Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bar Hopping for the ADHD Generation

Nightlife snapshots

Posted By on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 at 12:30 PM

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Think of the first thing you ask or say when you meet someone new and want to get to know them.

You're sitting at your favorite counter waiting for a libation and you see someone walk in the room. You make eyes at one of your friends and they laugh knowing exactly what you're thinking. You spend the next hour or so trying to figure out what you should say and then cross the room to make your move.

Now, imagine you don't have all night, or the next encounter to figure out the best way to market yourself. Condense your timeframe to ten minutes at a speed dating event. What's your go-to pick up line? Or, even better, think about how you market yourself on social media — let's say Tinder. How quickly can you grab someone's attention?

Without getting into the ins and outs of the dating scene and social marketing, I began to wonder if it would be possible to apply the same logic of "first impressions" to nightlife.

On any given night when I walk into a bar, club or lounge, can I gather all the details I need in a short period of time? Will QC venues be able to successfully market themselves to the short attention spans of this generation?

One IG bio of an entrepreneur that sells clothing/lingerie that always resonates with me simply says: I sell my panties for money. I don't know about you, but I was sold.

I started thinking about the fact that anytime I'm going to a new restaurant I look at the menu, website and social media for insight into the atmosphere, what to wear and, of course, exactly what I want to eat. That's when I realized I do the exact same things when I go to a new nightlife spot. So last week, I decided to try this idea on for size: speed dating nightlife venues.

Given the fact that I'm not drinking this month it has become challenging to sit aimlessly in the same seat for hours on end engaging in surface-level conversation at the same venue. After about an hour, I'm ready to do something, anything else. Now, more than ever, it's important for me to be able to make an assessment on the time I'm going to have as soon as I walk in the door.

The first stop: Recess Charlotte. You may have heard the buzz about an adult playground located off of Seigle Avenue. Well, I finally decided to check it out. At first, I noticed that the space was smaller than what I expected. But after going inside I realized that, while still a more intimate setup, it wasn't as small as I thought it was.

There was ample seating space — bar stools, funky chairs and couches for lounging. There were two bar areas, one focused on liquor and one on craft beer. Seven — yes, seven — TVs shared on strategic walls in the space and games like shuffleboard, Connect 4, UNO Dare and Mancala scattered throughout.

And all of this was surrounded by colorful wall murals and décor that made it even easier to want to be a kid again. Combine that with a swing set, picnic tables, tether ball and corn hole outside, and you have yourself the makings of a place where adults can quickly get into trouble like they're kids again.

The second stop was Salud Cerveceria. I'd visited Salud Beer Shop a couple times right before construction began on Salud Cerveceria upstairs.

I'd tasted the infamous "chicken and waffle-wich" at Fud @ Salud next door (the chicken and waffles to be exact: chicken salad, candied walnuts, bacon and maple syrup squeezed between two Belgian waffles), washed it down with a multitude of sour beers in a glass I purchased that read: sour beer old school hip hop wafflewiches Nintendo salud. I mean, how much more could I ask for once I made the trip upstairs?!

Welp, there was all of six people upstairs when I climbed the newspaper lined steps to one of the most beautiful beer gardens/coworking centers/event spots/lounge spaces I've seen in the Queen City.

The laidback atmosphere combined with a "lit" playlist of old school hip hop created an environment that I could stay in for hours (especially if I had work to do). And if you haven't seen the insane artwork and old-school memorabilia that fills every corner of each of Salud's three separate-but-equally cool establishments, you haven't seen nothing yet!

What spaces have drawn you in right from the start? What do visitors say about your spot after their first impression? Share your ideas with me at backtalk@clclt.com.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Experiment Continues

Dealing with coworkers alcohol free

Posted By on Wed, Oct 11, 2017 at 7:00 AM

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Have you ever been to an after-work function when you weren't able to drink? Talk about a doozy.

Last week, if you recall, I wrote about how I'd decided to take a break from drinking. I guess I should've taken a look at my calendar of upcoming events so I wouldn't have to experience FOMO as often as it looks I'll have to throughout what I'm calling my Sober October. Oh well.

