a red cup. Her stance is solid with a consistent degree of palpable indignation. Throughout the night she’s talked about her bra size, her black roommate and how she adores foreign languages (‘do you speak any?’ ‘no, just some Spanish and a little bit of Vietnamese’). Something about the look in her eyes makes me uncomfortable, like she’s looking down from the tower of her nose to watch the ignorant peasants below.
“But doesn’t it make a difference if it’s a good looking guy?” A different girl perks up.
“No! Not at all! It doesn’t matter what they look like!”
I’m finished my cigarette and I mumble that I have to go to the bathroom and escape to the back of the house into the bedroom of a 67 year old woman who makes collages of Marie Laveau. We chat about baseball and her old life in California before another friend bursts in and perches on the paisley comforter.
“They’re talking about catcalling out there and it’s getting too intense.”
He’s earnest. I know the intensity he’s talking about likely only stems from being the single male on the porch. The intensity that drove me as far as I could away from the girl was an overwhelming sensation that the more I listened to her talk, the more it seemed that she was more hell bent on coming off as educated or adhering to the current monolithic social justice pulse rather than actually having fun conversations at a party with strangers.
A memory keeps floating up: my dad’s house in Maryland. The torn ligaments of couch cushions. The smell of cat. His leather recliner and goofy laugh. He says something stupid about gay people, I confront him vigorously and tear his theoretical throat out. He bursts.
“All of a sudden you’re the sole defender of the fags and the blacks and the Mexicans and I’ve fuckin had it! Just stop!”
I kept going, of course. Kept pushing the envelope with him. Kept myself convinced that I truly was the sole defender of Those Who Can’t Speak For Themselves in my dad’s world and he was a massive bigot even though he’d quietly told me one night that my gay best friend changed his outlooks and interactions with gay people. He shared his own slow change with me and I tore his throat out because it wasn’t good enough.
Everything in my education pointed to my dad’s stupid comments as being the enemy. His entire being felt like the enemy. What didn’t feel like the enemy? “Unpacking” “racism, sexism, homophobia, gender bias” and understanding the “intersections of privilege.”
At the party I’m in the back room thinking about how exhausting trying to make yourself sound so enlightened is and how for some reason, our present and future are my dad and I going head to head on a filthy couch over some unsubstantial shit we’ll never even remember.