Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Rolling in the Deep Estrogen

What is Galentine's Day? Only the best day of the year! Leave the boyfriends and husbands at home and come and kick it. Ladies celebrating ladies. It's like Lillith Fair, minus the angst. Plus snacks.

Ovaries before brovaries!

Just a guess, but I'm pretty sure they'd have welcomed a girl in even if she had no menfolk to leave at home.

I was constitutionally unable to resist such an invitation - if you are, you're a better woman than I am - and that the call to celebrate came from Laura Lee's only made it a sure thing.

Last year, I celebrated my first Galentine's Day at Studio Two Three with chicken and waffles and a DJ playing vintage soul all night, so the bar was set pretty high for this year, but when I walked in and heard Whitney Houston blaring, I had a feeling things would work out just fine.

I got the last free bar stool in the place - which was packed - up against the wall, but with a superb vantage point of all the mostly female faces, many in traditional red. Naturally I'd worn orange.

Regardless of color, girl power was thick in the air as the speakers blasted George Michael.

The first familiar face was my girl crush (I had her Valentine's Day card at the ready) and the second was the music writer who's secretly a beer geek, with main squeeze and friend in tow. She'd come for the last keg of Veil Brewery's "Hornswoggler" which she'd attempted to taste at the brewery only to arrive moments after it had been finished.

Everywhere you looked, there were smiling women of all ages. There were a few men, some gay, some who'd happened in unsuspectingly with a partner and the outlier was a bearded musician who lives in the 'hood and decided he liked the odds on a night such as this.

Several of us admired his chutzpah, but I took it a step further and did it to his face.

The host, clad in tiara and pink boa, managed the vibe of the bar and dining room like the flawless party-giver he undoubtedly is, adjusting the music louder and the lights dimmer as the night wore on and people got looser.

I wanted the pork shoulder wonton soup but they'd run out of it, so instead I chose a salad with buttermilk dressing and a dish of butternut squash with golden raisins and capers in curry oil, which pretty much did double duty as dinner and dessert.

A friend had been tasked with photography duty and as we surveyed the room and what kinds of pictures he might take, he admitted he wasn't very good at capturing candid shots despite the array of interesting tableaux surrounding us.

Still, he knew he could execute the assignment. "Because if I can't get good shots of drag queens, I may as well go home," he concluded. A lesson no doubt learned in Photog 101.

Moments later, the volume was cranked again and Magnolia Pickett Burnside came out in full drag as Adele, mouthing the words to several hits as she made her way through the dining room. I scurried over to that side to watch the reactions of drag virgins (there'd been no announcement that there'd be drag tonight) which ranged from complete shock to a look of utter joy on one gray-haired woman's face.

Utter. Joy.

When Magnolia got to the dimly-lit bar, she began making her way down the line of stools singing and emoting, causing the photographer to lean in to say, "I can't help feeling like this is magic. This is the center of the female resistance tonight."

It was a reassuring thought during troubling times, the likes of which we'd already discussed. And, yes, very good vibes abounded.

The magic continued when our next performer did "Fat Bottomed Girls," including suggestively rubbing a bald bar patron's head while singing. Needless, perhaps, to say, skirts were lifted.

At one point, a couple started to come in to Laura Lee's, only to be greeted by Magnolia singing to a customer at the end of the bar. Their eyes got wide and terrified as they quickly scuttled into the dining room to escape the gaze of the room.

That became the program for the evening: each would do a song in full costume, then the party would go back to smaller conversations until the next performance which inevitably got the room all riled up again.

But mostly, people of the female persuasion just kept arriving. The happy couples who came in hoping for an early Valentine's Day meal mostly chose not to wait given that the place was full, there were more reservations coming and nobody was in any hurry to finish and leave on a Monday night.

Galentine's Day, for the uninitiated, is a marathon, not a sprint.

Women danced in their seats while they were chewing, while others sang along to every song while the performers only mouthed the words. Carrying on was encouraged.

Catching the host's eye, I made sure I told him what a great party it was. He winked proudly (he already knew it) and thanked me for noticing.

One of my favorite women showed up hungover and in search of a cheeseburger (her fave in the city) and took the stool next to me to talk. "Relationships are the easiest and the hardest thing in the world," she posited before music sidetracked us like it always does, a benefit for me since one of the tangents put a show on my calendar.

Like many of the women in the room, she admitted she had little use for Valentine's Day. Like Lillith Fair, there's just too much angst.

Far better to celebrate Galentine's Day properly...at the center of the female resistance. With snacks.

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