by Jennifer Sey
I was invited to dinner with a work friend on Friday night. I generally like to stay home and feel sorry for myself on Fridays since I don't have my kids with me. Wallowing in loneliness has become my favorite extra curricular activity. But I figured watching another episode of "What Would You Do?" could wait and if I had an invitation I might as well take advantage of it.
So I went. Dinner was in a trendy restaurant in the Mission district, what used to be a liberal haven overflowing with underemployed artists, massage therapists/yoga teachers and Mexican immigrants living many to a room and sending checks back home to their families. The Mission, the Haight (hippies) and the Castro (gays) form a little enlightened, unconventional triangle in the city known for being unconventional and I generally call these neighborhoods my haunts. When I haunt. Which I don't do much of lately.
But of course, the Mission like everywhere else has become "gentrified". Which I don't complain about. In fact, I get pretty silent when black clad bar denizens start griping about it, not wanting to reveal myself as the actual incarnation of this issue. I've lived in these neighborhoods for two decades long before I ever had a well paying job so it can't be said that I've invaded. I've been loyal to my hood is all. But I am white living in what was once a "black neighborhood", I have a corporate job that pays quite well, I have savings for a rainy day and I am partial to fancy hand bags. In my favor, I rent my apartment like the folks riled up about the issue so at least I don't have to add home ownership to the list of strikes against me. I still tend to identify with disillusioned artists more than the pretty people, perhaps out of habit more than anything else. Which leads me back to dinner.
There were about seven couples. And me. The lone single. All the women were blonde and smooth and thin. If I'd seen them somewhere with their tan legs, gold bangles, big diamonds and handsome husbands, I would have scoffed. They would have seemed too perfect. They must be faking it, I'd have thought. But I spent the evening with these women and their handsome, employed husbands and they were nice. More than nice, they were funny, interesting, self-deprecating and not at all what I expected when my judgment first laid eyes on them. Who are these women with happy lives, good jobs and attentive mates who give them jewelry when they push out babies? And why did they feel right at home in the hipster Mission? And what happened to my Mission, home of the dirty hipster, angry about everything but most of all the "gentrification" and people like these?
I've gotten it all wrong. If I was once the Janine Garafaolo from Reality Bites type, I'm not anymore. But somehow I've stayed tied to that cohort. Those are my people! No they're not. Those people didn't move on. They didn't find calm and achievement and their cynicism wasn't assuaged with life experience, it was intensified. Why do I still romanticize and cling to a cadre that I have nothing in common with?
After dinner we went to a little invite only shindig called First Friday. A friend of my friend's hosts a wine tasting in his loft that sits in an alley in the heart of the Mission. An alley I've walked countless times, littered with drunks and couples making out (maybe they're not couples). I had no idea such elegant lofts hovered just above my drunken head in this inauspicious place. The host, a neurosurgeon or some such impressive thing, had gathered together the best looking bunch of multi-racial, dreadlocked, gay, straight, fabulously chic (hip in the non-dirty sort of way) human beings I'd ever encountered. Where the hell was I? I've lived in San Francisco for more than 20 years and never knew this sort of Hollywood inspired cast existed. I want in...or do I? I'm not sure. They're appealing, no doubt. But can I let go of 20 years of GenXiness however dated it may be?
I realized a few things during this excursion. I fully realize I may be a tad late to the party here but let’s just chalk it up to late blooming. Here goes:
1) I shouldn't assume people who look perfect are lame.
2) If I want to meet a nice handsome man with a good job who remembers flowers on special days, I should hang out with these sorts of shiny people!
3) Why on earth do I still identify with the Ethan Hawke (1992 movie version) style gents - overeducated, underemployed and mad at everything all at the same time? These are not my people. I am the gentrifier. I am an executive (though I downplay it in my own hood for fear of being ousted.) I like showers and I'm not all that angry. Sad maybe, but not angry.
Perhaps it is time to let the transition begin. Towards the bathed, deodorant wearing, optimistic people of my future. Let the clean unite.