Explaining the Seattle Chill

Posted on | October 1, 2008

I was working on a story and trying to explain why the characters were reacting to each other the way they were and hit upon an interesting obvservation. Nathan has just been approached at the city’s “het” S&M club in a way that was somewhat surprising, and attempts to explain to himself his own reaction:

Seattle was frequently schizophrenic about its obligation to police its citizen’s morals, and might one day embrace an openly kinky and demonstrative space on safer sex play, and the next day go all-out to close the place down for maximum publicity. The city had four major newspapers, two dailies and two weeklies. As the weeklies pushed Seattle’s live-and-let-live, gay-friendly, kink-friendly politically correct individualism, the dailies responded by talking up suburb-ready, livable safe streets, “what will we teach our children” safer-sex politically correct collectivism.

No one knew what role anyone else played along the continuum represented by the four papers (nevermind the wild edginess of the anarchosocialist rags that littered the free boxes with names like Eat the State and Gay City), even in a place like Under the Stairs. Nathan suspected that most Seattleites didn’t know where they themselves fell on that spectrum at any given moment until they opened their mouths and voiced an opinion. Once voiced, they tended to hew to it with surprising stubbornness, even knowing that tomorrow they might feel different. As a result, Seattleites tended to be reserved, even chilly, when facing a stranger.

Probably not an original observation about my city, but I’ve never seen it quite worded that way, nor put quite so at the feet of Dan Savage and Jim Veseley.

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