As so often happens in my life, most of the things I find interesting tend to happen in bars. Shocking, I know, but there it is. Tis spends time in establishments where liquid libation flows freely -- or at a small(ish) fee. It's a thing. Haha!
So Tuesday night, I was bored and sort of all wrote-out, and decided to pay a visit to a restaurant at which I worked for a not inconsiderable length of time. (I haven't worked there in years, but I do like to stop by every now and again to say hello to several former 'work-friends' and catch up with some of the regulars.)
The evening started out boringly enough, with me exchanging quips and commentary in the bar there with Evan, one of my favorite bartenders ever. We were good friends when we worked together and he remains one of the most ridiculous and amusing people I've ever known… and that's saying a lot. He's also one of those smart people who pretends to be stupid and that works for him because in addition to being smart, he's one of those smart people who doesn't necessarily make the same connections that the rest of the world does. It's sometimes a question whether he's pretending to be stupid or whether he just doesn't get something, and that's part of what makes hanging out with him so much fun. This post is not about Evan, however. (I tend to veer off on tangents, as anyone who's ever read my stories already knows! Haha!)
Now, the last time I was at the bar in this restaurant, I ended up having a conversation with a 76 year old man who was a staunch Republican. When he asked what I did for a living, I told him. He was a bit baffled by the concept of a heterosexual woman writing gay romance, of course, and couldn't understand why I would find even the idea of 'two men together' to be of interest, much less exciting. He may have started to grasp the concept when I told him that I found it appealing for the same reasons that heterosexual men find two women engaging in sexual activity to be exciting. This was after I mentioned my love of gay porn, though, so perhaps he was pretending to understand out of fear that I would start mentioning -- and describing -- favorite scenes… which I would absolutely do, if pressed. *toothy grin*
That was last time, though. This time…
Well, this time I found myself having a similar but also quite different conversation with another stranger. Actually, two strangers, as it was a married couple. They looked to be in their 50s and were, as is common at this particular establishment, very nicely dressed and clearly quite well educated. Here's how it happened…
So I'm bantering with Evan (see, there was a purpose to mentioning him after all!) and he asked me what I was working on. I told him about a few of my projects in progress and he pulled a disappointed and sad face so exaggerated that I wanted to buy him a balloon and give him a puppy. Then he asked me why, since I like writing about gay dudes, I wasn't including bondage and fisting and various other things in my stories. (I didn't ask him why he wanted to know, or even how he knew about these things. I figure that's his business, and there are so many different flavors of kink out there, it'd be more shocking if he didn't know of them. I admit to being curious as to why he seemingly assumes that all gay people share these kinks, but again, I didn't ask. I don't want to know that he's arrived at that conclusion through some sort of prejudice, because honestly, he had this look on his face that was both disturbed but curious when he asked, and I like Evan. I don't want to have to beat him with a stick for being a closed-minded asshat, if that is indeed what he is. This is one situation in which I can live with the concept of "don't ask, don't tell." Happily. Until such a time as I have the opportunity to educate him, or learn that he was fucking with me, because that's not outside the realm of possibility, either.)
So Evan asked me why I don't write BDSM and such, and I told him "That's not my world. I don't know enough about those things to write them responsibly. Besides, there are plenty of people who do write that. Pretty much every kink is covered, somewhere within the genre, and while they're all equally valid, I could never do them justice." Or not without a whole lot of personal research, which just doesn't appeal to me, to be honest. Different strokes and all that, right?
So a few other people queued up at the end of the bar and Evan sauntered off to take care of their drink orders, and that's when this married couple pounced… in the figurative sense, of course.
They'd been dropping eaves during my chat with Evan, and doing it really, really well. They were fascinated that I write gay romances, but even more fascinated by the idea that just because something isn't my cuppa, I don't label it as bad or wrong on general principles. That being so, I wracked my brain, trying to find a simple way to explain the why of it.
"It's kind of like playing cards," I said (and this is, of course, merely to the best of my recollection and encompasses the spirit of what I was saying, rather than being a verbatim account). They seemed confused -- the man moreso than the woman. "See, there are hundreds of card games as well as variations within the same game, but they're all played with cards, right?" They agreed that this is, indeed, so.
