Friday, November 17, 2006

Flashback Friday: Uni Years

Each week the Flashback Friday: Feminist Edition will feature a story that has something to do with being or becoming a woman or feminist. This series will continue until I run out of stories. I love having guest bloggers. If you have a story you want to tell and you want to be a guest blogger here, please email me; or feel free to link to your own story in the comments.

Since I started this series, I have been struggling to remember some material from my university years. I just know it was full of gender dynamics. Unfortunately, my memories from that time are decidedly hazy. I drank a lot. So much so, that after second year I promised myself I would never sign up for a class before noon because I just never made it, no matter how good my intentions were at the beginning of the semester.

I also played a lot of pool. The bar at the UC had a broken pool table, which they didn't fix for at least a couple of years, where we could play for free. So we did. all. day. long. A lot of gender politics played out for me across pool tables. Most days I skipped my classes to play, and I learned so much about technique from the guys I played with: Big Paul, with his intimidating shiny bald head, was an incredible player and did all kinds of crazy trick shots. Often he'd clear the table in one or two turns. But when he got too drunk, there was a violence and rage that emanated from him. Luckily it only happened a couple of times that I saw. And he was always great about sharing his pool knowledge with me; and he never ever made comments about girls playing pool or not being as good as guys. None of the guys I played with did.

Then there was Flicky Hair Geoff... he had glorious long hair that he always flicked back before he took a shot. He and I once tried unsuccessfully to get together one drunken time. He wasn't as good a player (pool that is) as Big Paul, but he was always up for a beer and a game. I think he and I probably logged the most hours at that table. Sadly he's had his heart broken a couple of times since those pool playing days, and cut his hair, but he keeps plugging away at grad school in various Ontario towns.

Occasionally Matty Ghan stopped by. He was also a wicked pool player and had a much bigger cool factor than any of the other guys I played with. I started crushing on him the first time I saw him, and soon struck up a conversation and invited him to join our pool posse. My crush sort of disappeared as I got to know him, I don't know why. But my roommate and I had a great time with him. Before we met him, he used to be a dj and made tons of money, most of which he snorted up his nose. But he'd cleaned up and started school as a mature student. He had scars on his forehead from when he broke his neck and had to wear a halo screwed into his skull for weeks or months. My favourite thing about him was that he only let me and my roommate call him Matty Ghan; he never tolerated it from anyone else (of course I don't know if anyone else tried) and it made us feel special. I haven't seen him in years and years and years. But I still think about him and I hope he's still clean.

There was also Little Paul, who was lousy at pool but kept us in stitches with his crazy talk. He was mostly sane, except when he smoked pot, and then he thought aliens were either about to steal his penis, or just had. I had a crush on him too, but it never went anywhere either.

I loved the guys I played pool with every day. I also loved going out to bars with my pool skills, and kicking some serious pool ass. Some guys were totally unenlightened, mostly jock, asses, who invariably made comments when I put my loonie on the table, or when I racked the balls up to start a game. They thought they'd walk all over me. Everybody knows that women can't play pool. It's a man's sport. Sometimes the pressure would get to me and I'd choke. But other times I'd kick their asses and they'd either get really angry and walk away, or shake my hand, new respect in their eyes, and attitudes changed.

One time, a woman joined our little group for about a year. She even had her own cue, which she carried in a case, and she had reportedly paid for at least one year's tuition by playing for money. I loved playing with her at bars because she always picked up my slack. She was a lesbian, and once told me that I was too, I was just so far in the closet I couldn't see it. I stopped liking her so much then. I started liking her even less after one time when I was so hammered I was falling down (so I was told, I blacked out and can't remember anything). She was so desperate to get into my friend's pants, she let me walk home alone in that state (granted I was apparently pretty angry at the thought of anyone helping me but still). She was completely sober, so she has no excuse.

Anyways, what I pieced together from the Short Stop clerk, was that I walked (weaved, staggered) home, and stopped on my way at the Short Stop for a chocolate bar. But the clerk couldn't get it through my head that I had to pay. Eventually I did. Apparently the police stopped me outside the store because they thought I was driving in that state. About a half-hour later I poked my head back in the store and asked the clerk if the coast was clear (ie. no police). She has no idea where I was for that time.

Eventually, I must have made it home. The next morning I woke up to the phone ringing and another friend was asking me where the friend with the pants was. I had no idea. I thought I'd had a dream of being at the pool player's apartment and said so. Sure enough it wasn't a dream. When I checked my pockets, I had six loose cigarettes that I must have bummed off someone, a chocolate bar and change from a twenty. The pool player ended up dating my friend for several months, but I never really forgave her for letting me walk home in that state. I know, I shouldn't have gotten myself in that state in the first place, but still...

My university years were a constant stream of crushes and unrequited love. I was brazen and contrary and excessive at every opportunity. I was proud of how much I could drink, I was proud of the guts I had, to keep putting completely unsubtle moves on guys I didn't know. It was certainly a time of testing my limits and experimentation, or at least what I can remember of it. I had some great girlfriends and we were a tight-knit group of five until T started dating D's thumping crush, and W slept with M's girlfriend, and we splintered.

D and M loved to experiment with their hair, and I loved hanging out with them, 'cause it made me feel cool (I never had the guts to shave my head but I so admired theirs). Each week was a different colour and style; but they always involved crazy bright colours and copious amounts of gel. My favourite was when D did a Pinhead sort of hairstyle from Hellraiser, with fuschia and electric blue spikes sticking out of a mostly shaved 'do.

Eventually, my gut gave out, and I had an unpleasant encounter with a guy from a bar, and I gradually stopped drinking because it made me feel sick, and I quit school and therefore playing pool (I get so sad on the occasions when I try to play again and I totally suck), and started working full time and blah blah blah... I started a real life.

I still have real nostalgia for those years and the freedom I didn't appreciate then.

Yay! Sunshine Scribe, from whom I stole the Flashback Friday idea from, has been nominated for a Canadian Blog Award, for that very series. Congratulations, Sunshine! And, to toot my own horn, can I pick great ideas to steal, or what?

1 comment:

Mad Hatter said...

I played pool with a group of women in grad school. One of the local bars offered free pool lessons for "ladies". I don't think they had 6 30-year-old feminist grad students in mind. We had fun, though, as did our instructor who went by the moniker "Sting-ray." Ouch.