The first challenge I experienced was on day five. I'd gotten comfortable with my routine of taking the trolley home right after work, avoiding the bar and completing a chore around the house before #Netflixandchill. On Thursday, however, we were having a mandatory meeting for my company's five year celebration ... at Suite. The last time I was there was for my company's Christmas party, I ended up walking out of the Epicentre from the third floor barefoot. #classy

My coworkers piled in line by the bar hoping to grab a drink before the presentation began and I made small talk with those that I don't see as often during the week. Everyone smiled weakly at me when they caught themselves getting ready to ask, "You're not getting anything to drink?" And honestly, after smelling a vodka soda in passing, I was thankful I wasn't drinking. The only problem? Now that I don't have alcohol as a distraction, I've become very catty when I'm hungry and there was no food — only an open bar. Sighs.

Thankfully, by the time the speech ended there was only 45 more minutes left to take advantage of the open bar. So, I decided to begin my trek home to homemade chili and an ice cold Pepsi. After appeasing my "hanger," I was surprised at how focused I'd been on eating instead of drinking. Great job, Aerin, great job.

The next day, I went to work and laughed with a coworker about how hungover everyone was. And while I envied my coworkers with drink in hand at the party, that all ended when I started seeing the glazed "deer-in-headlight looks" and mouthwatering nausea of some of the folks walking through the door the next day. "On to the next challenge," I thought to myself as I remembered I'd have to speed pack at home before heading to New River Campground & Canoe in Independence, Virginia for weekend camping.

Before you ask, yes black women camp, too. And believe it or not, I actually like it. The trouble is that camping with a bunch of young folk usually involves beer and drinking games.

How do you encourage everyone else that you're actually having an amazing time sitting around a bonfire eating s'mores when you're not drinking with them? At one point, I thought, "Maybe I can just have a sip of beer?" But just as quickly as the thought entered my mind I remembered how popping a can of PBR is my version of Pringles — "once you pop, you can't stop."

I stuck to my guns and didn't drink. You can only imagine how challenging that was if you're like me and don't enjoy/aren't talented enough to play beer pong, flip cup and the like. But somehow, I managed to hit a few cups and keep my energy high all day long. When it was over, and I returned back in Charlotte I was proud that I'd held my ground — without technology as a distraction I might add — and excited that I had a legitimate excuse as to why I hadn't showered in two days.

You'd think that was enough temptation for one weekend but it was noon on a Sunday. You know what that meant? Sunday funday and lots of football. Everyone in the Q.C. piles out of bed as if the work week isn't right around the corner on game day and this chick didn't have to work on Monday. I headed to my favorite watering hole, The Corner Pub, and prepared for the fight of my life. Surprisingly, the only time I had a desire to grab a cold brew was when I started getting a headache (withdrawal?).

After watching the Panthers pull out a W by the hair on their tails, I even upped the ante when my girls and I decided to brave the crowds at Slate/All American Pub/Oak Room/Hot Taco. Crazy, right?! It wasn't as packed as it usually was but I still felt the anxiety of being in a large crowd, aware of my own personal space and sober. But the most rewarding part of the night? I could engage in conversation, or not, and actually listen to what people were saying. And that's what the intimacy of nightlife is really all about. (And, not being concerned about getting pulled over for drinking and driving of course!)

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Do I Have to Drink to Have a Good Time?

A social experiment

Posted By on Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 7:00 AM

Nearly three years ago, my first editor at Creative Loafing, Kim Lawson, forwarded me an email from an avid follower. He wanted to wish her farewell as she was leaving the publication, but he also wanted to chat with her about me.

He pretty much asked her if she thought that I, a promising writer in his eyes, would have the courage to write a column on socializing in Charlotte without drinking. Would I consider doing an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) Crawl and talk about my experiences in an article?

My editor never forwarded anything that she didn't feel was at least interesting enough for me to mull over, but this one I couldn't even fathom.

Outside of the fact that I was having a hard time trying to figure out how I could enter the world of AA without compromising the very anonymity the group was built on, two other thoughts came to mind.

One, "I'm not an alcoholic!" *Insert scoff* Two, how in the world could I go out, have a good time and not drink?

Little did I know that that reader, while he didn't know very much about me, was introducing a conversation I'd be having with myself a couple years later.

The past few months haven't been the easiest in my personal life and instead of living in the moment of reality, I've often been wandering aimlessly through the night, especially on the weekends.

Call it coping, call it developing poor drinking habits, I've been trying to do what a lot of millennials are trying to do — find myself.

Nevertheless, that journey has involved quite a bit of alcohol. And a couple weeks ago, that reader came to my mind, like an annoying parent reminding me, "I told you so."

Snapping back into reality the day after a night of drinking can be excruciating. No, I'm not just talking about the physical consequences of a hangover, but the emotional rollercoaster — the deep regret, the negative self-reflection and the feeling of hopelessness.

