January 10-16, 2007

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Silicon Alleys - Gary Singh

Silicon Alleys

The Heather Takeover

By Gary Singh

A RECENT advice column in the Mercury News ran with a magnificent headline: "Boozy sex is no basis for a solid relationship." To sum it up, someone was chiming in for advice after hanging out with a woman a few times and then going home with her. Describing the predicament, the person said this: "We're obviously attracted to each other but can't seem to take the next step. When we're out drinking and having fun there aren't any barriers, but when that's over, it's back to normal. Should I let this go?" The advice columnist replied, saying that if "normal" is to have nights of drinking, then neither of them is ready for the "next step" in the relationship.

Right or wrong, I just couldn't get that exchange out of my head as I was beckoned into a bar at 10:30am by one of the Heathers, a San Jose-based female boozing club. By now it's not even a "club" any more. It's blossomed into almost a secret society of sorts. Gals in their 20s all over San Jose who like to drink are calling themselves Heathers but they don't even know the original origins.

Over that 10:30am knockback—and the next, and the next—we talked shop, and the Heather in question schooled me on how it all began. She explained that one night a bunch of gals were out on the town getting ruined and they all wound up at an obnoxious ultralounge. She explained that "A bunch of gross guys were hitting on us, so we all used the same fake name: Heather." Thus, the Heathers as a drinking society were born. They even have secret code names for each other, like Deather and Queather, depending on what their real first initials are.

But ultralounges are not the usual locales where you'll find the Heathers. Thankfully, they tend to infiltrate the punk rock crowds, the dive bars and the underbelly places, God bless 'em. If a particular dump serves up extra heavy Jack and Cokes, then you'll find the Heathers, and I have a scary feeling that after this article their membership will either increase or decrease tenfold.

But it's a great story nevertheless. Their blog even contains an application in case you want to date a Heather, saying that they prefer skater guys, tortured artists and dudes with emotional problems. The blog also states that you must be comfortable with all the Heathers making out with each other in a bar, and if you're a commit-o-phobe, then that's a good thing. A scholarly analysis is beyond the scope of this column.

The Heathers have a refreshingly disruptive mind-set, and as I sat there in the bar at 10:30am with that one Heather, we exchanged poignant tales of pranksterism and culture-jamming, especially the Brides of March, a legendary counterculture event that takes place during that month in San Francisco where several folks—men and women—don wedding dresses, go bar-hopping all day and mess with the tourists. It is a gorgeous event. Unlike downtown San Jose, no one needs to cruise up and down the street, blasting their car stereos, harassing women and looking for a fight. Instead, you have peacefully disobedient folks who just want to ridicule all mainstream culture, get tanked and make out with each other in public while wearing wedding dresses. It doesn't get any more wholesome and civilized than that.

In any event, it's safe to say that if I were a female in my 20s, I would join the Heathers immediately. That's right—I'll go out on a controversial limb and encourage it all. Parents, warn your teenage daughters now. It's not a group that you either join or don't join. It's a society. To paraphrase my old prankster pals the Cacophony Society in San Francisco, if you think you want to be a Heather, you may already be a member.

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