"That figures," figures my friend Anna from the passenger seat, brow furrowed. "I go out with my gayest friend on what is conceivably the gayest day of the year, and we're going where? The least gay event imaginable?"
"That's the point," I pretend to be the type of person that has a point, all smirky know-too-much.
Only I don't. There is no real point here, short of the acute twinge of abdominal pain peculiar to the anticipation of an evening's descent into failure. And even if there were, I'm almost certain that I would miss it. I, after all, am too busy spelling "bananas" with Gwen Stefani on the stereo, giddily waving imaginary pompoms, to be bothered by any real sense of direction. Other than down, that is. And that's exactly where we're going.
Tonight sees the arrival of the "Girls Night Out" tour to The Social: Some sort of all-male revue of former pop stars of the boy band variety pulled out of the closet for a suitable gawking. Jordan Knight, fresh from making a (fat) ass of himself on VH1's The Surreal Life, is to headline, joined by such secondary luminaries as Jeff Timmons (98 Degrees) and Rich Cronin (LFO), for a depressing night replacing the toothy harmonies of their former collectives with prerecorded backing tracks. A silent "Wow" is all I can muster, and by "wow" I mean "ow."
As is to be expected, the assembled mass of clitoral want falls somewhere between the cutout bin and the garbage can the sort of drapey-top-over-stretch-pants wardrobing doing its best to conceal the always-apparent fatal flaw (a lazy eye, a third nipple, whatever) and most of them have already made their way to prime placement at the front of the stage. For the most part it's a decidedly mall-ish interpretation of what one is to look like when one "goes out."
"Ew," comments one bartender. "It looks like Charlotte Russe threw up in here."
I immediately access Anna for the obligatory scrunchie count.
"We're at three, dear," she scans the room. "Three scrunchies, it is."
Wine coolers, it should be noted, are available for just $3. Thanks for your support.
The only thing that could make this impending event even better than it already almost is would be the appearance of a spiked Kool-Aid busting through the frontal bricks. So, I squeeze my eyes real tight, bite my tongue and seethe, "Hey, motherfuckin' Kool-Aid."
And there he is. Lou Pearlman and his ample midsection stroll right past me, like a ghost of pectorals past, and the whole situation starts to churn up memories. It's like the lingering tongue of an old man at a brothel, scratching the side of your neck in between whispers of "Ten dollars, you make me holler." Yeah, that's precisely it. That's how I feel about the boy band era. I feel like a whore.
"Dare me to go and talk to him!" I beg Anna.
She does, and I do, but all for naught. He's here because C-Note is here, and apparently C-Note is (still) to be his next big thing. So all he has to say is, "Have you heard of these guys?" before I start to hear the dull hum of a painful, white-noise death and swiftly walk back in the direction of the dull drain of my drink.
To be fair, I actually find all of this kind of amusing. I'm no stranger to misplaced fanaticism, and, like most in attendance, hit my 30s with all of the grace of a blithering stalker. So, like, I can relate. Unfortunately, the straight guy next to me cannot. His wife has dragged him here, and he spends most of the evening looking toward the floor and shaking his head. So when his wife approaches frantically, it has to come as something of a good surprise. Well, sorta.
"I need $40! I need $40! I need $40, now!" she screeches charmlessly. "Please! You know I'm the blow job queen!"
He forks over the cash meet-and-greets are for sale tonight, along with all of your shame and a large portion of your soul and goes back to shaking his head.
"Jordan Knight is gay, right?" he hopefully quizzes me.
Yeah, everybody is for $40. It's Gay Days!
I'll spare the details of the actual performances here, except to say that Jeff Timmons (sooo much cuter than Nick Lachey) takes off his shirt while lip-syncing, and then goes all ruminative to introduce the 98 Degrees hit, "The Hardest Thing." ("How many people have been in love with two people at the same time?" he softly queries.)
In short, it's really very sad. But not as sad as this:
"So where's Rich Cronin?" I lick my lips at Josie, my Social cruise director. "I really want to interview him, heh heh heh."
"He's not here," she stares me down. "Last I heard, he's in remission."
Anyway, Jordan Knight finally hits the stage around 11:30 and is quick to hop into the sort of jerky choreography that one typically reserves for private moments of rehearsal, or the kind that preteen cheerleader-hopefuls exhibit in grocery stores. He's pulling out some New Kids catalog (duh) and practically rolling his eyes at the entire proposition of his being here. Just as I'm painting the toenails of my cynicism, he lays into "Step by Step." And although I'd like to say that I don't respond by standing on my barstool and swinging my arms around maniacally, I can't. That would be lying.
Thankfully, Anna's bad mood is still intact, so when Jordan pulls out "Please Don't Go Girl," forcing the audience to sing it because he can't be bothered, she's grabbing my arm and leaning toward the exit. There is always a time to go.
There is also always a time to be gay. So we head over to The Parliament House to drop $40 so that we might be among my own for at least one moment in the Days that are Gay. And, ostensibly, to get gay-bashed.
"Hey, where's the party?" a white car full of indigenous gangsta Parramores pulls up to my hasty gait.
"Uh, I dunno," I look down and shake my head.
"Faggot!" the friendly folk scream, quite threateningly. "You're a fucking faggot!"
Uh, yeah. That's the point.