Lately, that rollercoaster has felt like an Uber I take every weekend. So I decided that I was finally going to take heed to the advice of that reader and start my own challenge, "Sober October." (Would it be a real thing if it didn't rhyme?)

Don't get me wrong peeps, who would I be if I didn't still turn up for the Q.C.?! But this month I'm going to turn up without having to turn up anything.

The idea came to me last week when I decided to buy a last minute ticket to see RENT at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Even though I was exhausted after a long night, I refused to let the money go to waste.

I managed to make it through the work day and walked to the venue.

I watched as everyone else made their way down the staircase to the bar for a glass of wine or a lackluster cocktail. I thought for sure I wouldn't be able to resist the temptation but before I had time to convince myself that my stomach or my wallet needed one, they were opening the theater doors.

I took my seat and waited for the show to start.

After being reprimanded for taking a picture of the "trademarked" set — it was a great pic by the way, so sue me — I thought back to the first time I'd seen the movie. I wasn't a fan of musicals and thought there was no way I'd be able to endure over two hours of singing.

The next thing I knew, I was screaming "525,600 minutes" with the rest of the Broadway lovers. Over a decade later and I was planning for the show a full year in advance.

The show started and I realized that despite being tired, I was sitting on the edge of my seat as if I'd never seen the show before. I was captivated with how bright the lights were, how colorful the outfits were, how I felt like I could feel the energy of the characters — even when they were hitting the wrong notes — and it all felt so real. Was I actually enjoying a nightlife experience without drinking?

My content bladder certainly thought so when a large majority of the auditorium spilled out of their seats at intermission for refills and a trip to the bathroom.

A girl could get used to this.

So, whether in recovery or just apt to take breaks, let me know your favorite hangouts and events to frequent in the Q.C. on a sober evening.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Flush Trashy, Get Classy at Sophia's

Fall brings sophistication back to the Q.C.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 12:43 PM

When the leaves begin to fall in Charlotte, the nightlife vibe changes. The summer attire of suns-out, guns-out, buns-out fades and the cooler weather either keeps nightlifers from going out as much or forces them to seek the comfort of a warm, inviting atmosphere.

Fortunately, there's plenty of places in the Queen City to go that will help you find just what you're looking for when you're trying to get classy not trashy.

Sophia's Lounge, for example, brings a slice of the elevated speakeasy; it's a kick-back-and-relax atmosphere that you'll find everywhere from NYC to the QC.

But when my friend suggested we make the early move to Sophia's with one of the owners, I was apprehensive.

Why? It's located in The Ivey's Hotel across from Dandelion Market. Anytime I hear boutique and hotel in the same sentence as a nightlife venue, I get a little nervous.

Are we going to be too lit for a classy venue? Are the drinks going to break the already broken bank? Is the crowd going to be pretentious?

Nevertheless, I need a regular change of scenery to stay awake most nights, even on weekends, so I was excited to at least vet a nightlife venue that's only been on the scene for a couple of months.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a dapper young gentleman who was giving off Andre 3000 vibes. So far, so good, if you ask me.

Upon entry, I could tell that while the crowd was different from the regulars we'd find at The Corner Pub, I didn't feel as if I'd stepped into a stuffy environment.

In fact, the layout couldn't have been more perfect. From bar seating to the dining tables to the deep and comfortable tufted couches, the space was perfect for keeping congestion to a minimum while encouraging intimate conversations.

Think Amelie's on steroids — but with matching décor.

Did I mention the playlist was on fire? Maybe it was because it was a Friday, but I thought we'd only be listening to the sounds of a piano or jazz.

Don't get me wrong: I can appreciate a good jazz band, but when the temptations of Dandelion Market and SIP are only walking distance away, I need what some of my friends call "turnips" (aka turn-up music), and there were plenty of turnips to spare.

What was even better? When I started to bug a bartender for a charger, one of the managers offered without hesitation. Now, that's what I call service!

I plugged up my phone and placed it on a velvet-tufted bench in the corner — I know, so basic. The same manager handed me a drink menu and proceeded to help figure out the best choice for me at that particular point in the night.

I'd been drinking vodka, so I decided on Where Is the Honey — New Amsterdam vodka, rosemary honey and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.

While the extravagant lifestyle I've been trying to live cannot support too many of the cocktails, which ranged from $13 to $18, Sophia's definitely knows how to craft a delicious drink.

