News & Politics

Sex and the Single Superhero

Dressed in tights, cape and mask, Terrifica seeks boozy women out in bars late at night to try to save from themselves.
I don't know much about superheroes. The guys I knew were always more interested in those men in tights than I was. Some adult girls I know have taken up kickboxing, but none has the desire to slip on a Danskin and fight injustice. At least no one I know personally.

One girl has taken up the tights: Terrifica. I've never met her, only read about her in a news story that detailed her quest: to save boozy women from themselves and from men.

Dressed in flattering red leotard, mask, and cape, Terrifica has taken it upon herself to seek women out in bars late at night and save them before they become the targets of men presumed to be nefarious and icky. Sober Terrifica, aware that the women are addled by drinky-drinks, tries to talk them out of going home with these guys, feeling that they'll be regret it later when they have a hangover, and, my editorial guess here, the possibility of coochie cooties.

Terrifica's mission was spawned by an unhappy love affair and being alone in the city; the alter ego helped the real woman (a 30-year-old named Sarah), feel less vulnerable. And if you can flit around bars in tights and a cape, and feel empowered, you're either nuts or have invented your own working version of self-help.

It's a fascinating story of a young woman whose bad experience has made her determined to help girls who are alone in a big world, as she was, from getting involved with people who make them feel more alone than ever. She says she has, indeed, helped a few. Terrifica's turf is New York, where I don't live, so I won't run into her. I wouldn't be likely to anyway. Though I'm single and in my 30s, my days of looking at bars as hubs of possibility for more than a relaxing beer are long gone. I haven't matured, I'm just exhausted.

Bar dating is like a trip to Disney World. The first few times you want to go on all the rides. After enough trips you notice that it's crowded, expensive and your feet hurt. When people call you a wet blanket you say, "If you want to ride it, go ahead. I'll wait for you at the exit."

While you're waiting, you make a mental list of all the things you'd rather be doing. That's one way things change. You either become bored or find someone more permanent or you find things about yourself or your life that make the bar thing not worth the time. Hopefully it doesn't take a bad experience to make you decide there are other places to look.

With all this in mind, I have mixed feelings about Terrifica. On one hand, I'm a big proponent of MYOB and am surprised she hasn't had her clock cleaned by some liquored-up folks who feel the same way (she has had some nasty incidents, apparently). On the other hand, it's hard not to be intrigued by someone who fancies themselves a personal Jiminy Cricket.

If I did encounter her, what would I say? The exact same thing, it turns out, as my friend Amy: In our 20s we would have been irritated by the intrusion. In our 30s we could concede she had a point and insist on buying her a drink and listening to her life story. In fact, on a bad guy day, it might seem like fun to volunteer as her more aggressive sidekick -- Fuckoffia. Instead of crying to your friends on the phone (where you can't see them roll their eyes) you put on some sexy Spandex and take it out on some poor dolt whom you have the superpower of projecting poor qualities onto.

So maybe Terrifica is a bit of a buttinski, but a harmless one, maybe even a helpful one. In fact, it's kind of too bad her range is so limited. Comedian Dana Gould, in one routine, said that when he was about to make a grand error along the lines of, "I think I'll cut my own hair," or "I don't have any condoms, but it will be okay," he wished that some guy would pop out of the closet and yell "Mistake!"

Would that a Terrifica would appear at those moments when I'm about to botch something, e.g., "I don't need to check my bank balance" or "A little KFC won't kill me."

Then there's that slipperiest of slopes, the slope to love. Where was Terrifica when I gave a boyfriend who should have been a temp a full-time position with benefits? Rose-colored glasses aren't much better than beer goggles and for many girls‚ the big error isn't mistaking drunkenness for desire, it's mistaking every attraction for love, or putting so much thought into finding The One that they don't enjoy any One, not even themselves.

Terrifica thinks these worries are a weakness and that people are stronger on their own. There's a lot of truth to that. The girl in the superhero outfit, in many ways, doesn't seem as crazy as a lot of the things we convince ourselves of everyday.

So, on one hand Terrifica has a point: Drinking impairs judgment. Ask anyone who thought Jaegermeister was German for "Karaoke? Sure, I'll do 'Eye of the Tiger.'" But look at all the questionable decisions our regular chemicals cause us to make: "I'm going to tell my boss to bite me"; "Voting for Nader will make a statement"; "I'm just going to stay in this bad relationship until it gets better." We might as well be drunk all the time.

Love and lust are too complicated for superheroes to save us from. The best we can do is keep ourselves physically and sexually safe and hope for the best emotionally. After all, Clark Kent couldn't evade Lois and he was fast enough to change clothes in a phone booth undetected. What chance do the rest of us ordinary mortals have?
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