She would have preferred to wear something else to Subtle Irony, of course, and yet she did not want to stand out. You came across the odd person who did show up in comfortable clothes, who either preached in whispers to another ally or straight to the face of someone who had shown up in the typical attire: an argument that believed those who performed femininity were not enjoying it, and, if they were, it was from a place of brainwashing, and that a rebellion against it, in the form of wearing typically masculine clothing, while trying to take up as much space and make the same noise as your usual middle-class patriarch, was not itself a mirroring reflection of the same conformity. The men in the bar had conformed to wearing someone else’s style of varying prices, although their critiques came in the form of offhand comments between women, nothing compared to the shared policing by everyone in the bar, regardless of gender, against all of the women.
He had approached her with a line about her tights, how she could have shown up in all black and he still would have graced her with his presence. She liked how he said tights – with an accent. She smiled.
Subtle Irony was one of those clubs where they kept a line outside for the purpose of gaining attention in the street. The awkward emptiness of the bar before midnight was distracted by music and men, without the cloak of a crowd, exhibited more of their training wheels – shoulders out, chin up. And yet: there was one, comfortable by the bar, laughing with the bartender, drinking something orange.
She approached him.
Can I buy you a drink?
You buy me a drink?
I guess so.
His laughter deflated to a curious smile – she ordered two whiskeys.
You know, you don’t have to act, to get my attention.
Who says I’m acting?
I like whiskey.
The whiskeys were taking a while. Aside from his comment on ‘just be yourself’ – as though not wearing makeup would mean the end of sexual assault, and that abiding by patriarchal rules on appearance and value was an objective choice; one that men never had to make- he maintained his curious smile, and she worked to move his comments from embarrassing stains on his image to a place of clumsiness, of ignorance, that was unaware, that he was not malicious, like a child.
I’m Liberal, he said.
The whiskeys arrived.
Really? You wish the government was gone?
I work for the Government.
Well, I’m not saying you should be gone.
Glasses clinked, he went on an alcohol charged rant about Libertarians: “taken to the furthest extent, a true Libertarian supports the removal of all non-Indigenous peoples from North America.”
You can’t just arrive, enslave, destroy, and set up a white-supremacist system of wealth, criminal prosecution, and access to property, and want it gone all of a sudden: we wouldn’t exactly all return to some equal status, he said.
We’d like return to something where one of us ‘returns’ to owning hotels on boardwalk, with a couple grand to invest, and another of us ‘returns’ to starting out in debt, and having to go to jail every turn, instead of passing GO.
She wondered who ‘us’ meant, and if he would have taken the same tone, should she have been white.
A government employee who doesn’t like his government – I can’t say that’s a first.
No- I love my job. Have you been following Trudeau? I truly believe he will bring about change.
S U B T L E I R O N Y, in neon letters, over the bar, hung over them, lighting their faces.
word by Liam Lachance
colour by Zutto
From the author: “Sexism is telling women not to conform, while telling them conforming makes them valuable, and harassing them either way.”