My biggest regret the next morning as I was fighting off nausea was that I didn't try one of the small plates on the menu. I'd glanced at the menu, but of course I wasn't hungry after having a few beers.

Dishes I noted: Maine lobster sliders, jumbo lump crab cakes, filet mignon toast, deviled eggs and the charcuterie board.

You just have to wait until that next paycheck drops.

My girls and I relaxed on the sofa — we liked to think that we had our very own VIP sitting area, psych — sipping our tasty cocktails as we considered our next move. We'd said our goodbyes and walked outside, but next thing you know we were walking back in to sit at the bar.

Sophia's was so much fun that we were convinced we needed to grab at least one more drink.

This time I tried Melon'dramatic. We subbed out the lavender-infused gin for vodka but left the other ingredients — Drambuie, melon syrup, citrus juices and lime zest — alone. Another great choice.

Overall impression? Sophia's Lounge offers an upscale experience combined with a comfortable environment, delicious drinks and from what I could tell, exceptional small plates. The perfect spot for girls' night or date night, its space and versatility make for a solid nightlife venue.

OK, promotion done.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Football Season Takes Sunday Fundays to Another Level

Are you ready for some tailgating?

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 7:00 AM

Once football season starts, the sights, sounds and smells are always the same in the Queen City on Sunday morning. It doesn't matter if the Panthers play at 1 p.m., which parking lot you tailgate in or if you even like sports at all, you'll know what day it is as soon as you step outside.

Hamburgers, beer, vomit, porta potties and faces that will scream, "I'm hungover" at work the next morning. *Inhales deep,* oh yeah, that's what Sunday Funday and football are all about.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a huge sports buff. I know, gasp, a social faux pas that most sports fanatics would argue is way worse than previous blunders, which may or may not include throwing up in an Uber. However, I try to redeem myself by throwing on a Panthers jersey and finding the nearest bar to rally with the best of them.

This past weekend, for instance, Buffalo Bills fans came out in droves and took over the city. My girls gathered to celebrate a birthday at Suffolk Punch in South End on Friday and instead of going to our usual watering hole, we decided to spread our wings a bit. For our first stop, we settled on "the new Gin Mill" aka The Brickyard. In case you're wondering, nothing's really changed other than the tunes playing over the speakers — you can even still get popcorn.

After a drink, we closed out and rounded the corner. While one of my friends is a Buffalo Bills fan, I was completely oblivious to the fact that we'd be stumbling into a Friday night tailgate complete with cornhole boards, pajama pants and bros. The tailgate scene in the parking lot shared by Tavern On the Tracks and old Gin Mill was terrifying and thrilling all at the same time. It was only Friday, two days before game day? Now, that's what I call a pregame.

Fortunately, everyone was already so drunk I didn't have to concern myself with playing the part of "my team is better than yours," and we were able to slide into a few chairs on the patio outside of Tavern and "politely" takeover someone's table. We watched the madness unfold from a safe distance while someone serenaded us with live music. I could see the excitement building in my friend's eyes as she turned to our other friend to remind her how much fun the tailgate was going to be on Sunday. Hell, I wasn't even supposed to be going with them and I already had FOMO.

On game day, tailgaters were up and at 'em by 9:30 a.m. No lie. I woke up to a text from my girl, "Guys. 'Member when we were gunna be good? I know, I may have been the only one that said it. But I didn't do it. But the mother fucking Buffalo Bills are here bayyyybeeee." I cracked up immediately thinking about how lit she must have been the night before and here she was, texting us at 9 a.m. ready to go. I knew a tailgate party would be a terrible idea for my Monday morning, especially when they ended up getting there at 11 a.m. (Little did I know I would end up going out after the game anyways.)

I settled for watching all of the Snapchat and Instagram stories of tailgaters having the time of their lives. It was the first Panthers home game of the season, the so-called Bills Mafia was in full effect and everyone was ready to get lit. I moped around the house wondering whether I should get in on the action for a few hours or attempt to adult. That's when I discovered that my washing machine was broken and had leaked into the condo beneath mine. Yeah, after a series of unfortunate leaks and random repairs, this was just the icing on the cake. Naturally, that meant I needed to go out and unwind. Don't ask me why, we'll blame it on that Panthers "W" and those rowdy Buffalo Bills.

As I walked to work the next morning, I counted the beer cans along my path littering the street. I felt like I could still smell the scent of PBR and vomit in the air. While the idea of either was completely nauseating, I smiled thinking about how even though I knock it, football season is really one of the most exciting times to be in the Q.C. Y'all might just make a true fan out of me just yet! What's your favorite football season memory in the Queen?

