A bachelorette party dances near a jukebox at the back of a bar named Main Street because it's on Main Street, the only main street in a two stoplight town. It's nearing last call and one of the girls has begun cracking her belt like a whip, in time to whatever shitty country music or dance hit from a year ago comes on next. A few of the old drunks not scared off to the Corner Tap by the younger, Saturday night crowd turn their heads away from the blurry TV set above them and size the girls up, but they're harmless. In a place like this, options are always limited.
A buddy of mine's turned twenty-one at midnight and his head's rolling off his shoulders. The rest of the guys take turns shouting stories at one another. Usually I'd be right there with them but I'm the slightly drunk designated driver for the evening and have kept to cheap pilsner because of it. No cabs run here, so the trick is to avoid all the main drags where the bored
M-P-D sets up shop at three AM.
To anyone else in the shotgun-style bar I'm the only girl in my group, but typically I don't notice it. The guys don't seem to notice it either, as like so often before I've earned my honorary penis award. I'm sure you can imagine what that figurative trophy looks like. (To the Freudians: it's quite phallic.) This recognition arrives in strange terms, though all are certainly familiar at the surface—I'm one of the guys, can run with the best of the boys, a regular ol' chromosome conundrum. (The last one, of course, made up.) I've embraced the award regardless and maybe it's because everything else about my image is so conventional, just a stereotypical average of a straight, make-up wearing, skirt-clad, body-conscious Fe-male with a bit of jaded hippie added in that is nothing but generally common and required among the liberal art's X-X population. How boring. There's hardly a book deal in that.
But this natural fraternity that's followed me since playing with model cars and building forts in mosquito pits is something a bit bizarre, and I like it. A glass breaks in the back and one of the girls in a dick tiara squeals. I wonder what it'd look like, if I ever marry, to have a bunch of bridesmen? What color would I pick out for them?
And here's where I could rip on the prejudices of small town "tradition" or do some deep psychological evaluating of why I can't ever seem to look a fellow female in the eye without anxiety. I could reveal the times when I've been put in place by gender or the looks some people give when they ask where my friends are or how their eyebrows settle when one of the guys in the group can be called a boyfriend. But both approaches are flawed, one assumes this kind of thing isn't everywhere and the other assumes it's something wrong (and that's how you make an ass out of you and me). Yes, with a name like Samantha the potential for jokes is abundant, Sam-the-Man, there's a man in Sa-man-tha, and in high school days this questionably "in-good-fun" wordplay revealed the two most common charges you'll find—lesbian and whore—however paradoxical.
As the lights turn up and the dancers in the back rush out into the winter air to clear their heads, I decide I rather not dwell on it. We pull the freshly twenty-one year old from his stool and move him towards the exit. My friends are grateful that I look sober as they pile into my grandma-mobile, a harmless Buick in beige. The shortest guy gets delegated to balancing his knees against the dash board in the front, closest to me, yet he hesitates when he goes to dig the lap belt from in between our seats. It's a tiny moment that reminds me that I am one-of-the-boys and am not one-of-the-boys, in their eyes and my own, and both are true. And as I turn down a little-used residential street moving away from the rusted-up water tower I wonder about options being limited here and the trouble with being an honorary anything.