The Dating Game
In the Culture of Character men pursuing the opposite sex were expected to display a quiet sense of power and self control that did not need to flaunt itself. Shyness was, as always, unacceptable, but reserve was an indication of good breeding.
“. . . . with the advent of the Culture of Personality, the value of formality began to crumble, for women and men alike. Instead of paying ceremonial calls on women and making serious declarations of intention, men were now expected to launch verbally sophisticated courtships in which they threw women “a line” of elaborate flirtatiousness. Men who were too quiet around women risked being thought gay; as a popular 1926 sex guide observed, “homosexuals are invariably timid, shy retiring.” Excerpt from, Quiet – by Susan Cain
The game was rigged for extroverts before I got a chance to play.
* * *
A flock of years ago (when I was young) I was working a contract job as a design draftsman for Chevron on the twentieth floor of their building in the Financial District, downtown San Francisco. It was nineteen sixty something.
Chevron Bldg – 575 Market Street
I was between girl friends, sorely in need, and not doing well at finding one. One day, after work I decided to try a popular cocktail lounge off Market Street. It was a white shirt, tie and sport coat sort of place, not really my bag, and expensive. But I was dressed for the occasion as Chevron had a similar dress code.
It was a nice place, extravagantly decorated with plants and paintings, almost formal – very San Francisco. I took a seat at the rather elegant bar, one stool between myself and a nice looking female my age who gave me an encouraging smile as I ordered a Beefeater martini. It arrived and was followed by a large plate of h’orderves, little meatballs swimming in some kind of sauce. It was accompanied by a small glass holding toothpicks to retrieve the snacks with, but I declined in fear of dripping on my shirt, or the bar. My objective was the seemingly available young lady who looked to be twenty something. I was doing my best at making small talk with her, and she seemed reasonably interested with my efforts until this guy walks in.
He immediately bounced into the vacant stool between us and turned his back to me, successfully blocking any further conversation between myself and my quest. He was what Author Jim would call a competitive conversationalist, and began nonstop from the moment he landed, making any further attempt at conversation by myself impossible.
He never shut up! It was amazing, a veritable blitz of bullshit. I ordered another drink and watched him making his move which looked like it was going well, or at least he was holding her attention. This was by far not the first time something like this had happened to me, and by the time I had finished the second martini I was totally pissed. But there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Then . . . it was the gin I guess. I wasn’t me at all who lifted up the plate of meatballs and dumped the whole thing onto the guy’s lap. There was total silence for a moment. It was like the world stopped turning.
Time was frozen and I didn’t wait for it to thaw. There was no single word or sound before I made it to the door, which was only a few yards away, and out onto the street. I ran like hell, zigzaging though the blocks, and back to Market Street where I caught a bus, laughing hysterically all the way home. It was an introvert’s revenge, a rotten thing to do, I guess. But God it felt good! I confess to having never regretted it, and to this day would give anything to know what happened after I left.