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.