Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Victorian in Vegas

A friend and I went to Vegas last weekend and I was obliged--unwillingly, I might add--to perform some pretty deep self-reflection, due in part to the fact that I am currently reading The French Leutenant's Woman. Written by John Fowles in 1969, the novel is based in the 1850s and is harshly critical of Mid-Victorian society, its repression of women, and the emphasis on the social strata. Sitting by the pool at Bally's with my book on my lap, I couldn't help but draw comparisons between Vegas and the Victorian society described so expertly in The French Leutenant's Woman. There I was, reading about Charles and Ernestina's vacation in the country--where by day Ernestina spends most of her time indoors and Charles goes hiking for sand dollars and by night they attend chaperoned parties--while the rest of the occupants of the pool were doing a good job pretending they were on MTV's Spring Break: 2008. Tanned and well-oiled co-eds lounged by or waded in the pool, club music pumped from the speakers by the DJ's table, and waitresses clad in turquoise animal-print bikinis delivered margaritas and Bud Lites to those who were too sun-baked to get up and go to the bar themselves. Normally, I wouldn't have minded the deafening hip-hop, even if I was trying to read--except the DJ kept playing some of my least favorite songs like "Lean Like a Cholo" and "Drop it Like it's Hot." Barf.*

I kid you not, one group of kids (I hesitate to call them men and women, though they were probably around my age) decided to have a swimming race in the hot tub. Here's a brief description of the rules, as described by one extremely drunk blond in a strapless bikini: "Okay, so we swim across the pool with our beers held up in the air, touch the other side, swim back, say 'Cheers,' chug, and then show our privates." Upon hearing this, I immediately thought three things: (1) a race would be better done in a pool not ten feet wide and two-and-a-half feet deep, (2) "privates" is probably the most unattractive-sounding word ever invented for the human genitalia--other than "genitalia," of course--, and (3) it was a good thing my CPR certification hadn't expired yet, because I might actually have to use it.

It is strange, however, to read a book that is harshly critical of Victorian society and realize that you might be much more comfortable in said society than you often are in your own. We went to a club on Friday night--because I do like to dance, however prudish this post might make me seem--and I was struck once again by the difference 150 years makes in social etiquette. The men at these clubs toss back a couple of drinks, make their way onto the dance floor, and approach the women from behind, apparently thinking that dry-humping their asses is a great form of introduction. I make it a rule to only dance with men who come at me from the front, say "Hello," and perhaps even shake my hand--those who, you know, treat me like a human being. Needless to say, though I was approached by about five guys, I danced with none of them and was probaby unnecessarily rude to several of them.

There has to be a middle ground, then, between the puritanical and repressive culture of the Victorians (where women were neither allowed to enjoy sex nor leave the house) and the hedonistic, drunken orgy that is the rage today. Or perhaps I'm basing my comparison too heavily on the behavior of those vacationing in a city with the motto, "What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas." Is this sort of thing normal in places that aren't Sin City? My only other points of comparison are L.A.--which is hardly any better--and Denver, where the hippies tend to prefer house parties before they hook up. Is there nowhere where people behave normally? (And by "normally," I mean, of course, "like me.")

On the other hand, however, I am painfully aware that I am the posterchild for my sunsign the Virgo, whose likes and dislikes are, according to the ever-reliable source Wikipedia, the following: "Likes- Health foods, lists, hygiene, order, wholesomeness, cleanliness, penny-pinching, details, peace. Dislikes- Hazards to health, sloppiness, and narrow-minded people, squalor, being uncertain, uncleanliness, confusion." Virgos might also be described--as I often am--as prudish and hyper-critical, so is it really any wonder I didn't fit in at the poolside frat party?

Maybe I shouldn't have dismissed the Mormon Singles Ward so quickly...


* I should note that they also played "The Way I Are" by Timbaland and Keri Hilson, currently one of my favorite songs for several reasons: (1) It's catchy and get stuck in my head for days on end, (2) It's good to work-out to, and (3) It is one of the few hip hop videos I've seen that is not incredibly degrading to women, due in part to the fact that Keri Hilson is an artist in her own right and doesn't have to depend on dancing in a two-piece to make it into music videos.


Daniele said...

I completely understand your issues with clubs. My sophomore year of college my roommate and I started going to line dancing night at one of the bars because, "Shady line dancing is like, eww he's leering at me, not eww he's ass raping me." We also got really into ballroom, latin, and swing dancing.

nishitak said...

Yuck...can't imagine wanting to dance with men like that. Drunkenness is not an excuse for shoddy behavior

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