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

20 Ways to Seduce a Banker Bro

Get you one of them blue shirts

Posted By on Thu, Sep 14, 2017 at 7:00 AM

If you've ever browsed through the men of Tinder, swiping this way and that, you start noticing patterns. Types.

There's the man holding a fish, promising with his profile photo that he will be able to provide for you and your future children a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Then there's the man reclined against the hood of a car. "I'm going places," his photo says, in a very literal sense.

There's the man with the muscles, the man with a puppy, the man with a girl. ("See, at least one girl likes me! You will too!")

And then there's the banker bro. Here in Charlotte, they're ubiquitous both on the dating apps and in real life. They wait with their standard issue black briefcases to cross at the intersection of Trade and Tryon. When the light changes, they walk with purpose. Banker bros always have somewhere to go and important business to conduct.

If you've got your sights set on this type, if your fantasies include unbuttoning a light blue-collared shirt before getting busy, take heed: You can take these tips to the bank.

1. Learn how to spot your quarry on or off the clock. Know how to spot logos from Vineyard Vines, Brooks Brothers, and J. Crew.

2. Hang out in the banker bro's natural environment. Spend time at the Epicentre on weekends. Find them at Starbucks reading the Financial Times or the Charlotte Agenda.

3. Pickup line: "Let's credit default swap digits."

4. Drop subtle hints that you are adventurous in the bedroom, i.e. a crude commodity.

5. Date idea: A happy hour special with $14 margaritas and an authentic sombrero photo booth.

6. Pickup line: "Not to be forward, but can I get the option to swap those commodities?"

7. When he mentions bottom-up investing, take the opportunity to let him know what you can do with your bottom up.

8. Propose learning a dance together, like waltz, salsa, or contango.

9. Date idea: Topgolf. I mean, c'mon, what else do you need to know?

10. At the end of your date, invite him inside to show off your diversified portfolio of assets.

11. During sex, use restraints and handcuffs (with consent). Refer to these as "bonds" and wink suggestively.

12. Pickup line: "I'll show you my butterfly spread investment strategy."

13. Suggest a game to invent sex positions for various financial terms. Start with "back-end load," "in the money," and "PEG ratio."

14. As your date is wrapping up, suggest some "uncovered options."

15. Keep your eyes peeled for Bank of America's volunteer t-shirt. These banker bros enjoy giving back in the community and possibly in bed.

16. Ask what he likes to be called during sex. Don't be surprised if he says "executive VP."

17. Pickup line: "If you're long, I have a vested interest in seeing you rise."

18. Fake an orgasm for every fake account he's created at Wells Fargo.

19. Date idea: Dave Matthews Band concert.

20. Tell him you're a closet Trump fan. Show him where you keep your red hat.

With these tips, you're sure to generate high interest and never be a-loan.

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Four-Day Weekends Make For More Recovery Time

A labor of love

Posted By on Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 10:33 AM

By now, if you've perused social media or watched the news you've probably seen the meme featuring a collection of pictures of Tiger Woods face leading up to his latest "portrait" – a mug shot. Above each picture, represents a day of the weekend. On Friday, he's smiling and looks happy, and naturally, on Monday he's posing for his mug shot.

The meme epitomizes what my selfies look like when strung together across a typical weekend. However, after a four-day weekend like this past Labor Day, you can only imagine.

As I write this, for example, I am sitting at work with a big bruise on my chin, but I'll fill you in on that soon enough.

On Friday, I'd wanted to plan a getaway to Asheville or the beach, but restrictions on gas and on my wallet reminded me that I needed to save my wanderlust for another weekend.

Instead, I sauntered to Latta Arcade after work and pregamed for a coworker's departure celebration and happy hour.

Little did I know that one of my other coworkers would "offer" a round of tequila shots — and that's where I messed up.

Hours later, I traversed Ink N Ivy Charlotte then found my way to The Corner Pub. I'd hadn't had quite a lot to drink, honestly, but I hadn't eaten and was mixing my liquors and beers more than I preferred. That's why it was no shock when, at 9:41 p.m., I made one of the biggest social faux pas of all time.

I started to get nauseous while riding home in an Uber when all of a sudden I asked him to pull over. It was too late. The next morning, I woke up to an $80 cleanup fee and pictures of my blunder — oops!

