The mating and social behavior of animals is of particular interest to humans. In our effort to understand the animal kingdom, we classify and document behaviors and traits, labeling a species as either “this” or “that”. Leaving aside a Western or religious understanding of monogamy as lifelong and exclusive pair bonding, there are animals that tend toward monogamy (3-5% of the animal population) and animals that do not.
At best, these classifications give us approximations. Not every species fits nicely into categories, and individual members of a given species may behave differently than the norm. These qualifications aside, we’re comfortable taking a 30,000 foot view of animal behavior and classifying them accordingly.
We tend to wear blinders, however, when looking at ourselves, the human animal. It is, perhaps, simply bias that prevents us from studying ourselves in the same way we do birds and bees.
Check. Check. Fold. Fold. Check. Fold. Fold.
Bet small and lose on a weak hand. Just to show we’re willing to play. Just to be in the game.
Fold. Fold. Check. Fold. Waiting for anything worth the risk. Drinking. Playing. Tempting. Patience.
The cards come, eventually, but without guarantee.
Black Ace. Red Lady.
This. Temptation. The game begins. A big bet up front, just to see who stays, who leaves.
Cards flipped. Some help. Some hurt. Small bets. Fake confidence. Feign weakness. Push. Pull.
“All in,” she says. Question called.
You sat at the table. You ordered the free drinks. You traded sarcasm and banter. Tipped the dealer for luck. But, you didn’t sit at the table for these things.
All in? In a flash, you decide. You’re here to play. Risk.
Poker can be lost to greed or boredom. Sometimes we play because we’re tired of waiting. Sometimes we reach for too much too soon. Sometimes we sit at the table out of loneliness, letting our chips dwindle in small, predictable donations.
But, sometimes, knowing the odds, we choose to play.
“All in” I hear the words echo in my head. I feel myself push the chips. Time slows, cards revealed.
Win? Lose? Neither matters. Eventually, you’ll experience both and more.
What matters is that you sat at the table.
You played the game.
“When people began living in settled agricultural communities, social reality shifted deeply and irrevocably. Suddenly it became crucially important to know where your field ended and your neighbor’s began. — Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. and Cacilda Jethá, M.D. in Sex At Dawn”
Whosoever Looketh On A Woman
As we closed our eyes for the congregational prayer, I could feel the closeness of her skin, electricity arcing as from one lead to another. Right hand folded tightly under left arm, index finger extended slightly. A hoped for inadvertent touch.
That act, however innocent it may seem, had the potential to cost me everything.
Three weeks previous, my mission companion and I were shopping at Sears in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. I needed another white short-sleeved shirt, having lost one to bicycle grease.
As I turned to the counter, a moment cliches are made of: Eyes locked, time slowed. She smiled, I blushed.
It was easy to imagine that I had never seen a more beautiful woman.
In the history of pick up lines, this had to be among the worst: “Have you ever heard of the Book of Mormon?” I haltingly stammered, words fighting others I’d have preferred.
Diamond Life: Heaven Help Him, When He Falls
October 1984 | 2:30 am | Provo, Utah
Lying across a sturdy sofa, empty lobby of a dormitory, Brigham Young University.
Eyes smudged with eyeliner, highlighted hair tousled, bleached white 501s.
I’d been at The Star Palace, a refuge from the adjustment of moving out of Seattle and into Pleasantville. “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?” I danced. Hard.
My best friend back home was black. We frequented black clubs, listened to black music. There’s no “black” in Provo. I adapted; rather than rock steady to the Whispers, I swayed to Swing Out Sister.
In a malaise of misfit and dried sweat, I was watching Night Tracks, a late night music video show.
He’s laughing with another girl,
playing with another heart.
Placing high stakes making hearts ache.
He’s loved in seven languages.
Jewel Box life, diamond nights and ruby lights,
high in the sky.
Sight: red lips, black hair, freckled brown skin.
Sound: delicate piano, driving bass, salvific sax; creating structure to protect, wings to carry a voice soft and soaring, mysterious and familiar.
Heaven help him, when he falls.
And fall I did. No help from Heaven.
I’m leaning against a bar, swirling Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks and reading Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage” when a woman approaches with a scowl and purpose. “Empty that bag and prove to me that you need to carry everything in it” she demands, handbag slung defiantly over her shoulder, arms crossed. “You should not be carrying a bag; men don’t wear purses.”
One might expect such a confrontation would catch me off-guard, but this interrogation is common. For the past 15 years, I’ve carried what is derisively referred to as a man bag.
More frequently than it should, this accessory elicits stares, comments, scorn and on rare occasion, compliments. In the seeming view of many, my bag further erodes the lost beacon of masculinity, the fall of the Western World.
For me? It’s just a bag. I’ve come to see it as a Rorschach Test that reveals more about others than me.
With deliberate movement, I take another swallow of scotch, set the tumbler down slowly, and ceremoniously two-hand lift my black Ferragamo onto the counter, exhibit A in this darkened courtroom drama.