Friday, January 25, 2013

"Um, miss? Your hair?"

The following is the text of a monologue/stand-up comedy routine/story that I told as part of Pressgang Theatre's ongoing storytelling nights. The theme of the most recent evening, where I performed this story, was "Love vs. Smut," a collection of funny, embarrassing, unusual and otherwise strange romantic stories. Please imagine yourself slightly drunk, in a warm room full of well-dressed strangers, laughing loudly. 

About five years ago, I was dumped. Like, D-U-M-P dumped. Hard. And there’s this thing that happens, when you get dumped hard, where you go out and have what clinicians call, “a slutty phase.”

So there are two driving forces in a slutty phase. First is the need to prove to yourself that you’re still viable, you’re still attractive, you’re still sexy - people definitely want to put their tongue in your mouth! The other is proving those same things to your ex, which you do by sending them a psychic message every time you make out someone., Something along the lines of “Neener neener, I won.” So you go out, and try to pick up basically every piece of tail you see. Hot, ugly, old, young, male, female, doesn’t matter. Every cree, every colour, every race - it’s quantity over quality, for sure. Incidentally, this is how I ended up making out with a guy who only had one hand - literally, the other hand was a hook - which my friend would be happy to tell you all about if you buy them a drink after the show.

And what’s the engine that drives our slutty periods? It’s booze. Alcohol makes things so much better - you feel more attractive, your standards are lower, and, at least in my case, I actually believe that my crazy psychic messages to my ex are getting through.

So when my friends ask if I want to go to a house party, I’m like, Duh, because house parties combine alcohol with attractive strangers, which means, you know, the game’s afoot. So I go to this house party and I promptly spike my red wine with gin, because that’s the kind of night I’m going to be having, and then I have like seven more drinks, and then I get out on the dance floor, because this party has a dance floor, just like the parties on TV. And I’m dancing, which, when you’re drunk on gin-spiked wine, is basically just putting your head down and throwing your ass around, when I see this guy. And he’s looking at me.

So I dance over to him, and then we’re dancing, and then we’re touching, and then we’re grinding, and then we’re making out. And we do this for a while, and I’m pleased, because he’s hot, and I’m kissing someone. Score!

Before he takes off, we trade names - this is what you do, in the age of Facebook, you trade names with the promise to “friend” the other person. And before he leaves, he says, I want to take you out sometime. And I realize that, despite the fact that I’ve been making out with a metric shit-ton of strangers, I haven’t actually been on a real date since my boyfriend left me. This feels like a big deal. It’s a chance to prove to myself that I’m still charming and dateable, and also send out a doozy of a psychic message.

We go to the late and not lamented Las Iguanas, on Bloor Street. It’s dark, pool tables in the back, booths along the wall; the vibe was sort of cheerfully divey but also had the possibility for romance. Sort of. If you squinted. We hop into a booth, ask the waitress for burritos and beer, and start chatting.

The date is horrible. It’s totally clear from the first few moments that we have nothing in common and no chemistry, and so we’re reduced to the kind of inane banter that you perform at office parties where you get introduced to, like, your boss’s cousin and have literally nothing to say. “Oh, yeah, I also....have parents. They’re...people.” And it’s awful, but we’ve ordered food, like idiots, so we’re basically holding each other hostage because we’re trying to be polite.

And, to be fair, my dating instincts aren’t so rusty that I’m not trying to salvage something out of this. I’m like, gamely interrogating him about where he grew up, and how he likes studying engineering, and oh, you’re from Mississauga, and you live with your parents? How...unique! So there are a couple dynamics working at cross-purposes here: the desire to be found sexy, the need to not be rejected, the wish that somewhere, somehow, my ex knows about this date and is sighing in regret; all these things are working against my desire to flee the fucking scene before I slit my own wrists just so we have something to talk about.

Now obviously I have a lot of hair. And I tend to use it as kind of a sexy prop in dating situations: I’d like, pile it all on top of my head, and then let unfurl in this sexy cascade, you know, put it, up it down, play with it, that kind of thing. It is totally not original, but hey, I was working what God gave me.

And so, at one point, I piled and then released, and it fell down the back of the booth. Unbeknownst to me, there was a table behind me, and that table had a candle on it, and so I basically dipped the bottom third of my hair into the flame.

I did not realise that I had done this until good Samaritans who were choking on the stench of my burning hair leaned over and said, “Um, miss? Your hair? Is And it was. It totally was. I pulled the hair around so I could look at it, and I sort of patted myself out - like I’m Miss America, I’m looking I’m fondling a little sash or something. “Oh, haha, I AM on fire! How droll!” So, I put myself out, and excused myself and went to the bathroom, and did what any normal human girl would do, which is have a cry. I had cry, in the crummy basement bathroom on this horrible date where I had just set my hair on fire. Then, like a champion, I squared my shoulders, wiped my eyes, and went back upstairs to finish the date.

The worst part was, it continued to be horrible. My self-immolation had not broken the ice one bit - he was still stilted and awkward as can be. It was, hands down, the worst date I’ve ever been on, even before the whole flammable hairdo episode.

He walked me home after dinner, gave me a peck on the cheek, and asked, incredibly, if I wanted to go out again sometime.

To my everlasting credit, I didn’t laugh in his face; to my everlasting shame, past the embarrassment of setting myself on fire, and the conviction that somewhere, my ex was laughing at me for hitching my wagon to this winner’s star for the night, what I said was... “You know, I just don’t think there’s a spark.”