Today, I’m hosting Alayna-Renee Vilmont in a guest post about watching people — a fascinating pastime. The variety is endless. So see what Alayna has to say and then check out her book, Ophelia’s Wayward Muse.
I am fascinated by people. Whether you’re a bit of an eccentric and outgoing personality, the way I happen to be, or you’re a keen observer of others, I think you have to have a certain level of interest in other people in order to be an artist. Although I literally meet hundreds of new people each year, and even more if you count the virtual connections the internet brings into our lives, I’m often inspired by the people I don’t know. I have a terrible habit of doing something we’re all taught not to do, because it’s rude: eavesdropping.
I’m a city girl, and although I currently call Atlanta home, it’s the smallest city that has ever been home to me. Atlanta is an interesting place because it’s a city with a great deal of history. Once an iconic destination for all things Southern, it has now been invaded by people from all over the world who have made it a transient stop in their career path or life journey. I often joke that it took me moving down here to meet friends who are largely from the Northeast, where I grew up. It’s as if we know how to find one another, and I think perhaps that’s true. I’ve discovered you can generally tell where someone is from and why they now live here based on body language, appearance, personal presentation, and the energy they give off.
Much like Manhattan, you can’t go to a trendy bar or restaurant in Atlanta without finding an interesting conversation for your eavesdropping pleasure. In a way, it’s the ultimate in reality television.
A week or two ago, I’d wanted to go to an Asian place for dinner. Specifically, I wanted the kind of place that would be a relaxing spot with some ambiance, without being overly pretentious. My requirements were that I could get a bowl of spicy noodles and a martini—it had been a tough week, and in my world, this is comfort food. I remembered a place not far from my apartment where I’d hosted a New Year’s Eve bash with some friends. That night, everything was very swanky and trendy and the sort of place you imagine actual grown-ups hang out when you’re a teenager eating at Denny’s with your friends at midnight.
It turns out, if you’re there before 9, it’s a completely different crowd. We were seated between three different tables, all of whom had children under the age of 7. I thought I was going to get my martini in a plastic cup with a bendy straw. It was not the relaxing end to the week I was looking for.
Nevertheless, I was amused by this place because the bar area was filled with 20-and-30-something yuppie types obviously on first dates, or transitioning from “work friends” to “social friends”. Despite the children running around the restaurant ooh-ing and aah-ing at the baby sharks in the fish tanks and getting remnants of crushed Oreo all over everything, it’s still a magnet for “getting to know you” conversation. By nature, it makes it prime real estate for eavesdropping.
While I waited for my boyfriend to retrieve the car from the parking garage, I stood by the bar, eavesdropping on a couple that was obviously in the “getting to know you” stage of things. They looked, and their conversation gave the vibe, that a film crew was hiding somewhere, obtaining footage for a Match.com commercial.
The girl was clearly the Southern beauty queen type, with blonde hair and perfect teeth and a habit of saying “like” and “you know” in every single sentence. The guy gave the impression of being that confident professional dude who doesn’t need to be on a date with a beautiful woman, since he already knows many, but why not?
The guy asked the girl about her previous relationship, and she revealed that she was in love and with one person for a long time. It was, in fact, so serious that she was going to get married. Recently, they’d decided not to and broken up instead, which is why she was on this obviously half-hearted Match.com date.
Conversation is important, so he continued to ask questions about why she’d broken up with him and what she was looking for in a relationship. She launched into a diatribe about how her ex-fiance wanted her to give up her career and her friends and her lifestyle to stay home in their hypothetical home and raise their hypothetical children. Her concern was that she’d give up her whole life for love, and then if it didn’t work out, she’d be left with nothing—but if she didn’t agree to this scenario, all the years she’d invested in dating wouldn’t result in that thing every woman in the South wants: to be able to order monogrammed towels and hyphenate her last name.
(I personally believe hyphens are for first names only, but that’s just me.)
Her companion was very astute about this situation, nodding, and saying, “Well, you know, that’s just how Southern guys are.” She looked distraught, batted her eyelashes, and displayed that look of panic that women in Atlanta have when they realize they live in a city where single women outnumber men 3-to-1, and they’re suddenly closer to 35 than 25.
She said, “I know. Maybe ending it wasn’t the right thing. But I felt like he was, I don’t know how to explain it, totally emasculating me all the time.”
To his credit, the guy just looked at her blankly, before asking, “How does that work? How does a guy emasculate you?”
“He was really very masculine and responsible and, like, in control and stuff. I felt like he wanted to be in control of me, too.”
It took a lot of self-restraint not to turn around and inform her the word she was looking for was dominate. She obviously was engaged to a very traditional, macho type of guy with control issues, and he was attempting to dominate her life.
I’m not judgmental by nature, but I couldn’t help but think that it would be easier for her to avoid being dominated if she had a dictionary on hand to help her express, you know, like thoughts and stuff.
When I got into the car, I shared this story with my boyfriend. At the end, I summed it up by saying, “Well, it’s a good thing she’s pretty.” He replied, “And that’s what her teachers told her all the way through school.”
I’ve never been one to find the dating world difficult or challenging, and I’ve enjoyed being single just for the experience of being out there and meeting new people. I’m a pretty high-maintenance girl. If someone can’t make conversation, doesn’t open the car door, and doesn’t pay for dinner, he’s not interested in me enough that I should care. It’s worked for me, I suppose. I’ve had a colourful history of infatuations and relationships in cities that are known for being tough markets for single women.
I like to think it’s because, in my way, I’m quite endearing and hard to resist. The truth is probably closer to this: I’m great at dating because I have a large vocabulary, and I’m not afraid to use it.
Because, you know, conversation is like, hard and stuff.
Alayna-Renee Vilmont is a freelance writer, blogger, performer, and modern-day Renaissance woman currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia. Her first book, “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse”, is a poetic anthology based around the many facets of human relationships and experiences. It is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in .pdf format at Lulu.com. Alayna is also the voice behind Jaded Elegance: The Uninhibited Adventures Of A Chic Web Geek, which has been entertaining readers since 2000. She maintains an active presence on Facebook, Goodreads, and almost every other form of social media out there. If you’d like to follow the adventures of this modern-day wayward muse, please stop by and visit at www.jadedelegance.net