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Catherine Alter’s “Bitch Hunt” (10/25), which has surely already become a staple for male cocktail conversation, is delightfully accurate for the locations that it describes, but in fairness it’s only half the story. Any crawl through today’s club scene reveals a generation of both male and female posers for whom the primary erotic impulse seems to be the narcissism to which Ms. Alter alludes.

To be desired is everything, to express desire (or indeed to express much emotion or intensity about anything) is bad taste. The manifestations of this chilly mind-set may and often do vary across the genders, but the mind-set is common to both sexes. An odd manifestation at the opposite end of the spectrum from devastating verbal cut-downs Alter describes is the increasingly common and painfully absurd sight (even more common in N.Y.C.) of dancers pursuing graphic physical contact/arousal from their partners, yet having no interest or intention of pursuing any of the practical implications of that arousal. It’s like witnessing some erotic game of chicken, the loser being the first one to lose their cool.

The male side of this brave new sexual equation can afford to be less direct than the women—usually mere aloofness is both the necessary and sufficient behavior. But the result of this general refusal to tango is obvious. Whole bars/clubs can degenerate into women dancing among themselves and men standing about slurping booze (perhaps watching sports on the small TV in the corner)—something out of junior-high-school memory.

It’s no wonder that the attempts to meet new people were so quickly rebuffed in Alter’s account—as such contacts have become rarer, one might question the mental balance and certainly the social sophistication of anyone making the attempt. It’s also no wonder that in this environment people tend to move in couples or with their own tribe in order to have any fun. I doubt sincerely whether many of this new species of clubgoer actually meet other people on their weekend expeditions. And this is perhaps the greatest shame of nightlife in this city—many have completely lost the art of bar chat. Hang out with Australians, Brits, Irish, or people in many other American cities, and you’ll instantly see what I mean. Strangers meeting each other, talking with each other—not just for sexual negotiations, but for the sheer joy of speaking with new and interesting people. Anyone have a good bar recommendation for that here in town?

AIDS and Washington ambition/materialism do not seem adequate explanations for these observations. Hell, I don’t think people in this town are having enough interaction to figure out income statements and clinic test results. Rather than roam off into unfounded sociological speculations regarding some adequate cause for our sometimes dysfunctional nightlife, I just wanted to concede that men, in their role as nightclubbers versus bosses, may be significant contributors to creating this city of cold shoulders.

Dupont Circle

via the Internet