I had made up my mind I wasn't going to have a repeat of that moment on Saturday as I prepared for a tailgating party. A few of my friends are NC State and USC fans so a few of us decided to get together in one of the parking lots off of Bland Street. I opted for a spiked seltzer and a beer instead of liquor and watched everyone get pumped for the game with a series of flip cup.

I'm not going to lie, tailgating took me back to the good ol' college days.

Once it was time for the majority of our group to go to the game, a handful of us decided to grab a drink at Hot Taco before heading off to our usual spots. I don't know about you, but the service experience I always receive there is lackluster.

The highlight of my time spent there involved pigging out on nachos with my friends, then getting another surprise shot of Patrón tequila sent my way. *Gags*

Nevertheless, I was a trooper and kept the party moving. Until later that night, when I tripped over a trailer pull and busted my chin — hence the horrendous bruise I am currently wearing like a scarlet letter.

Outside of a little pain on my chin, I still felt grand on Sunday. See? I wasn't too bad!

I got a much later start on the party game. My friends went to brunch at Ink N Ivy, then stopped by The Corkscrew Vue Coffee and Wine Bar.

All the while, I was more concerned with getting my hands on a seven-layer bean dip at Harris Teeter, a long cry from my original plans of "treating myself" to dinner at Customshop Handcrafted (the cheese/charcuterie board/burrata ravioli were so tempting, though).

Dinner consisted of a seven-layer bean dip, black bean hummus, brie, honey and salami. I was going to make my own version of the meal I would've tried at Customshop for a third of the price. And later on, after I decided to go out, I felt like I'd set a solid base.

Sure enough, I ended up chatting up random strangers in NoDa about their thoughts on nightlife in the Queen City. The most popular opinion of the area? There's not enough nightlife venues that have that "wow factor."

So that's what I'll be directing my attention toward over the next few months — what is missing from the Charlotte nightlife scene?

On Monday, I was so proud of how I'd redeemed myself after Friday's mishap that I wanted to keep up the good work, but it was going to be hard.

I called around to a few venues I wanted to visit – Recess Charlotte, Slate Billiards, All American Pub, Draught Restaurant & Bar and 8.2.0 were all closed in observance of Labor Day. I'll keep that in mind as I prepare for the next holiday and four-day weekend!

How'd you spend your Labor Day weekend in the Q.C.?

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The Great Queen City Oral Sex Survey

Hold my crown while I go down

Posted By on Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 10:28 AM

About a year ago, a woman posted a now-infamous video demonstrating her favorite tip for giving good blowjobs.

In it, she sliced the ends off of a grapefruit, cut a hole in the center of the remaining section, and demonstrated how she used the fruit in combination with her mouth on a lucky fellatio recipient. What impressed the masses about this video was not only the grapefruit strategy but also the sounds she made while demonstrating her technique. That "Wait, what?" moment reminds us how little we know about the sex lives of our fellow regular people — meaning, not porn stars.

We wonder: Do people really do that? How many people really make noises like that? Do people really enjoy this or that? How many of my coworkers enjoy transgressive sex? Am I normal?

Allison Braden
  • Allison Braden

One thing that's pretty normal and unites sex aficionados up and down the Kinsey scale is oral sex. The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, conducted in 2009, found that more than 50 percent of men and women between the ages of 18 and 49 had received oral during the previous year. Oral sex seems most popular among respondents between the ages of 25 and 29 — 77 percent of men and 72 percent of women in that age group reported getting head in the previous year.

Despite its popularity among my fellow millennials, it's obviously nothing new or trendy, nor was it some sort of fad in the 1970s when the enormously popular movie Deep Throat was released. (The plot, yet another example of the genius and creativity of the American male mind, centers around a woman who can only orgasm via performing oral sex.)

Fellatio and cunnilingus have a long history. Ancient art found in Europe, Asia and South America depict oral sex. In the Middle Ages, people were still getting freaky despite the strictures against non-traditional sex of any kind. In Ireland, according to a history of oral sex on Mic.com, a medieval penitential document prescribed four years of penance for cunnilingus and five for fellatio.

Its popularity has continued apace. For women — who are on the wrong side of the orgasm gender gap — there's a good reason to like cunnilingus. The survey I mentioned found that 81 percent of women respondents orgasmed during oral sex encounters.

The history of oral sex goes back generations, and the experience of our elders has produced a few standby pearls of wisdom on technique: Keep teeth out of the action. Spell the ABCs with your tongue.

