Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

It occurred to me, after reflecting some about my experience, at that party from last week, that there is a Jekyll & Hyde phenomenon lurking in many club patrons, gay men in particular. It also occurred to me that there is a day & night phenomenon that I want to explore for a few moments. What follows isn’t researched or cited – it’s simply my dialogue with myself about the observations I have about the patrons who disturb me most (keeping in mind throughout that what I will be saying doesn’t apply to ALL people, but is presented as over-simplified generalizations).

People associate metaphoric values to light/dark and day/night, conflating them with good/bad. I have a hypothesis: People almost seem to have it coded into their socializing DNA traits to act rowdy, or to allow their “darker” sides to come out at night. It’s too easy to say that Night is Dark, and thus people let their destructive natures blossom under the moonlight (like lillies of death, I suppose), as if night/dark is the very source of this “bad.”

I think there is a practical connection that goes way back. Without electricity and artificial lighting, your work day effectively ends when the sun goes down. Ergo, your most productive (i.e. work related) activities happen in the light. Once it’s night and you can no longer really do much, it makes sense that people would socialize at night around fires and dance, mingle, or drink. Same with the winter in general: If it’s too dark and cold to farm your land or do any work, then it is an obvious time of year to pack full of festivals and holidays in order to pass the time: Hours not devoted to work or sleep end up becoming hours devoted to play or relaxation.

What if, over the course of thousands of years, we have simply been bred to associate day with respectability and night with scandal? If you follow that line of thought, then in a religious culture that values toil above pleasure (rather than in balance with it), everything done at night becomes frivilous (and therefore non-, un-, or anti-“good”) by comparison. Everything you wouldn’t want people to see you doing, you do at night, under the cloak of darkness where you can hope for some modicum of anonymity. Night becomes a place to hide your shame or guilt.

In this way, all around the world, good, productive people rise and shine to do their respectable work. For a good portion of them there is an attitude that anything of Night must be myseterious, evil, salacious, dangerous, or immoral, since it is the time when productive people are worn out and go to bed. Night is the time of the unseen/unseeable. It is the time when those with something to hide emerge, like monsters out of nightmares.

If you look at my description of that party, it was attended by “upstanding professionals” who mostly happened to be older white, gay gentlemen. This is where the Jekyll & Hyde amongst patrons comes in. Given the way they were acting like rutting pigs at a trough, and given the wild (in some instances dangerous) looks their eyes, and given their total abandonment of all social decorum, exactly what about them should have spoken to their being doctors, lawyers, architects, etc.? How would I, or anyone else who doesn’t know them, ever guess that these grasping, slobbering troglodytes were “upstanding professionals?” If someone is an “upstanding professional,” shouldn’t that define who they are away from work as well? (I can hear it now: “I’m not an upstanding professional, but I play one from 9-5.”)

I don’t understand this dichotomy. I am the same person at night that I am all day long. I am more polite at work than I would be at my house, but I don’t resemble Janus, looking in two directions with every passing moment. I don’t divorce my noctural self from my diurnal self. I am always me. I don’t understand the outright hypocrisy of wearing two diametrically opposed masks. Which is the real you? Do you even know? Are both of them you, or does one compensate for the other? Are neither of them you, and you simply have no idea who you even are? If you, like most people I know, attach part of your identity to your profession, then what does it say about you that this identity slides away so readily when the illumination dims?

Let me be frank: There are many wonderful patrons who act just as civil at the club as they do at the grocery strore. But there is also a sizeable lot who frighten me: When I bump into them during the day, they scurry from my presence, as if I am something toxic or tainted (when usually it is I who should be trying to get away from them). At night they come slinking back with flattering apologies and small tips, bribing me to forget they were espied pretending to be respectable in some other place and time. I might play along more completely, if the dollar earned so respectably wasn’t so disrespectably tucked under my perineum with a lingering grope and a lecherous wink. When Hyde grins at me with my privates in his palm, I simply laugh inside and wonder where the doctor/lawyer/ teacher/politician/engineer is hiding.

The sun is going to rise soon… did you forget that? Or are you ignoring it on purpose? Who is the “upstanding professional” in this scenario? Is there one? The patrons I like and respect the most are not necessarily the ones who give me the most money, but the ones who give me the most hope that I am right in thinking that people, by and large, really are the “upstanding professionals” they seem to be.

Author: Devon Hunter

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  1. Hmm… to a varying degree, I can understand the dichotemy you’re talking about. When I’m at work, I manage a department, so I’m more reserved and quiet than I normally am (I can’t even count how many times I’ve wanted to say to some ‘WTF you dumb @$$!” But besides a little decorum, I don’t really change that much.

    I’ve actually seen the J&H experience when I’m out at the bar with friends, and they finally go “over the edge” I’ve seen to some sweet people turn into major a-holes. Guess it just depends on the person, and how well they really know themselves.

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  2. A good part of it is socialization, but also there could be underlying changes to brain activity that we are not aware of that is triggered by nighttime. For example, the time of day that is most common for suicides is around 3 to 4 am.

    Alcohol and peer pressure also play their part in turning “respectable professionals” into lecherous Dr. Hydes. I have seen hetero males act the same way. They are obnoxious around their friends but quiet and polite by themselves (observations I have made at sporting events, construction sites, bars). Very strange behaviour.

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  3. i guess i am jekyll and jekyll. i always try to be respectful and kind as that is the way i want to be treated, you know, the golden rule. i must admit that i am not a polished professional as i tend to be a bit rough around the edges. i have been know to be in high level meetings with government officials and speak my mind. my favorite line is “that person needs foot up the a$$.” some of my colleagues are more tactful or afraid to say anything. well when i go out to clubs, i am the same way. well maybe i am not. in fact, i tend to be more courteous when i go out. i was a frequent patron of the clubs in dc and baltimore and i must admit, i love to see the hotties. however, one must remember when you go to the clubs, you are guests in the dancers’ office. let’s face it, the dancers are providing a service for the patrons. some guys may rarely or never see such handsome men naked. so for that service, patrons should tip generously and be thankful for the opportunity to be in the company of such nice guys like devon. also, if your paths should cross outside of the clubs, good manners dictate to be sociable and acknowledge each other with respect. i think the guys that ignore or avoid the dancers outside of the clubs speaks volumes about their character. i guess they never learned the golden rule, maybe a nun should have cracked their knuckles until they learned it….oh wait, some of them may have enjoyed that…lol. as always, i love this blog. devon, thank you for inviting me to be a part of it. you’re awesome my friend.

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  4. thanks for your comments guys. some stuff to ponder (especially the time-related behavior like suicide). thanks joe for always being so nice. i know i rant on here alot, but really, there are good people in my world too. joe is one of them.

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  5. devon, thank you for those kind words. love ya babe.

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  6. Hm… the same thing happens when you’re with family. Whenever I’m in front of mom, dad, or one of my older sisters I get this irresistible urge to become a 10 year old again. Everything sexual becomes taboo.

    I guess for some people the apparent Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde shift and vice versa is the extreme polar manifestations of their normal self. When in reality, they are a meld of the two inside. Not quite as lecherous as Hyde and not quite as morally upright as Jekyll. The constraints of environment force them to flaunt/suppress these extremes only at certain times and places.

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