Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Dawning of the Age of Pretentiousness

In 2009, when I was still living in NYC, Broadway hosted a revival of the tribal love-rock musical Hair, which I became mildly obsessed with and saw three times during its run. For my third and final visit, I actually got to attend for free when the production gave out complimentary tickets for some milestone performance that I’ve since forgotten the specifics of. One of the extremely few benefits of working in an office located in Times Square was that it provided me quick access to most of the Broadway theaters, including the Al Hirschfeld Theatre where Hair was playing, so on the morning of the ticket giveaway I informed my boss that I was heading out to stand in line for free tickets and would be back at some point (my love of theater will probably always trump my work ethic).

Joining the line that was horseshoed in front of the theater I wound up standing behind a guy around my age who was also waiting alone and awkwardly trying to type on a laptop with one hand while he held it aloft with his other. After a few minutes he turned around and informed me he needed to reboot and couldn’t do it one-handed, so would I mind holding down ‘Ctrl’ and ‘Alt’ while he hit ‘Delete’? This being one of the saner and least perverted requests I’d received from strangers in NYC, I happily complied.

Helping someone reboot their computer while waiting in line for free theater tickets is one of the best kept secrets on how to successfully meet new people, so naturally we struck up a conversation and he introduced himself as Starshine. He told me about how his father, a former hippie, had come to the city to visit him a few months earlier and they had gone to see Hair, and he liked it so much he decided to come take advantage of the opportunity to see it again for free. I told him about something that was fascinating about me, I’m sure. We chatted easily for the hour or so it took to make our way to the front of the line, and at some point Starshine made some reference to being heterosexual, and I couldn’t believe that I had met a straight, cute, and seemingly normal theater fan, and that I was actually having an effortless conversation with him without devolving into one of the awkward silences that make me wish it was actually possible to apparate.

When we finally got to collect our tickets, we saw that they were being handed out in seat order, so we would be sitting next to each other at the show that evening. To my utter shock and delight, Starshine suggested we meet up for a drink at a nearby bar beforehand, to which I happily agreed. We exchanged cell numbers, “in case anything comes up,” then I made my way back to the office to finish what was left of the workday as a jittery, excited, and utterly worthless employee.

For those of you who are thinking, “So she met a cute boy who asked her out for a drink, so what?” allow me to explain: I have never been the kind of girl who meets cute boys who ask me anything. I have always preferred a life of primarily solitude and any social activities I partake in don’t tend to attract men (at least not the type who would have any interest in any of my lady parts), such as the aforementioned theater-going, women’s kickboxing classes, aimlessly browsing in Sephora, and dance-based fitness (preferably set to show tunes). I rarely go to bars, parties make me nervous, I never had a gaggle of girlfriends who knew guys I “just have to meet,” and any attention I attract in public tends to be unsolicited comments about my more than ample bosom. So for me to have a meet-cute with a nice guy that I already had one major shared interest with, and for him to take the initiative to ask me out for a drink before we shared a night at the theater together was completely new, unexpected, and exciting.

For those of you who are thinking, “Oh…that’s kind of sad,” fuck you.

I met Starshine at the bar about an hour before we had to be at the theater. We ordered drinks and started chatting, and I asked him more about his hippie father who came to visit. He told me about his dislike of growing up in the small town his parents eventually settled in, so, being the free spirits they were, they allowed him to move out to California to live with relatives and go to high school there.

“So your parents were cool with you just leaving home as a teenager to go live with other people on the other side of the country?”

“Yeah, they knew that the life they chose for themselves wasn’t working for me.”

“That’s…incredible. There’s no way my mother would have even entertained that idea. Nor would any of the parents I knew growing up.”

I proceeded to tell him about my mostly normal childhood (as normal as a childhood with divorced parents could be), my mother’s mostly conventional ways, and what life in my small hometown was like. And as every word left my mouth, I saw his eyes glass over more and more. So I tried to steer the conversation to stories of my life post-high school, like the multiple colleges I sampled, the different places I’d visited and lived in, shows other than Hair that I loved, the wide variety of jobs I’d held, and how I got fired from a temp job for “not looking up enough,” but the damage was already done. I didn’t have a “cool” upbringing by “groovy” parents, and therefore I was too lame to be in Starshine’s company.

We finished up our cocktail hour with awkward, stilted small talk as he blatantly refused to meet me halfway in upholding the conversation. Luckily he was traditional enough to adhere to the societal rule that you don’t talk during live theater, so we enjoyed Act I of Hair sitting side by side, not having to communicate with each other. At intermission he made his way to the theater bar while I headed to the ladies room, agreeing to meet him at the bar on my way back, presumably so we could uncover some more facets of my mundane existence that he could find eye-rollingly trite, like the fact that my hair is its natural color or that I’ve never been to Burning Man. When he was nowhere to be found I headed back to my seat, where Starshine was in his, sipping on overpriced watered-down bourbon.

“I thought I was going to meet you back at the bar.”

“Were you?” he replied absently, staring straight ahead at the empty stage. “I must have misunderstood.”

I silently read through the Playbill while waiting for Act II to begin, wondering if he would misunderstand my foot up his ass.

After the final curtain we slowly made our way out of the theater among the throng of other audience members, and once spewed back onto the street I considered letting myself get swallowed up with the crowd to make my escape, rather than endure an end-of-the-night exchange with Starshine, but ultimately decided only one of us would get to play the role of epic douchebag that night.

“Well, this was pretty random,” he commented as we approached the corner where we would finally part ways to go to our respective subways, daring to lean in for a strained hug goodbye, keeping as much distance as possible between us, lest the stench of my rancid ordinariness rub off on him.

Unsure of what to say, I pathetically mumbled something about him having my number if he ever wanted to hang out again, which of course never happened, and all because my mother had the audacity of wanting to raise me at home.

For a while I was pretty annoyed that something that had so much initial potential fell apart so quickly, and over something that I had zero control over, but my date with Starshine did eventually manifest itself into an interesting life lesson: Hippies can be judgmental assholes, too, just like the rest of us. Peace.

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