Provided, of course, that you can find the clitoris. In spite of this long, nearly universal history, the actual location of the clitoris seems to require discovery every several years. See Men's Health circa 2010: "Q&A: Help Me Find the Clitoris!"

And of course, Cosmopolitan has made a veritable industry of dispensing tips on seduction and sex of all kinds, including oral. Here are some memorable ones:

"Chew a small piece of mango... then take him in your mouth. You can use whatever fruit you have, just don't try anything too acidic, as it can burn him."

"As you move your mouth up and down his shaft, rotate your hand in a corkscrew motion while spiraling your tongue in the opposite direction."

"Very softly bite the skin of his scrotum."

"Sprinkle a little pepper under his nose right before he climaxes. Sneezing can feel similar to an orgasm and amplify the feel-good effects."

To each his own in the pursuit of pleasure, I guess.

So, do people really do these things? How are our neighbors going down?

To help answer these questions, I invite you to complete the Great Charlotte Oral Sex Survey of 2017.

The survey includes questions about your first time performing or receiving oral sex, whether you have any crazy cunnilingus or fellatio stories, and your best tips. It's completely anonymous (duh), and I'll explore the findings in an upcoming column. This will not be scientific — I aspire to about the same polling rigor and accuracy on display in the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking of politics, it turns out that our primate cousins the bonobos are quite the nymphos. They prefer to ease social situations and solve problems by having sex instead of using violence. They're the only other primate that French kisses. And, like our ancestors and our ancestors before that, they like getting good head.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Learning to Let Go of a Toxic Feeling

Who's jealous of whom?

Posted on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 7:00 AM

Lately I've been thinking about how to describe jealousy, especially when it comes to sex and love. It's a hot, visceral feeling, exacerbated by the Southern summer heat. Your heart is wrenched, like a rag full of water, and you feel your pulse pushing blood through your body.

Crimes of passion often seem outrageous. How could you let yourself end another life or ruin your own in a temporary fit of feeling? But when I feel a jealous twinge, constricting my heart like a snake, I start to understand. Drunk on that cocktail of love and hate, logic loses its grip.

Elvita Kondili is a licensed professional counselor and the education program coordinator at Charlotte's Kadampa Meditation Center, where she's been teaching and meditating for two years. From a Buddhist perspective, she says, a common mistake is to believe that our happiness and unhappiness are dependent on external factors. But these are states of mind, and their source is internal, she says. Jealousy, too, is a state of mind, and as anyone who's experienced it knows, the feeling only works to make us unhappy.

"There's no benefit to a mental state of jealousy," Kondili says. "And if there's no benefit to something, wouldn't you want to eliminate it? Wouldn't you want to get rid of it if it causes you unhappiness and misery?"

But, like finishing Infinite Jest or cooking the perfect soufflé, getting rid of jealousy is easier said than done. Part of the difficulty is that it may require a fundamental shift in how you approach relationships. Our experience of the world tends to be self-centered, which often manifests in how we build relationships with others. We look for what will benefit us, what will make us happy. As a result, our relationships are not with the other person, but with our idea of them.

"It's about the relationship you have with this person in your own mind. So if your relationship is, 'I want to own you, possess you, I want to control you, I want you to do what suits me,' this is your relationship with this person from the inside," Kondili says. "Even if they do what you want them to do for a little bit, it's just temporary. Eventually something else will come up and they're going to do something that you're not going to like because you're attached to how you want them to behave."

Paradoxically, these controlling tendencies, driven by a desire for happiness and stability, are what lead to unhappiness. Possessiveness and jealousy push those we love away.

When you look at a baby, Kondili says, you're not wondering what that baby can do for you. Instead, you're full of pure love — the kind of selfless love that we should ideally feel for everyone. But some of Kondili's examples of how this selfless love might work in a relationship defy logic — or logic as we know it, at least.

"If your partner showed up one day and said, 'I love someone else,' and you truly loved them and wanted them to be happy, you would let them go. You would want them to be happy, and you would be happy for them."

Kondili says that when she explains this idea, most people scoff. But there are easier ways to practice selfless love and let go of jealousy. One is to get in the habit of considering your partner's perspective. Two fundamental components of the meditation that Kondili practices are wisdom and compassion, both of which can be applied here.

"In a situation where someone's going off to spend time with their friends, we think, 'They don't care about us, they might be unfaithful, or they may be off looking at someone else.' And this may or may not be true, but the way it appears to us is reality," Kondili explains.

