Saturday, April 08, 2006

Abusing the populace

Just to be absolutely clear about this, Pretty Lady frowns upon Leading People On. She used to think that the loathesome expression 'prick tease' was an invention of embittered, projecting males, who interpreted innocent flirtation as Something More, and were disappointed. Pretty Lady has discussed elsewhere the fact that flirtation, in its proper form, is a delightful, egalitarian social activity which is only tangentially linked to the establishment of sexual liasons. If flirting were the only criteria for being declared a tease, Pretty Lady would have to lock herself in a closet and communicate with the outside world solely by means of knocking on the wall in Morse code. Even then she'd probably find a way to convey a wink or two.

However, Pretty Lady changed her mind about the definition of the word 'tease' during the month she witnessed a friend of hers trying to convert a certain young man to her own, rather vague views on the Spiritual Unity of Mankind. This friend was your typical run-of-the-mill size-2 blonde with gigantic green eyes, bewitching smile, tinkling laugh and cheerleader physique. The gentleman in question was a quasi-incompetent academic clerk, on the short side, with a mildly unfortunate (though by no means deformed) facial physiognomy and no magnetic personal, intellectual or social skills to speak of. My friend's conversion technique consisted of cornering the gentleman in the café, gazing deeply and thoughtfully into his eyes, and declaring, "I love you, Berto."

After a couple of weeks of this, Those Who Observed became concerned. "You might want to back off of Berto, Julia," we told her. "He's becoming attached."

"That's ridiculous," said Julia. "I've TOLD him I'm only interested in him as a friend."

Within another couple of weeks, poor Berto had declared his undying love for Julia, and she laughed in his face. He never did get over it. After one failed marriage and another tepid engagement, he still continues to call her, at her home in Oregon from his in Mexico, and make forlorn plans to visit, which are continually rejected.

Pretty Lady had some subsequent experiences with this particular friend which led her to believe that, far from being the avatar she claimed, this girl was Seriously Messed Up. But even at the time she found her tactics to be wilfully obtuse. One has to gauge one's conversion audience. There is a fine line between Mystical Oneness and Emotional Abuse, and this girl definitely crossed it.

So it is with some trepidation that Pretty Lady confesses that yesterday evening, she allowed the Neighborhood Beat to take her out. I know, I know, it's horrible. But over the years it has become easier to throw the fellow a bone every few months and watch him suffer, than it is to avoid him entirely.

In fact it is physically impossible to avoid the man entirely, even though one might think that New York was a big, big city. This is why Pretty Lady has decided that the Neighborhood Beat must be part of her karass; he descended upon her within minutes of the time she first entered the city's environs, and could not be shaken off. He haunts her haunts; he haunts her friends' haunts, he hangs out in the obscure bar her ex-boyfriend took her to to Get Away From People, he stalks the galleries she attends, he pulls up behind her at stoplights and takes things out of his trunk that he's been saving to give to her. He's one of those Old Fellows who Hangs Around. He knows everybody and everybody knows him. Which is not such a bad thing.

However, if Pretty Lady has slapped him down once, she's done it fifty times. The nerve! You must take it on faith that Pretty Lady is so far out of this fellow's league, they'd have to communicate with walkie-talkies if they were ever to get it on; his characteristics are too well known in the community to risk describing him. She has bluntly told him so--as blunt as she ever gets.

"You are Not My Type, Beat," she said, the first time he asked her out. He shrugged and kept trying, with the eternal optimism of testosterone. He kept trying for years. Pretty Lady said no, and no, and no again. Not prettily, either. "You couldn't GET me drunk enough to sleep with you, Beat," she recalls telling him, round about the third year or so. He shrugged and said, "You're adorable."

So Pretty Lady figures the dude must have a serious masochistic streak. At any rate, once her feelings and boundaries have been clearly communicated, Pretty Lady believes that other people's issues are Their Problem.

And strangely, over the years, it has become comforting to know that there is one person who is always glad to see her, however badly she treats him. During the past holiday season, Pretty Lady had a rather difficult week; at the end of this week there loomed a Birthday Party of someone who Expected Her To Be There, even though this person had not attended Pretty Lady's birthday, and indeed had been somewhat snippy on numerous occasions when Pretty Lady set limits. This person appeared to have her life permanently set on Maximum Extract, and Pretty Lady, although generous, was no longer in the mood.

But she didn't have an excuse. Not that one was needed, but Manners are hard to lose, once imprinted. She popped round first to an opening, and had a glass of wine to fortify herself.

The Beat, of course, as ever, was there. Pretty Lady knew some people, and had another glass of wine. When the opening ended and the Beat said, "How 'bout we hit some other galleries, then music and dinner," Pretty Lady said--all right. Whatever.

Perhaps this was a spontaneous act of emotional despair. Pretty Lady was not, and never will be, drunk enough to sleep with him. But she had a strangely good time, bopping around and saying exactly what she thought about the bad art, the stupid galleries, the egoistic art dealers. She enjoyed the a cappella band at the Italian hole-in-the-wall. For once she didn't have to worry about offending anybody; every caustic comment out of her mouth was heralded as an example of peerless wit. An old Italian guy came up to the table and declared, "We have a bet on. I say you're no moah than thoity." Pretty Lady informed him that he'd lost his bet, but that he'd made her evening.

Once cannot use people as emotional Kleenexes too terribly often, however masochistic they might be. Every three or four months is the outside limit. Yesterday evening, though, Pretty Lady decided that she was in the mood for her Yearly Cigarette, and the Beat was the only smoker she knew. She didn't have to look for him; she just strolled vaguely homeward and he intercepted her. The cigarette was menthol, the art was execrable, the Middle Eastern food was excellent, and she got home by 10:30, firmly avoiding an attempted necking.

Perhaps this is horrible. Perhaps Pretty Lady will come back in her next life as a 330-lb. white-trash retard with a raspberry birthmark covering most of her face. But there are the occasional moments when everyone needs looking after, and one cannot always be too picky.

1 comment:

Pretty Lady said...

I do hope between being spurned by you he does have a date or two.

Heavens, yes. To hear tell, he's constantly swatting away 23-year-old bombshells that inexplicably want to dangle all over him. This is an undoubted exaggeration, but any male with an excess of testosterone and a relentlessly social nature can generally find somebody, somewhere, willing to put up with him.