Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Velvet Rope

or Why My Church Should Relocate to the Meatpacking District

Two Tuesdays ago I went to Tenjune for the first time in a couple of years. Tenjune is a club in the meatpacking district that has a "doorman's discretion" policy. Over the years I have learned what they like so I was complemented on my heels and walked right past the velvet rope. I became bored with this scene five years ago when I realized how much I love to dance in sneakers, but I must say I had a lot of fun with my friend H and the DJ was perfection.

After 10 years of experiencing New York nightlife I have come to understand a few things about getting past the velvet rope. My friends come in a wide variety of heights, weights, ethnicities, and social classes. I was once being allowed past a velvet rope at Le Souk with my friend S. When the bouncer got a look at S's friends coming in behind us, we were all turned away. When I went to Apotheke with my friend J, the doorman actually came to the back of the line to escort us past the other ladies who'd been waiting. I've taken notice of all the patterns and have come to understand what "doorman's discretion" means.

Doormen are most likely to let you in you are tall, thin, attractive, well dressed (read: rich and sophisticated), and white. If you possess four of these five attributes you have a good chance. (If not you probably need to buy a bottle.) If you are white, or can pass for white, you can probably get away with just two more. In fact, you can tell when a formerly exclusive club is on its way out by how few Caucasians are still going. The sad irony is that many of these doormen are overweight undereducated men of color from outer boroughs i.e. the type most often turned away from the "best" clubs and lounges.

My church is located near Park Avenue on the Upper East Side. When I came back from law school, the demographic of the church had dramatically shifted in terms of race and class. If my church were a club in the Meatpacking District, the elders would be the bouncers. The church is like one of those clubs that used to be hot, but now that the b&t crowd's discovered it, it's no longer cool. Unwilling to let go, the elders have taken it upon themselves to make sure that only people with "a certain polish" are in leadership positions. Anybody might be able to enter through the front doors of the church, but to really get in it's easiest if you are highly educated, rich, attractive, and preferably white. If you are white, you really don't even need the other three, so long as you are well groomed and not a social pariah. If you are none of those things they will still welcome you, to cook their meals and clean the fellowship hall. People claim to have been "banned" and "dechurched" by the elders for nefarious reasons and it's really not hard to believe.

It really is like an exclusive club. You know the door policy is harsh and unfair, but once you get inside you're having so much fun, you forget all about the people still waiting out in the cold (or those just flat out turned away.) In fact, you feel flattered to have made the cut. I'm not gonna lie. I preferred my church when it was largely highly educated, all-American, Manhattanites. It's easier to be around people like myself. But I don't believe heaven has a velvet rope, so church shouldn't either.

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