Long Live Center City Sips
For an opposing view, read Joe Trinacria’s “Center City Sips Has to End. Now.”
It may be because I met my husband in an after-hours bar before even the oldest millennial was born, but I like Center City Sips. Oh, sure, there are the minor inconveniences, like the security dudes swarming the outdoor café at my office building, and the Ubers and Lyfts stopping wherever the hell they please to disgorge occupants. There’s the occasional pool of vomit, and the roiling, roistering packs of bros. And the music’s gotten really, really loud in the four decades since it was illegal for me to drink. But as I recall, my mom and dad used to say that, too. It’s sort of perplexing, really, that the music can be getting louder even as my hearing is starting to go.
But besides all that, I’m notorious for not liking millennials — for finding them vapid and unfocused and unproductive and, well, fragile in all the worst ways. So why in the world would I be a big fan of our city’s weekly convocation of sniveling snowflakes? Let me try to explain.
It’s the desperation of the women — girls, really, most of them, still so young and fleshy and fresh-faced underneath the gobs of maquillage that make them look like they’ve been playing in their mothers’ vanity drawers again. It’s the way they dress in the skimpiest of outfits, skin-tight and -baring, exposing midriffs and clavicles and cleavage like Beyoncé onstage. It’s the shoes, instruments of torture that strap and slap and bind and clasp their feet in bonds of burnished leather. When my mom was growing up in South Philly, the nuns collected money so little Chinese girls wouldn’t have to have their feet bound like that. Yesterday I watched from my car — I was waiting, of course, for one of those roiling packs that was crossing against the light — as a high-stepping PYT caught her heel in a sidewalk grate and fell flat on her face in her pretty summer romper. She got up furtively, her pride far more injured, I’m sure, than her raw, skinned knees.
That the boys are so bro-ey makes it all the worse. With their loud, heedless jostling, their hard drinking, their cold, assessing glances, they don’t deserve the women’s sad desperation — don’t merit the time and care expended on hair and makeup and clothes. There’s a weird power dynamic at work on these summer Wednesdays. The boys aren’t dangling their blandishments, aren’t strutting the streets in tiny triangles of fabric; they wear the standard frat-boy uniform of loose shorts and polo shirts and comfy sandals and at most a swipe of pomade. The whole parade is a reenactment of the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow; Look at me, the women plead, but the me is all the outside, the vast expanses of shiny hair and skin.
And when I see them, I am them — 19 or 21 or 23 again, and just that desperate, that raw and obvious, so wild with longing for the magic one, the other who’ll complete me, the soulmate who’ll be worth all my shameless display. No other spectacle I know transports me so completely back 40 years as these weekly gatherings outside my office in the hot summer sun. Instantly, I’m young and vulnerable, cringingly self-conscious, hyper-aware of every flaw I have. Swamped by a flood of weltschmerz, I long to gather these girls to my bosom, kiss their foreheads, tell them what time and distance have taught me: You are more than the reflection in these young men’s eyes. And you will come through. All of them — pretty and plain, toned and not-toned, shy and boisterous, drunk and sober — make me grateful not to be 20 years old again. God knows nothing else does. Long live Center City Sips.