Rhonda rolled her eyes as I came up to her with a panicked look, but she just apologized to the men explaining that I was just not used to attentive men and they shouldn’t take it to heart as maybe I would loosen up after having a drink and eating a little as we had not been offered anything since coming to the party.
The sudden realization that someone had been rude led the men to scrabble and guide us to an area where food had been set up with a bubbling champagne fountain.
I smiled weakly as I felt like this was some kind of test. All the drinks that they had provided were alcohol. I asked the usher if I could have a bottle of water in addition to the drinks that they had provided. He frowned at me but left to get me a drink. I watched as Rhonda began digging into all the food and was soon amonashing me for not having grabbed some of the food or drink. The usher soon returned with a bottle of water that I checked to make sure it hadn’t been tampered with. There was this terrible nagging feeling in the back of my mind that told me to trust nothing and not to let Rhonda pressure me into anything, her unusual behavior was sending all kinds of red flags.
Rhonda had taken a glass from the fountain and sipped in between her bites of food. She soon had taken another glass of alcohol and I tried to be calm as I walked over to her and whispered that she was now on her second drink and after that maybe she should stick to water holding the bottle out to her. She stuck her tongue out as she sipped her second cup.
The stagehand made a point to clearly state that I was a stick in the mud and should lighten up. I was in a room full of men, why couldn’t I just take this for what it was and enjoy what was being provided for us.
I watched as a dancer reached for another glass to drink and the usher took the glass from him and shook his head. The reaction from the dancer was that of pleading for the glass. The usher grabbed something from under the table and handed it to him. The dancer wasn’t happy but didn’t seem to fight back after he received the item. He just turned and returned to the other dancers.
These interactions were unsettling and unnatural in ways. In the first room there were no checks or balances of what people were doing; the giant bar in the center of the room, the haziness that distorted your vision, the table covered in pills and drugs, while people were just gambling away in corners of the room. Here people were being kept in some kind of check. Maybe the dancers were going to put on a show later and they didn’t want them too drunk to perform, but this felt more like an after show event so their behavior sparked red flags. Only the men were kept in check by the usher who never himself grabbed any food or drink, he simply stood by and watched them all.
While I stood there trying to figure out what the deal was with the dancer, the conductor had come beside me and leaned in to whisper in my ear that he took me for a woman who prefers intelligent men to those that just looked pretty.
Stepping away I explained that dancers had to work hard and needed the mental capacity to remember their moves and the steps of everyone else so not to judge a book by the cover. I did not appreciate him projecting his ideals on me when it came to what I should desire as well. I soon took a deep breath and stopped talking. I could feel those cuss words on the tip of my tongue trying to escape. I looked over the conductor’s shoulder to see Rhonda going for another drink. I pushed passed the man apologising on the way for being rude, but I had to take care of my friend.
As the cup was going to her lips, I took it from her and gulped the drink down. She stared daggers at me for a moment and then changed suddenly cheering that I was finally loosening up to party with her. My smile was tight as I nodded at her, but she didn’t seem to notice my discomfort at all. The drink tasted wrong, something about the alcohol made me feel displaced. I took a few deep breaths and chugged the bottle of water. The place was beginning to make me feel like I was just a cheap piece of meat for some kind of barbeque; like I was the hot dog that was given to the children because the adults wanted the brisket and steak to themselves. I shivered at the idea that I was being dragged across hot coals in an attempt to cook me faster.
The hostess entered after this horrible realization and stared right at me. Her eyes widened, but soon changed to a glare of disapproval. I shrank away believing this was meant for me. I felt like a child who has just stumbled into a room full of adults and being admonished for just coming in. It wasn’t until I made the connection that Rhonda was behind me that I understood that the disapproving glare wasn’t for me at all. A quick hand signal was all she did to signal us that it was time to go.