Compassion, on the other hand, can mean simply remembering that the other person is like you. They want happiness, too, and they don't want to suffer. Compassion is making an ongoing effort to encounter everyone with the same unadulterated love you feel for a baby. (Or maybe, in my case, my cat.)

Another Buddhist principle is non-attachment. "Whether it's one partner or two partners or your house, your car, or your job, the idea is to change the inside relationship with them so we're not trying to possess them, control them, or rely on them too heavily to make us happy," Kondili explains.

Wisdom, compassion and non-attachment can seem like ideals, floating like clouds, untethered to the emotional mess of everyday life. Perhaps I'll never be able to joyfully bid my partner farewell as they take off with a paramour, but the first step toward letting go of jealousy, Kondili says, is simple.

"The main message is that being happy — having fulfilling relationships — is an inside job. It's not something that anyone else can do for you," she says. "The key is to work on yourself."

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Goodbye, Goodyear; Hello, North End

Friday nights are for more than food trucks

Posted By on Wed, Aug 9, 2017 at 11:29 AM

Each weekend my friends and I attempt to find something new to do in the Queen City — or at least participate in something familiar without the same hangover. This past Friday our options were limited to the final art event at Goodyear Arts or the newly popular Fridays at Camp North End. Not too shabby for a low key Friday night.

While waiting for the clock to strike 5:30 p.m., I watched as my co-worker — who was already looking like a snack — put on makeup and made me feel even less dressed to impress than I already was. Ever noticed how many times your friends will say, "I'm not getting dressed up. I'm not even going to put makeup on, only to show up looking like it took them an hour to get ready instead of an hour and a half? Yep, happens to me all the time. No, I'm not bitter.

After a couple quick pregame drinks at Connolly's on Fifth, we rounded the corner and walked the couple blocks to Goodyear Arts for their "Goodbye, Goodyear" event. Coincidentally, my first visit to this gallery space was with these same ladies — minus a few. It felt good to be back, but it was bittersweet. From the first time I'd visited Goodyear Arts, I felt like I was home. The people, the eccentric art, the free beer. I mean, if this wasn't the poster child for my dream living room, I don't know what was.

I've never been into attending galleries or museums. Not because I can't appreciate the beauty of art — even when I'm pretty sure I could lay down butt naked after a night of drinking in gold paint and make millions — but because my anxiety takes over in busy spaces. "I'm trying to take a picture of that painting, can you not stand there and just take it all in?" "Ugh, how am I supposed to admire this piece with all of you in my space?"

That's why I usually end up taking pictures of everything that catches my eye and review it all later in the comfort of my own home ... alone.

On top of the fact that I was anxious about crawling through the gallery, it was hot as hell. That's why it wasn't long before I was outside, taking in the evening air at the community table. I thought about how much it sucked that Goodyear was leaving that space and that I hadn't gone to more events. There's just something special about community, innovation, creativity and local vibes rejuvenating an unused space in our backyard.

Luckily, Goodyear Arts is eventually movnig right down the street to a new spot that's been popping off on Fridays and throghout the week, lately: Camp North End.

Something intriguing is happening at the old warehouse district on Statesville Avenue. I started seeing posts pop up after I followed a few IG accounts related to tech talks, co-working spaces and the like. I'd like the way the background of the pics or videos looked and I'd see the elusive location tag "Camp North End" underneath the account name and wonder, what the hell is that? I started asking around, and no one knew what the deal was.

Even after hopping in an 8-minute Uber over to the space for Fridays at Camp North End, I can't say I'm any less confused. However, the possibilities for the project are endless. We arrived by way of minivan to check out the patio in the center of what felt like a massive compound — complete with barbed wire. All we knew was that there was going to be live music, food trucks, corn hole, tables and beer. My co-worker in need of a Snickers decided to get in a massive line for a food truck while the rest of the group went to sniff out the beer. We noticed the long line that stretched between us and the nearest Lenny Boy sign and decided our Camp North End exploration would have to wait.

Apparently I missed all the coverage that's surrounded the Camp North End launch (read Kia Moore's informative piece on the Camp's community manager, Varian Shrum, at clclt.com). Since that night, though, I've learned that the project is being designed to house local businesses/startups and events. Not to mention, there's currently 1.2 million square feet of existing building space. When we're talking about a project that already has that much space potential, there's no wonder why it's been difficult to pin down its purpose — it will be the epitome of a multi-purpose facility in Charlotte. Friday night entertainment and community gathering for events like Creative Mornings CLT are the most popular facets for the Camp now, but the future is limitless there.

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