I was superexcited to see The Decemberists Friday before last, but I almost didn’t get to enjoy it. While the crowd waited between bands, the venue (presumably at The Decemberists’ behest) played an old-timey country album that reminded me of every won’t-somebody-please-worry-about-poor-white-racists post I’ve scrolled past since the election. I’m sure it was a perfectly respectable album, but it made me feel so creepy and rotten and is-indie-rock-unintentionally-white-supremacist (probably) that I almost left.
But then the band came on and for a little while, the rotten feeling went way. I remembered how good (if Bush-era bleak) the band is and settled into the very enjoyable task of looking at Colin Meloy’s lovely face. We were only a few songs into their tenth-anniversary rendition of The Crane Wife (Which, okay, is not the most soothing album.) when I saw a scuffle starting up a few people away, right in the middle of the crowded general admission floor. A short, mean-faced blond guy with the demeanor of all the social nightmares was yelling at a woman, calling her an asshole for asking him not to dance into her.
I offered to switch places with the woman and did my best to be big and silent and ignore the guy, but he just transferred his yelling onto me.
“Thanks, FEMINIST,” he hissed. “What are you, gonna wear your PUSSY HAT?”
While I was trying to keep my space on the floor next to this jerk, the woman he’d originally been yelling at told me that The Decemberists had been her band with her late husband, and she’d asked the man to stop dancing into her so she could enjoy the experience. Seems pretty fucking reasonable to me.
“Just so you know, I’m gonna stand here.” Said the guy, and pushed his shoulder into mine.
“You can step away from me,” I said, but he pushed back harder onto my shoulder.
“Okay, I’m going to get security, I told him, and struggled my way out of the crowd. I told security that there was a guy at the center of the crowd harassing women, and I never saw whether it got taken care of or not. I felt guilty for leaving the woman in there with him, but I didn’t have it in me to persevere back to my spot. I stood on the margin of the crowd and tried to get back into the music, but it was hard. There was another argument going on nearby, so it was hard to un-jangle. I felt an emotion I’ve felt on and off since the election, the feeling that all of us, the grieving woman, the shoving guy, the backup singers, everybody, are adrift in this soup of fear, loss, and anger, with no way out.
And then they played their new song. Introduced as “This is kind of a state of the union…” the song went:
Everything is AWFUL…”
The crowd went bonkers, and I went bonkers with joy. I felt my jangledness and trauma move and shift out of my body as I jumped around, bobbed my head, squealed, smiled, sang along, and clapped in true fangirl fashion. You could feel the audience breathe a sigh of relief, let go of a little of the weight of this moment in history.
In that spirit, I have some things to say to the reason I ended up on the margin of the crowd.
Dear Trumpish Guy in the Middle of the Decemberists Crowd,
I guess you’re what they mean when they say that misogynists and bigots are emboldened by the Trump regime, though hate has always seemed pretty shameless to me. Either way, what I see in you is the opposite of boldness. I see a deep, broken, desperate cowardice, a poisonous avarice that makes you feel entitled to more space than you have earned, a greedy urge to shore up your own lack of self-worth by colonizing everyone and everything. It must be exhausting.
And you know what? Women are not going to let our bodies be claimed. The pussy hat may have been put away with the winter clothes, but this is our time, and you are a tarnished shard of a gender structure that is already broken, that has already abandoned you. We’re not yours. This isn’t your world anymore. Give up and get on board or be washed away in the tide of your own hateful limits.