“Quit acting like you are better than other people,” the middle-aged bartender pronounced. “Don’t act so haute-taute.”
The bartender was an overweight, pock-faced guy who took an immediate disliking to her. It was 1979, the days before microbrews. She was sitting in a bar in Macomb, Illinois, drinking Coors. That is how she spent a good part of those college years. This first attempt at going to college was a social experiment. Don’t act so haute-taute. What the heck does that mean?
Glancing down, she noticed that she raised her pinky while lifting her beer to her lips. Conditioning. Damn conditioning. She was taught to raise her pinky when she sipped her drink. That’s how proper girls behaved. This properness of character didn’t come naturally to her. She was sent to charm school at the age of ten. Her mother said she needed to smooth out some of her edges or she would never get a man. She did not know that charm was a requirement for good living, but there she was smoothing out her edges and walking the runway with books balanced on her head. Charm school was the beginning of trading herself in for someone else’s version of what was acceptable.
“Do you think I’m haute-taute because I raise my pinky when I drink my beer?” she inquired. He grumbled something under his breath as he walked to the other end of the bar. She had been coming here for months with her roommates. It was a good place to have a few drinks before going to listen to the music at the other bars in town.
“You pretend to be something you’re not,” he protested.
“Me? No, I don’t! What you see is what you get.”
“That’s the lie you have to quit telling yourself.” There was an air of finality in his voice. “Now, get going.”
It was close to 10 p.m. on a Thursday night. The bar was getting crowded. He had pushed her buttons straight into reactivity. She never minded that the bartender did not like her. Either like me for who I am or don’t like me at all, she often said. She emptied the contents of the pitcher into her glass and walked over to sit with her friends.
“How do I look in this outfit?” Susan, the most beautiful of the group was inquiring. “It is pledge week. I want to look my best.” Oh, god. Pledge week. She had no intention of joining a sorority. She just smiled and joined the others in complimenting Susan. “You look beautiful, as always.” Yes, Susan was beautiful. She was also a prude. The bartender wasn’t calling Susan “haute-taute.”
Frustrated, she looked around the bar. There were two guys sitting at the table next to her talking about some class they were taking. She smiled at them and they smiled back. That conversation certainly seemed more interesting than the one at her table. She pushed her chair back, considering whether or not to join them. She got out of her chair, but walked right on by. There was an empty stool at the bar calling her name.
“Why don’t you go join your friends?” the bartender sneered.
“I get more honesty from you.” She told him the she couldn’t relate to the conversation that her friends were having. “Do we ever get away from the conditioning of our past?”
“It isn’t just the past that conditions us,” he replies pointing at the Ford Mustang commercial on the television. “But you get a choice in what to believe. For instance, Susan believes in her beauty. It is her truth.”
He smiled smugly as he poured her a shot of tequila. “You’ve forgotten your truth,” he said. “You gave it away long ago.”
“I’ve just wanted to make others happy.”
She licked the salt off the back of her hand, squeezed the lime into her mouth and took the shot of tequila.
He smirked. “You didn’t raise your pinky.”
“Oh, if it were only that simple,” she remarked. “If finding truth were about when to raise your pinky and when not to raise your pinky.”
“Maybe it is,” he said. “Maybe it is.”
(This is my entry for LJ Idol , Season 7, Week 11. If you liked it, please let me know by commenting. Voting for LJ Idol begins on Saturday at 4:00 pm EST and runs through Tuesday. VOTE HERE. Thank you for your support.)