Women are touchier and bigger control freaks than men, and they act more shrill and pissy when upset. So, places with at least a good minority of women, let alone half or a majority, will necessarily become joyless and soul-crushing.
Anything fun-loving and lively trips off the "Danger: chaos imminent" alarm located within the over-mothering lobe of the female brain. After pitching a little fit to the management, especially after recruiting a few other cackling hens to her side, the operators will bow to their pressure and extinguish the flames of fun before they begin to rage out of control (always just around the corner, don'tcha know).
At least, that's usually how it goes because no one bothers to stand up for themselves anymore. The current level of oppressiveness must be an overshoot if it represents zero force pushing back in the other direction. Start pushing back, and down it goes -- how far, you can't predict, but you'll never find out how low it can go until you begin to hold your ground. Women get away with so much, in part, because men allow them to.
There's also a strong age dimension in this struggle, with menopausal women being the worst offenders. The more childless, unmarried, and therefore bitter they are, the more strongly they'll channel their nagging and badgering instincts in anti-social directions -- that is, outside of their own domestic sphere, and into public spaces where they don't belong.
Virtually every temperance movement has begun this way, and became effected in public policy once the hausfraus with too much time on their hands managed to organize themselves and lobby the government.
Well, today I got a chance to strike a blow against all this oppressiveness, and I couldn't have asked for better results!
I brought some music to play at Starbucks to fit the leisurely, lazy Sunday afternoon atmosphere, so after sitting down with my drink, I started to play New Miserable Experience by the Gin Blossoms -- perhaps the last great all-American rock album, full of catchy riffs, melodic songwriting, real human feeling behind the vocal delivery, and spirited guitar solos. It spans such a range of emotions and styles that it's impossible not to groove to it, whether or not you'd rank it among your favorites.
And being recorded in 1992, it doesn't sound "dated" -- not that that's a bad thing in an era of crappy contempo culture. You don't hear infectiously enjoyable music like this anymore, but it doesn't sound like it belongs to an alien age. It ought to be a total audience-pleaser. Furthermore, I only had the volume at about 4 or 5 out of 10 on a portable speaker, in a fairly full room where in-store music was already playing, so it's not as though I'd be disturbing anybody, right?
Unfortunately I had chosen a spot near two fat, perpetually dateless hags, one of whom didn't even make it through the first 30 seconds without shouting out, "That's, REALLY distracting!" I was surprised she could even hear it -- she was obviously high-strung and over-sensitive, because it wasn't even very loud to me. At with sound decaying according to the square of distance, she definitely did not perceive it as loud either.
When I looked at her kind of puzzled, she spat back with "When there's ALREADY music playing… the two kinds, it's REALLY distracting." In a perfectly cool smart aleck tone, I enquired, "…and you don't like this one better?" Like, c'mon, it was the typical mopey lullaby music that Starbucks plays -- of course "Hey Jealousy" is superior. She almost laughed herself, and said, "No. I don't."
I was about to go back to reading my book, when she barked in addition, "You know, that's what HEADPHONES are for." And in that same cool irreverent tone, and without even acknowledging her with eye contact, defended myself with, "Nah man, you gotta share good music…"
Holy shit, she just could not sit still, she was fuming. She was one of those laptop drones who have slowly corrupted what should be a lively public hangout space like a coffee house into a dull, alienating computer lab. She couldn't get back to her busy schedule of posting micro-aggressions, I guess. The other fatso nearby was also a laptop drone, and she went over to ask if she could hear it too, to which she said yeah. In the busybody's mind, getting two huffy hags to feel upset at the same time constitutes majority rule, but I just shrugged that off too.
So then she storms over to the bar to complain, where luckily there were three young dudes, and not another fat woman or castrated husband who would have reflexively answered, "Yes, dear." None of them even bothered to come over to me, probably because they gave things a listen and determined that they could barely hear it, if at all, so obviously this neurotic old broad is just over-reacting.
Plus I've been a regular there since 2009, and they give me free drinks every now and then because they say I'm one of the most likable customers. And I've brought them free goodies too on occasion, to help them get through a day full of dealing with annoying dingbat shrews like this one.
They probably gave her a pro forma response about we'll see what we can do, or something, but again they didn't even give me a dirty look, let alone approach me and politely ask me to turn it off.
Reality check, honey: in the real world, victory does not go to whoever gets the pissiest.
She marched back to her seat and sat stewing in toe-curling rage for another 30 minutes, or however long until I'd finished my drink and left for the mall. I could see her shaking, fidgeting, or whatever she was doing out of tension, and heard her occasionally raise her voice to herself about "I can't BELIEVE bla bla bla."
Toward the end, another middle-aged female acquaintance of hers stopped by, and she started quietly bitching to her about the whole thing. But her friend didn't say anything to me, or try to frown as she walked by me -- not noticeably anyway, since I wasn't paying them much attention. I'm sure she felt similarly to the complainer, but figured that there was no point after I and the staff had already put an end to her silly little crusade against uplifting and life-loving music.
Now, I could see if I'd been blaring it really loud, or if it had been awful rap music, ranchero, stuff with offensive lyrics, or even something that was a bit too niche for a general audience -- Sisters of Mercy, or something like that. But the fucking Gin Blossoms, man? Get real. If you can't enjoy catchy all-American rock music, then you're incapable of feeling any pleasure in life, and your vote does not count in how we all decide to set the atmosphere in our public spaces.
This is an aspect of joy-killing that we ought to emphasize more -- the utter lack of discrimination among cases, and the rigid insistence on no fun of any kind whatsoever. As though blaring reggaeton out of your car window is the same as playing catchy, jangly rock music at half-volume. Use you brain for a change -- that's what it's there for.
I also reminded her, during her fit, that it wasn't any worse than when there are four or five spirited conversations going on in the room. She thought it was different because I could have at least silenced my noise with headphones -- the implication being she wished everyone else would keep their big traps shut and be miserable like her forever and ever, just that unfortunately no one's invented a gizmo to confine the noise of a conversation only to its participants.
Seriously, lady, if you can't handle a basic level of liveliness in a coffee house, then go back to the library or computer lab that you probably work in. Or just stay home. Don't you dare disturb the carefree vibe that a coffee house should have on a leisurely Sunday afternoon.
I invite readers to try this out in their own neck of the woods. Large changes have small beginnings.