"They're cycle beads," my friend Shelby from Planned Parenthood said as she pulled the necklace from her purse and handed it to me during "The Ban Stops Here" mixer on a Thursday at Jetsetter Lounge.
Knocked-up prairie women no longer have a choice about their pregnancies, and that was apparently motivation enough for an "awareness raiser" in Lake Worth. It was a pro-choice party of sorts, but the beads weren't the sort of party favor I wanted you know, the usual fistful of free condoms that save me a trip to the drugstore and provide a little budget relief.
But no, I was handed a necklace that was essentially a calendar; a girl is supposed to move a little rubber circle each day to the next color-coded bead to keep track of her fertility. But what was a girl like me gonna do with a new twist on the rhythm method?
And at a shrine to high modernism like Jetsetter, no less, the place dedicated to space-age nostalgia and a haven for tattoo artists, musicians, theater people, writers, educators, and other non-reactionary types. Owner Mike Jones had even declared his restaurant and lounge a pro-choice establishment.
Something seemed out of whack.
Rolling her eyes, Shelby added, "It's what the U.N. is handing out as birth control to people who can't count."
How charmingly papal. From what I've heard about the effectiveness of natural family planning, the necklace might be better used as prayer beads.
I chose to hang them around my neck to ward off evil.
Well, if not evil, then at least a painful earnestness. A threesome of very serious Young Democrats couldn't drop their intensity long enough to share a cocktail.
Hello! Young Democrats? It's called a political party!
Trying to get them to lighten up, I raised my drink a 22-ounce mai tai served in a plastic beach pail: "Hey, the bucket of rum is just $7 before 7 o'clock! You still got a half-hour," I told them.
In an evasive maneuver, they made a dash for the feed trough and never returned to their table. No worries. The next table of Young Democrats was far better company.
Nicole wasn't just a blue-stater; she was also an American Lung Association employee. Trying to connect with the wholesome do-gooder, I blurted out, "I'm a reformed smoker."
It was a good opener. Too bad I never really know when to quit: "I'll say this for cigarettes they taught me everything I needed to know about addiction, so I stayed away from heroin when my friends started shooting up. So at least they're good for something."
Luckily, Cletus, a high school geography teacher, shifted the focus from me with his own tobacco-related car wreck.
On his MySpace page, he'd posted a photo of himself holding an unlit cigarette in one hand and a pint of Guinness in the other. One parent complaint later and the school administration had slapped him with a reprimand. Never mind that he'd been enjoying legal substances at a legal age.
"There's an old Polish saying: 'Only fools get offended; unfortunately, the world is full of fools,'" said the clean-cut educator. "It only takes one complaint."
"You Polish?" I asked, trying to make the connection.
"No, but I do drink potato vodka," Cletus replied.
"Isn't all vodka made from potatoes?" I asked, remembering a bit of the booze trivia that, I like to think, makes me a sterling conversationalist.
"No, you can make vodka out of all sorts of things rye, radishes, grief."
Now if we could all find a way to turn our sorrows into cocktails rather than the other way around, it'd be a happier world.
Around 7 p.m., and coincidently just as happy hour ended, the Planned Parenthood folks took the opportunity to rally the troops.
"In 2006, they're expecting low voter turnout, but this is a really important election," Shelby said, telling us that it was time for progressives to take back Congress.
"Ten states have introduced legislation for bans on abortion. After South Dakota banned it, nine other states began legislation to challenge Roe v. Wade. It's the first time since 1973 that people are beginning to take this stuff seriously."
The Night Rider took a moment to reflect: Let's see, that means soon women will be able to suck stuff out of their asses, abdomens, and thighs but may lose the same control over their uteruses, even as Ohio has proposed in legislation if a woman's life is at risk.
At least we can leave behind cellulite-free corpses.
After the pro-choice pep rally, Shelby thanked Jetsetter for its support and announced there'd be free swing lessons later in the evening.
"Swing dancing!" a voice from the gallery corrected.
Yeah, totally different.
When the official part of the evening had concluded, I noticed that Yours Truly had already motivated one like-minded person well, not to go to the polls to go to the bar. (Hey, who said I wasn't a role model for young women!) The blond sitting next to Cletus, Noelle, was sucking down her second mai tai.
"If she finishes this," Cletus laughed, nodding at her drink, "I might have a chance."
"He's my ex-boyfriend's friend," Noel said, grinning through her orthodontia.
"Can't you just call me your friend?" Cletus complained.
Not while delivering the same "You ain't got a chance, buddy" message, she couldn't.
While Cletus continued not to get a clue, the talk among Democrats naturally turned to the lameness of the party's recent presidential candidates. (Speaking of which, I have to mention that the JohnKerryIsADoucheBagButImVotingForHimAnyway.com site, which used to explain "why you should vote for Kerry, even though he's not perfect," now has a pic of dude pouring out part of his beer in a gangsta-style commemoration, for his dead homie, "America, 1776-2004.")
Noel interjected, "If this election is as crappy as the last election, I'm writing myself in."
The thought of a 20-something party girl as our next president well, even with the booze and braces, she'd probably still be more articulate than our present commander in queef.
By the end of the evening, my apolitical friends began to arrive. I figured I'd educate, motivate, and make a difference, starting right here at the bar.
"I'll give you ten bucks if you can tell me what these are for," I said, tossing my necklace at Morgan and Erin, who were lounging on one of the retro-mod couches. In the time it took me to go to the bar and get a nightcap, they'd figured it out.
"Something to do with the menstrual cycle, right?" Morgan offered.
I was beginning to think of them as Mardi Gras beads with a mission. Certainly not as effective as a tennis bracelet made of birth control pills, it occurred to me they could provide a very valuable public service.
Just think: If every woman wore her cycle beads, not only would we know the fertile days from the others but we'd know who to avoid because she was PMSing and who was sexually undesirable because she was literally seeing red. Ingenious! Simply ingenious! I simply had to celebrate with one more drink!