Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cocktail culture and its reversals.

Flirty aprons. Highball glasses with inexplicable designs. Polynesian themes. Safe exotica. Men and women playing subtextual games with cool intensity. That was my childhood environment; I watch Mad Men with a feeling of both pleasure and surprise, as I'm sure a lot of us do, and marvel at what it recalls.

But that was then. I think we've inverted all those behaviors, despite the recent (and now fading) popularity of that vintage. Courtship practically no longer exists. I suppose people still flirt, though in my experience we have lost our sense of subtext. Using subtext to flirt requires mindfulness, delicacy, respect, all of which are time-consuming activities and which require attention to others' responses.

I think that's what people are trying to get back. Cocktail culture has a set of understandable, attainable codes, and even though those codes are a bit old-fashioned, they're not so out of date that they can't offer us anything. I'd even go so far as to argue that there was more sexual equality in the original cocktail culture than there is now. Flirting, coyness, playing hard to get--all of those things are games, and games are for those on equal ground (if the rules don't potentially apply to all, i.e., if all players don't get an equal chance to win, then it's not a game). Might there be a difference between the balance of the sexes and their equality?

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