Scene: Chicago

 
 

Scene 3: Women on Wednesdays
Center on Halsted, Aug. 15

The new Center on Halsted in Boystown is an LGBT community meeting space where lap-toppers utilize the free wi-fi and gay girls gather on Wednesdays. For $20, single ladies can participate in speed dating, a couple of drinks (alcoholic or non) and a food buffet before the Dyke Mic portion of the night begins. (If you're not into the speed dating fad and more into board games, then I suggest attending the monthly Queer Nerds at Heart at Guthries Tavern).

A happily partnered woman, I arrived as the speed dating was winding up and the participants — of all ages and all ethnicities — were mingling, hoping find their chosen one. During the summer, the weekly Women on Wednesdays hosts roof parties, and the organizers, Nikki Patin and J.T. Newman, book performers from punk bands to poets who reflect the individuality of everyone who comes.

This week, the performers were burlesque duo the Honey Buns and soul singer Mekole Wells. Newman introduced the Honey Buns as "always warm and moist in the center," and their first performance of "Goldfinger" began, complete with gold gun, leopard-print coat and eventual revealing of the pasties.

I had a quiet laugh at the irony of the sexuality oozing out of the room, which features a sign designating it as the Senior Center. The next Honey Bun performed an even more provocative number to a Bryan Adams song, "I Want To Be Your Underwear," which involved not much else besides two large pink feathers.

The room is kind of an awkward space; it lacks a stage, and a group of chairs are simply pushed to the right side of one wall. On the opposite wall, huge windows stretch from floor to ceiling, giving Dyke Mic attendees a perfect view of Halsted Ave. However, it didn't give me a perfect view of each performer, especially as the Honey Buns danced from left to right.

After the burlesque Buns, Mekole Wells sang a couple of songs (including a cover of The Carpenters' "Superstar"), and co-host J.T. got the open mic underway. Because the speed dating had run long, the performances were cut shorter than usual, but everyone was still able to get a word or song in.

From nervous first-time readers receiving encouraging applause, to a powerful poem that had an amazing extended metaphor about music and being loved, the performances were both entertaining and inspiring. As someone who doesn't write poetry or music, I couldn't imagine being as open with a group of strangers as some of the readers were, but watching a room full of gay women (and one gay man) feel comfortable enough to do so was a great way to do something out of the ordinary, at least for myself.

"It's refreshing!" said first-time attendee Megan McCormack. "I sometimes get sad thinking that the most efficient way to meet other Chicagoan queers is at queer bars. Loud music and darkened rooms make it hard to talk to people — new people, especially. Having events [like this] that focus on hobbies and passions is wonderful. It automatically makes complete strangers compatible and have something worthy to talk about. For example, 'Who are some of your favorite poets?' versus 'How's that light beer taste?'"

Also different from bar nights, Women on Wednesdays ended promptly at 10 p.m. It was certainly a change of pace.

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