Dateland: The Return of the Skort—Part 1 (A special Dateland noir!)

It was after midnight on a Saturday night. I was at a party in the suburbs. The town doesn’t matter. They’re interchangeable. They all smell of gin, chlorine and the desperation of people who have grown disappointed with their “great rooms.”Everyone at the party was drunk. And not in a good way. This was a straight, middle-aged crowd who were drawn together not by common interests but by proximity. Even their children didn’t like each other. They played together with the weary commiseration of prisoners of war who shared a common enemy.The novelty of these parties had ended long before. What started as a cheeky take on their parents’ 1970s Saturday night ritual of dressing in paisley prints, drinking elaborately named cocktails, and practicing casual adultery had turned into an actual re-creation of such sad madness.  They all yearned to break free of the joyless drinking and stale friendships and form new relationships with people outside their neighborhood. But every Saturday night, something would cause them to congregate again. On this evening, they were celebrating the installation of a margarita machine in one of their kitchens. It was a huge, noisy beast that constantly churned crushed ice the color of stomach acid.I was invited to the party as a novelty. When life became so achingly dull that the couples might be forced to examine their life choices, they’d invite a shiny object to distract them from painful insight. And, when invited, I’d almost always make the long trek from my home to the party. Why? Because it gave me a glimpse into what my life would have become had I decided to follow the path prescribed to me at birth. I’d be living in a large house with not enough furniture, too many kids, and a well-meaning but dull husband, aching to go to the ballet and the theatre and have meaningful chats with cultured friends about the importance of art.

And, so, these events served as an endorsement of my chaotic, selfish and free-spending lifestyle. Also, they always have karaoke at these parties, and I never say no to karaoke!

By 11 p.m., the party had crossed the soggy line between tipsy sentimentality to volcanic eruptions of marital rage. I tried to lighten the mood by dragging one of the more maligned husbands into a duet of Captain and Tennille’s “Muskrat Love,” but it only served to remind his wife of how unadorable their life had become.

And then the blizzard hit. Snowflakes the size of dinner plates turned the moonless sky bright white. There was no way I could make it home.

Every couple at the party eagerly offered to shelter me that night. But from past experience, accepting such hospitality came with a heavy price. I’d be required to stay up until dawn nodding rhythmically to their tales of middle-aged malaise while fending off their sloppy sexual advances. There seems to be only one thing that straight couples crave when drunk out of their minds, and that’s to shove their tongues down the throat of the nearest lesbian.

And, so, I did a Google search on nearby hotels. There were only two. One was so far down the hotel food chain that it didn’t dare describe itself as a motel. It was, instead, a motor inn, which suggested it might be safer to sleep in your car. Even the drawing on the web site that represented the worn lobby included sketches of stick-thin women wearing garish clothing and inhaling cigarettes. Since I’m not a prostitute, I dialed the other place, a bed and breakfast called the Auberge.

“You’re in luck,” said the innkeeper. Although it was midnight, she sounded wide-awake, as if she had been sitting by the phone at high-alert, waiting for it to ring. “Every room is available. You have your pick.”

And this, my friends, is where our story really begins.

(Tune in next time to learn if I survive the night!)

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