Attack of the Alpha Frump: Horror and Recovery in the Suburbs

Saturday evening on the Loot Loop, as Washington’s beltway is called by those who understand the city. Traffic was light. Night stretched away before us, as dark as a cannibal’s intentions. The trunk was full of guns. My friend Rob and I had been shooting out in Virginia, because it was a Patriarchal Phallocentric thing to do, with overtones of Oppression. At least we hoped it was. We were trying hard to be brutal hierarchical males. We would have slaughtered some people of color, except the only ones we knew were either mathematicians or really good-looking waitresses at the Asian restaurant down the street from me.

Maybe this isn’t making sense. I can’t promise it will get much better. Rob lives in a hunting shack way out in Virginia. In Washington, as a sort of hobby (in real life he works for a defense contractor), he tells women they ought to carry guns for self-defense. This sets radical feminists off like bottle-rockets. They want women to think they’re victims, because that way they can scam Uncle Sucker for grants. It’s how Washington works.

Anyway, as Rob tells it, he was at lunch near the Pentagon, innocently trying to make gun molls out of some women he’d met. He looked up (OK, Rob does ornament his stories sometimes), and saw what he took to be a boxcar with fangs bearing down on him. A feminist contractor, who looked like Paul Bunyan’s ugly sister. She was, Rob said, such an awful diesel dike that she practically had valve clatter.

These gals are scary. You can get PTSD from them. It’s a medical fact.

She squalled about how Rob was sowing the seeds of death. He says he didn’t throw her down an elevator shaft. (It isn’t easy to pry the doors open.) But he was shaken. He called me and said he needed a day of remedial patriarchy. Guns. Somebody to oppress. Beer. Normal women, with a sense of humor. Anything but Washington’s virile lawyeresses and lemon-sucking shrews in shoulder pads.

We’d gone for football to a local dirt bar, dim and raunchy with a stuffed plastic fish on the wall and a huge American flag and pool tables and actual friendly waitresses like you have in North Carolina. It also had a projection TV screen the size of a tennis court. You don’t really know a quarterback till you’ve seen his head eight feet high, with pores big enough for birds to nest in.

Our friend Gina works there. A year ago we’d found her on her first day of work. She’s pretty so we’d flirted with her. Then Rob went to make a sacrifice to the porcelain god. Trying to stab him in the back, I told her seriously, “I think you should know. I’m his parole officer.” “Oh?” she said. “He told me he was your psychiatrist.”

I can’t trust my own friends.

She came over to the booth, it being a slow day. Gina’s wonderful. For starters, she isn’t an androgyne lesbo Death Star. She doesn’t take Rob and me too seriously. (I can’t understand why.) But she’s good people. It’s an alien concept in this city.

This isn’t getting any better organized. Keep reading, though. I may put dirty pictures at the end.

Anyway, Rob was waving his arms and hollering about the horror of his experience. Vodka and grapefruit bring out a certain nuanced lyricism in him. “She was like a professional wrestler trapped in a space alien’s body,” he yelled. “It was like . . . have you ever stood in line behind a rhinoceros? Bring me another of these, would you? Do you have any opium?”

Gina’s used to it.

We left about ten. Rob was recovering. We had done just about everything male except engage in linear thinking, or get Harley hogs and run over orphans. These days, it’s hard to find unwatched orphans. Besides, only rich proctologists can afford Hogs.

We stopped at Blockbuster to document the decline of civilization. Behind the counter was a gasping adenoidal kid breathing through his mouth. He had thick glasses like base plates for a mortar.

“You got anything with lots of gratuitous violence?” we asked.

He didn’t blink.

“That’s pretty much the store. You want cowboys? Spacemen? Cops? Robots?”

It was true: Row after row of absolutely talent-free movies about guys blowing things up: cars, buildings, planets, each other. Gorgeous babes watched admiringly. They had perfect hair after being chased through the jungle for three days by mutant crocodiles.

I wanted this movie I saw once in a theater about space aliens that looked like bugs with eyeballs and a beak, and they lived inside you until they exploded your chest and popped out, spoing!, like a jack-in-the-box. The girls in the audience all shrieked, “Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!” and the boys said, “Oh, wow!” It’s a sex difference.

Is this making sense yet?

Rob’s cabin looks like a landfill gone to disorder. A real male’s house has a thirty-thirty on the kitchen table, a set of large-bore pistons in the sink, girly magazines by the bed, and clothes strewn everywhere so he can keep an eye on them. Women don’t understand this. They want to put things in hiding places, like drawers, so that life becomes an unending Easter-egg hunt.

My girlfriend used to ask me why my scuba gear was in the middle of the living room floor. Because that way I could find it, I told her. How hard, she asked, was it to find a large pile of scuba gear anywhere in a small apartment? Women get logical at all the wrong times. I didn’t know, I said, but I figured it didn’t pay to experiment casually with the unknown.

We had gotten a really terrible movie about spaceships. See, these Life Forms turned people into cocoons and stuffed them into caves on some planet. The good guys had to look for them. It was like trying to find your scuba gear after your girlfriend cleans up. Weird things that looked like badly designed termites scuttled after them in the dark and grabbed them one by one, to make more cocoons. I guess they didn’t have enough.

It’s another sex difference. A woman would have wanted a chick flick about two people in love, and how they overcame his brain tumor and worked out something about relationships, and lived happily ever after. No giant termites. No explosions. I don’t get it.

This isn’t making more sense as time goes by. I was afraid of that. Maybe I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

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