Wednesday, September 27, 2006

He-man woman haters' club

Ray, the fighter, held court leaning against the avenue-side wall of the lobby on Saturday. He twirled the clip-end of his earpiece round and round -- a wiry propeller slicing rounded grooves in the shitty, smoky soup that infiltrates our lung cavities for the better part of seven hours a night. You can't see the grooves when you spin your earpiece clip inside the room, because they're too small in the darkness. There's too much smoke -- from the illicit carcinogenic dragging of the customers and from the fog generated by the incessant huffing of the club's several dry ice machines -- and the entire miasmic brew settles into the unoccupied space too quickly for the human eye to adjust.

"If I was president," he said, twirling steadily away, "all these motherfuckers would vote for me. Every single one of you."

"Why's that?" I asked, planting my right foot on a bouncer box in anticipation of one of Ray's trademark homilies. When you hand him the ball, the idea is to get comfortable while he runs with it.

"I've told you this already. I'd run on two issues, an' that's it."

"Racial profiling and the war in Iraq?"

"No," he replies. "That's too fuckin' easy. Racial profiling's the only way to protect ourselves, an' I'd build a fence around the fuckin' country an' forget about gettin' involved in all this other shit all over the world, like givin' money t' everyone an' stickin' our nose in everyone's fuckin' business. That's how the fuckin' problem started in the first place."

"So you're an isolationist, I take it?"

"Listen. Saddam Hussein was a fuckin' monster, an' the world's better off without him. But the thing is, who gives a fuck? Why the fuck's he our problem? He never fucked with us. Countries fuck with us, we should do what we gotta do, but why're we even gettin' involved otherwise?"

Talking to Ray, it's best, sometimes, to consider your words. To maybe let him dictate the course of the conversation without offering an opinion to be discounted. "So what's your real platform, then?"

"The first thing I'm puttin' in is a four day workweek. Ninety percent of everyone in America would vote for me just for that by itself. I mean, who the fuck decided we gotta work five straight fuckin' days and only get two off? I tell people I'm puttin' in a four day week, by law, in the fuckin' Constitution, an' I get elected right there."

"What's the second part?"

"The second part," he replied, "is that we set up a day, maybe one day a year, where it's legal for a man to beat his wife. You set that up, that one day, an' maybe they'll start treatin' us better."

"What, they'll start being nicer with the threat of a beating hanging over their heads?"

"Yeah. When they know that day's comin' up, they'll know to ease up on us because we won't have any reason to smack 'em around, you know?"

"You ever thought about hanging around with nicer women?" I asked. "You know, like, women who don't deserve beatings because they're not assholes and don't treat you like shit? And, you know, wouldn't you want your wife to be nice to you because she's actually a nice person, rather than because she's afraid you're gonna bash her face in?"

"Lemme tell you somethin' else," he replied, ignoring my questions. "I'd put a little addition onto that day. I'd make a law that says you can automatically beat your wife if she treats you like an asshole and blames it on her period. I can't take that shit."

"Nice. I think you might be winning me over."

"I'll tell you what. I think it's all bullshit. I been wit' broads that say that shit makes 'em crazy, and I seen other ones who don' even tell you when it's goin' on. I don't buy that as an excuse for nothin'."

Work in the nightclub business for three years, and traces of misogyny form around your edges. I've felt it happening to me, and I've been powerless to stop it because of the preponderance of worthless human beings who cross my path all night at work. Where I'd once have thought, "My God, that's somebody's daughter!" -- and I did, believe it or not -- I'm now more inclined to point my finger and say, "Look at that useless fucking whore."

Work in the nightclub business for fifteen years, like Ray, and it's impossible to differentiate. The club becomes the world, and all the women who inhabit that world become sluts and whores. You think they're all the same -- that your lovely, faithful wife of a dozen years would do things unspeakable with strangers for a line of coke, the same way you see "them cunts" doing it in nightclub bathrooms. Misogyny is not a quality I admire in other men, but while I can't exactly say I understand it or condone it, I can at least piece together the process by which it develops in my friends.

"Did you hate women this much before you started working in clubs?"

"I don't hate women," he said rather reflexively. "I just know how the fuckin' world works."

I considered this for a moment. "You know, if you really do know more about the world than me, and the world really is the way you're always sayin' it is, I don't see the fucking point. I honestly don't."

"I don' think you ever seen the point anyway."