Toronto
2 min

Revelry & rivalry

The C Word

Far be it from me to write a negative word about someone, but there’s this dude that I just haaaaaaate.

I feel it’s okay because it’s an entirely mutual feeling. Besides, we don’t have a lot of friends in common, and so I don’t have to talk to him. All the same, I find the nasty vibe between us fascinating. And when I see him haunting a dancefloor or trashing up the vibe of whatever space we’re in, I always have to check myself.

In a fully Showgirls moment, I once found myself pondering the ramifications of pushing him down the stairs. It worked for Nomi Malone! At this particular instant, no one was near us.

Fly is fond of the pumping-the-room-full-of-smoke effect, so no one would see my glittery fingerprints on his back or notice my phony air of concern. People would crowd around the bottom of the stairs while I’d adjust my hat and casually step across the street.

I could already taste the sweetness of my victory fruit punch at Coffee Time when it hit me: there is no real reason I should dislike him. I’m way past the age to just go to pieces if someone doesn’t want to be my friend. Had something I said once upon a time set him off? Does he not like my friends? Is it that unfortunately common gay-boy thing where if they don’t find you attractive you’re not worth acknowledging?

In the end, I found out that even though we do entirely different things with our lives, he feels a sense of competition. The big C (other C words include Cunt, Callous, Cancerous, and in this case I’m pushing to include un-Couth) can sometimes boil over into jealousy, intimidation and even vicious drink-throwing or face-slapping.

Ask around and nearly every artist and entertainer, no matter how saintly they may seem at first blush, has that one person who puts them on edge. They might end up on the same bill or in the same dressing room, but even so, they keep tabs on the situation out the corner of one eye 24/7.

The Britneys know exactly how many people were at the Christinas’ last event, and whether it was a hit or a flop. The Christinas are counting the Britneys’ number of bows. No names if you please, but I once watched a guy literally keep time with a stopwatch during a competitor’s performance, only to pull out the mic cord when he thought she had had more time onstage than he had. Rivalries sometimes make good press or entertaining viewing, but ultimately they make both sides vicious and petty.

At the root of all this competition is a fear of inferiority. We imagine ourselves in danger of being pushed out, excluded, forgotten, unloved, alone or eclipsed. We become territorial and try to smother that fear and insecurity with high schoolish behaviour that even the Degrassi kids would eschew.

We forget that the only real competition is with ourselves. Improvement doesn’t come by trying to beat others at being themselves; it only comes with challenging ones own potential and setting ones own standards. I hope theatre companies, dance crews, drag queens, bands and artists remember that they will get better by looking inward, not acting outward. There’s space for us all, stages for us all, audiences for us all, grants for us all, events for us all, and a little bit of introspection will keep that so.

But if it doesn’t, don’t stand alone at the top of the stairs.

Toronto at Night appears in every second issue of Xtra.