Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Dan Savage

One of my constant surprises is that there is a simmering rivalry between Manhattan and Alaska.

We all know about Yankees vs Boston, LA Colors vs New York chic, New York vs London opportunities and adventures, New York vs that whole wide morass of red.....

But there's also the New York vs Alaska rivalry, and it goes beyond the astonishly identical yet clashing comment of "Why would anyone want to live there?" that is the instant reaction to anyone hearing about the other place.

Professionally, for example, I am now on my fifth time in the last week and a half of having my opinion be dismissed as grounds for "de-programming the New York out of me." My time in New York, and the negotiating skills I may have picked up there, at times are a point of interest, sometimes a challenge, sometimes an invitation to put me in my place and sometimes, apparantly, just a source of annoyance.

Culinarily, for example, the clerks at New Sagaya like to laugh about how there is always one thing in my basket that they've never seen before and have no idea how to ring up. My love of the obscure delicacies of the Alaskan grocery, I guess, is explainable when it comes to light that I moved here relatively sight unseen from Manhattan.

Friend-wise, for example, I think Alaskan friends love to hear me gush about how much my life has improved (it is, actually, a Life - and I'm still a corporate lawyer - knock it down as an Alaskan Miracle); New York friends are still patiently waiting for this "phase" to pass and for me to go running back.

But perhaps the greatest rivalry of all comes in the dating world.

You see it is very different. Monumentally different. And while there may be some Alaskan guys playing games, this rare occurrence is only an amateur's attempt at the standard mastery of a Manhattan guy. And the misery of the single, it's just a funny joke, an untimely delay. It's not a despair or a deep and genuine fear of growing old alone. You don't hear many Alaskan girls lament that they are getting worried that their futures will revolve around cats. (Admittedly, everyone out here seems to own dogs and its a sign of civic pride to have one's life revolve around them - but that's a matter for another post.) And maybe not all Manhattan single girls feel this stereotypical way. In fact, I know that they don't. But there are, maybe, more that do than out here. So when a guy plays a game here, walk away. When he offers you choices, but none of the choices approximates the walk away. Most of the time, though, they are brutally honest not heartbreakingly evasive or strategically ambiguous. Sometimes honest in the flattering way, sometimes honest in the "I'm going to see you and hear about you and we know everyone and everyone knows us and we're never going to have lives that are more than 1 degree separated from each other so let's be clear and avoid the melodrama of a misunderstanding" sort of way. New York dating, in contrast, thrives on the assumption that you never have to see any person again. You don't have to deal with their friends or their family. No matter how ruthless or misleading, you know the legend of the story will always pale against some other guy's worse transgression and that chances are you'll never have to deal with it again.

This is really a long way of saying that Dan Savage advocated renaming the State of Alaska to "Alaskan National Damaged Goods Refuge" in this week's weekly Village Voice.

It's not that such things aren't heard a lot. A famous saying out here is "Alaska: Where the Odds are Good and the Goods are Odd." And while I laughed and found it humerous, I do have to just pause and question the ludicrousness of a New York article flinging deragatory monikers at a state where dating still denotes a bit of dignity, the necessity of honesty, and the respect of full-disclosure.

But perhaps I just need to be de-programmed of my Manhattan dating memories.

In any event, ignore this entire post. It's just a rant. And I really have no basis for describing the Alaska scene. I met J. my second day here.


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