We had a nice little dinner party last weekend, and at some point the subject of conversation turned briefly to the burlesque acts that have been gaining popularity in the Seattle area as of late. I expressed my fervent lack of interest in what seemed to me to be a totally outmoded and unappealing form of adult entertainment. But two good friends of ours—a married couple—sought to correct my misconception, explaining that they have gone to a number of the shows and found them very entertaining, more acrobatic than erotic. I remained unconvinced, thinking that it sounded like a combination of a gymnastics meet and a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue; two things I don’t habitually pursue individually, let alone glommed together.
“Yeah,” the male of the couple said sarcastically, “attractive women performing amazing acrobatics, what could possibly be interesting about that?”
If I’d had the wherewithal to come up with it at the time, I would have replied that there are certain activities—certain art forms, hobbies and passtimes that make up part of the Puget Sound experience—that seem to attract two separate, distinct yet almost totally indistinguishable demographics. The first group consists of people who genuinely, organically appreciate these things, be they burlesque, dive bars, roller derby or The Ramones. The second is made up of people who convince themselves that they appreciate these things, because to do so fulfills their embedded image of themselves as hip, artsy, cutting-edge Puget Sound kind of people.
I would have also hastened to add that, while I would never stoop to making any assumptions about which group our various contemporaries who pursue such activities fit into, I know damn well which one I would belong to were I to do so.
I can only speak for myself here, but I am very much over being “gritty”. I did gritty in my teens, with hardcore Punk, substance abuse, violence and mayhem. By the time I graduated college I had worked out all of my gritty. Now I’m more or less about comfort and personal gratification, a term that has been more or less ruined by its popular perceptual linking to the act of masturbation. Personal gratification takes many forms with me, from video games to charity work. Personal gratification may certainly involve forms of culture that might seem a bit “out there”; it might involve unusual venues or enigmatic activities. But just as often (oh Hell, let’s be honest and call it “more often”), it does not.
And what it almost never includes is, say, sitting in a grimy, poorly-lit downtown tavern drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon or Jack and ginger ale, listening to the wisdom of the street as blearily pronounced through pitted, Parliament-stained teeth.
Once again, though, that’s just me. It most assuredly does not mean that other folks don’t find pure, unalloyed fulfillment in just this sort of environment.
On the other hand, it also doesn’t mean that a good percentage of the people who profess to finding their bliss in such tableaux might not just be blowing Lucky Strike smoke up their own ass. From hereafter, such individuals will be known as fauxhemians.