"Some people like poker, some people like blackjack, or whatever." (I don't play cards myself, but still.) "So let's say you're a poker player. Nothing wrong with that, is there? It's poker. But say you love five card stud. You enjoy it, it's fun, and it usually goes well for you. Now let's say you've got a friend who likes Texas Holdem' and you decide to give it a shot one day. You play a few times, decide it's not for you, and you go back to playing five card stud because that's your game. You enjoy it more than your friend's preferred game. Does liking five card stud make you better or more worthy than your friend who plays Texas Holdem'?"
Of course not, they answered. It just means the friend likes a different kind of poker.
"Exactly," I said. "Now, even within five card stud, there are variations, right? Something like… I don't know. Deuces and one-eyed Jacks are wild or whatever. But that's not your game of choice. Does that mean the people who play five card stud with deuces and one-eyed Jacks wild are in some way inferior to you?"
Of course not, they said. Again.
"So you've got cards, and you've got all sorts of variations on poker, and each of those variations is just as valid as the rest, as long as everyone playing knows the rules and wants to be engaged in whatever the game may be. Playing Texas Holdem' or five card stud, or blackjack, or whatever other card game, it's all still just cards. Nothing wrong with that, right?"
Unless someone's addicted to gambling, the woman said. Unless they can't help but play even when they know they shouldn't.
"True." (Me again.) "But that's the price of living, isn't it? Cards, alcohol, drugs… whatever is out there, someone somewhere is going to take it too far. But just because someone gambles away their house or car or life's savings, does that make every card game bad or wrong?"
Again with the of course nots.
"Okay. So replace 'cards' with 'sex'. Sex is sex. It's fun and people enjoy it, just as we're supposed to. But just like cards, sex has hundreds of variations, if not more. None of those variations are any less valid than whichever one you prefer. They're just different. So let's say that you two don't care for bondage. That's fine. You don't have to. But that doesn't mean that other people shouldn't enjoy it if that's what floats their boat. And that applies to any other kink out there."
What about pedophiles? (I was actually expecting this question. Honestly, I was just glad they didn't bring up bestiality, cuz that makes me a wee bit queasy.)
For the record, pedophilia isn't a kink. I believe it to be a mental disorder, and as such it's in an entirely different class than 'kink'. Same applies to bestiality, and I said so.
"The point is," I finally said (at this point, we were four drinks in), "I can't in good conscience cast aspersions, here. There is no one right way for consenting adults to express themselves sexually. The important words are 'consenting' and 'adults'. What some people get up to together may very well baffle the hell out of others. It might even seem weird or gross or whatever. But that doesn't matter. It's not up to me to say what other people -- by which I mean those who are not me -- can and can't do with each other as long as they're willing participants. Just like it's not my place to say that no man can ever have sex with a woman because some guys are rapists, you know? It's not the acts themselves that are wrong. It's when those acts are forced upon someone who's not willing that makes it wrong. Simple concept, right?"
They agreed that it sounded simple and we moved on to other subjects. They're actually a very nice couple and we ended up chatting away for close to two hours, in all. We may very well end up running into each other again, as they've recently moved to the area and that particular bar/restaurant is only three blocks from their new home.
I don't know whether our conversation gave them cause to think about everything, beyond that brief span of time during which we talked cards. I don't know whether they took what I said to its logical conclusion, meaning… consenting adults aren't always of opposite genders and it doesn't matter. Hetero, homo, whatever. As long as they're consenting, whatever happens is completely valid and acceptable, regardless of whether it mike make someone else uncomfortable.
I hope they did, and to be honest, it seems likely. They did compliment me on the sticker on my bag as I was leaving the bar. I'd forgotten it was there, honestly. I'd thought I'd removed after I finished canvassing for Marylanders for Marriage Equality on Saturday.
Is it strange that I have these sorts of conversations all the time? *ponders*
Anyway, who's up for Blackjack? Haha!