What I learned from the man who humped his bike at me.
I have a significantly younger twin sister. I just met her this year when we were both jumping in to the adventure of emceeing events. At first meeting, with out introduction, we stood face to face, then hugged. You know those hugs, that you kinda fold into each other cause you know instantly that you are from the same tribe. And those hugs where you don’t hide anything cause the minute you look the other person in eyes and they give you “That Look”…the you know, that they know, that you know that – life can be shitty and we have both been in the shitty and sister I totally understand “look”… Yeah, so that “Look” and the hug is a little long. Not in the creepy too long hug way…just in the “I see your soul” kinda way. My younger twin sister and I shared that look-hug and it was magic. Here are a few more important details about my twin sister. She was born like 20 years after me, to a different mother, in a different state and her name is Ethan. Thusly, my younger twin sister is a 23 year old gay man and he is AMAZING.
A big-deal art appraiser once told me that if an artist paints portraits of people showing their teeth, beware, though a smile, the baring of one’s teeth can be an act of aggression. This was wildly interesting to me because as a professional photographer I witness all sorts of smiles all day long and by far my favorites smiles are wide mouth authentic toothy laughter and never have I have seen the rows of giggling teeth as a sign of aggression….well, maybe I have, maybe it is aggressively joyful. Yes, that’s it! I love smiles that are teethy and aggressively joyful! That is my significantly younger twin sister’s smile, so much exuberance, so much overt happy. The thing about Ethan and I is that we see the world in a very similar way. We believe in the goodness of all people, joy in all things, an unwavering belief in hope, and above all else a generosity of life’s bumps in everyone’s journey. If we happen upon you on your darkest day, we will light the candle for you of knowing that you will rise again. We believe in the rising, we believe in the goodness of you. We believe in being aggressively joyful. And we believe in grace. One night Ethan and I meet a man that also had a big happy toothy smile, and he was very drunk and humping a bike.
Ethan and I were out, downtown Minneapolis, 10:00pm, weeknight, supporting a fellow emcee. Mary, our friend, had just finished her gig and we were sitting in a booth with some of the other talent contemplating life and solving all the world’s problems. Now, I need to set the scene for you because the juxtaposition of Ethan and I that particular night was legendary. Ethan, who is a BEYOND TALENTED drag queen name Utica…was actually dressed as boy-Ethan. And me, who dresses daily by the motto “could I immediately do yoga or sleep in the clothes if I need to”…..was glam city – wearing a white sequined faux-fur wrap and some serious heels.This was coupled with emcee Mary wearing a TINY fierce silver sequin skirt and a black tank that said “Dead Men Don’t Catcall.” So you get the idea…Cue scene —It’s time to leave the venue, so we head out the front doors to the parking lot. Ethan and I head towards my car to chat a bit and Mary heads to her car. As I round the corner towards the driver side, a fantastic drunk man is sloppily trying to unlock his bicycle from a nearby poll, he looks up, sees me in my getup, and with a huge overzealous grin says “Whoah! Ohhhhhhhh hi. Where did you come from? I wanna take you home. Come home with me!” Ethan at this point, is circling the car and arriving to my side. To my surprise the drunk man welcomes Ethan to the proposed tryst. “Whoah! You are hot too! Beautiful! Both of you are beautiful. I’ll will take you both home and give it to both of you!” Then he starts fanatically humping his bicycle to apparently lure us to his liar with this questionably attractive display of manhood. Ethan and I both look at each other, laugh at this state of affairs, grin at a each other pleased-as-punch with this odd public recognition of our cuteness. We embrace the moment for what it is, a happy drunk guy with a bike and OBVIOUSLY exquisite taste in whom he chose to heckle/proposition. We also understand that we are in no danger. We sweetly and simultaneously tell the man with an open and caring heart that we appreciate his compliments very much and the kind generous offer of “banging at his house,” but no thank you and wished him a safe and happy journey. The drunkie man continues to hump his bike with more vigor and begins to make BIG bedroom promises EVERYONE knows he will NEVER be able to keep. Ethan and I find this all very entertaining and smile more, say some more nice words, then begin to get into my car. All is well and everyone’s dignity is intact. No sooner than our car doors are open, I hear Mary’s loud and confident voice echo through the parking lot…apparently she has just walked around to witness this snapshot of this pelvic thrusting midweek mayhem. Clear as a bell echoing through the night, I hear Mary judgingly and aggressively yell, “YOU DRUNK PERVERT!” In response, our male bike thruster embarrassingly cowards, Ethan and I are deflated, the scene has completely crumbled into a shame fest and at that moment I recognize how Mary’s lack of empathy and grace and unemotional generosity has temporarily ruined us all and I realize we see the world a little differently and it makes me very very sad.
Why can’t we all just offer some generosity? The spirit of generosity is a lifestyle and a wonderful way to live because it constantly requires you to give the gift of grace to others…Grace even on the day you were drunk and humping a bike. We all just want to be seen and giving someone empathetic attention is the purest most lovely form of generosity. Mohsin Hamid writes, “Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” Generosity is understanding not judging. Some days are the right days to offer truth and some days there is only room for a judgement free generous heart. This makes me think of the ladies bathrooms at bars.
Alcohol is a microphone. One of my fav conversation games to play with new friends is the What kinda drunk are you? I think it provides an amazing introspective into a personas baseline. For example some drunk varieties I have encountered include: a religious drunk, an over hugger drunk, a crying drunk, naked drunk, an economics talking drunk, a horny drunk, an angry drunk, a let’s speak our truths drunk…. This is an amazingly fun game to see what people label themselves as and then to hear their friends counter their claims with a more accurate version of what their intoxication really produces in them. Alcohol is really an amplifier for what we may already be feeling. Somehow being drunk facilities the truth in us busting out. It takes down our guard and some may argue makes things more “fun.” I would argue that alcohol makes things more truthful. Though we actually use alcohol to numb ourselves, perhaps what we are doing is paralzying inhibition that keeps us honest and real. This is why I embrace my time in the ladies restroom at bars. There is so much truth and emotional generosity in there! I often think about all the drunk women I have met in bar bathrooms and I miss them. I miss them all! I miss their honestly, their vulnerability, their organic need for connection. In ladies bar bathrooms I have witnesses some of the rawest, tender moments of alcohol induced truthiness. I will come clean that my personal brand of drunk is “talk to EVERYONE drunk” soooo me in a bar bathroom does tend to lend itself to some deeply meaningful moments with drunk strangers. I once had a deep conversation with a bulimic on a date brushing her teeth in a bar bathroom, one new bathroom friend invited me to feel her brand new augmented breasts, I have witnessed countless tears over lost love, broken up fights, given out tampons and gum and money. I have lent new friends tweezers, and lipstick and my cellphone. Most importantly, I have generously and tenderly hugged a lot of women in bathrooms.
I wish so very much that we could ALL live in the generous space of the drunk-girl-bathroom. But in daylight, sober, not in high heels, and not while humping bicycles. That kind of support and emotional connection would heal so much. I wish we could all bare our teeth in big aggressive joy filled smiles and offer to love each other deeply and honestly on our darkest days. Dear ones, it is truly in the giving of grace and emotional generosity that there is the receiving of grace and emotional generosity. So man, who vigorously humped his bike at us, I see you. And I give you grace because Lord knows, I so desperately need grace too. Amen.