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This Ethnography is Rated R

G.M Molnar hails from Vancouver, Canada and has previously been published by Daily Science Fiction with her short, "Lab Rats." More information about G.M Molnar's writing can be found at swordssheildsandrayguns.blogspot.com.
Nobody tells you about the dark side of Xenoanthropology. The seedy underbelly. They just don't. It's all fancy degrees and exotic climes and "you're doing a great service for humanity, Professor," and then you're smack dab in the center of a Jimbonarian strip club watching the extraterrestrial equivalent of a Chippendale dancer.
But you're getting ahead of yourself.
Culture doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's impossible to study it in a pristine condition, really, because there will always be a give and take of information when two cultures come into contact with one another. It is only natural, then, that these small individual parts get absorbed into the intergalactic whole. Take, for example, the Slorgruvian slime spa or the Lennylimb silent opera. Their popularity and spread are all a natural part of interspecies integration. However, it is exceedingly unfortunate that humanity's major cultural contribution (other than ultimate frisbee and pet insurance) is the bachelorette party.
Yes, the bachelorette party. Its calculated indecency plagues your perpetually single steps, an infrequent yet potent reminder that other people, regardless of their terrestrial origin or species, have gone out and found true love while you sat at home drinking boxed wine with your overweight Chihuahua.
Which brings us back to the Jimbonarian strip club.
You tear your eyes away from the undulating aliens displaying themselves on stage and turn them onto your companions for the night. Three Jimbonarians, but you only know the one getting married--J'Korthinak. You can't say whether J'Korthinak is male or female. Gender is inconsequential for participation in a bachelorette party on Jimbonar. In fact, after decades of research, you can confidently say that Jimbonarians do not have the concept of "gender". They do, however, have the concept of genitals. This is clear from the obscene necklaces, tiaras, and lollipops the party goers had festooned themselves with for the evening.
Trashy, you think, before you remind yourself that you must rid yourself of ethnocentrism to ensure unbiased academic work. Ethnocentrism is your constant enemy, even after all these years. Just last week you had to remind yourself that morality is relative and maybe it IS ok to cannibalize your offspring, depending on the moon cycle.
The Jimbonarians have begun to speak. You have to lean in to hear them. Their gurgles and grunts have long since become familiar to you. You made the right choice turning off your universal translator all those years ago. There's a lot of cultural nuance you would miss otherwise.
The current conversation had exactly zero nuance, however.
"Get a load of those gelatin vibrations..."
"I've never seen anything like the artistry and raw sexual chemistry of the lead dancer's tendril titrations...what do you think, Professor?"
The three Jimbonarians turn to you expectantly. You do not know what to say. You cast your eyes upon the dancers and pick their least disgusting feature. "I really like that dancer's...horns?"
The three Jimbonarians go silent. They are stock still, not a single rumble from their many orifices or a quiver from their velvety tentacles. J'Korthinak leans in, placing a comforting tendril on your shoulder. A myriad of body parts ring the bracelet that hangs off of it, but none of them resemble the horns you had commented on. "Hey...Professor? I know this is a bachelorette party, but... you can still go too far, you know?"
You do not know, but you take their word for it.
"Of course. My mistake." You clear your throat. You have absolutely no idea what is going on but you are still embarrassed. Such is the power of a bachelorette party. "I'm sorry."
"No problem," J'Korthinak says, and the other two visibly relax. "Just thought I'd give you a heads up since you have someone waiting for you at home. Don't want to get too raunchy."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You know, that man you live with. The handsome one."
You do not live with a man. You've never lived with a man. You've certainly never lived with a handsome man.
"You know, Sssss... Ssss? Sssombrero!"
Jimbonarians recognize your Chihuahua as both a sentient alien lifeform on par with humanity, and also as your romantic partner. Fascinating. Depressing. You should really follow up on that later. "We're…uh. Just friends."
"Oh...that's tough." Despite having no eyes, no nose, no mouth, or really anything even remotely resembling human physiology, J'Korthinak perfectly expressed a pitying smile. In that moment every single one of your overbearing, saccharine sweet aunts were reincarnated into the form of a translucent, many limbed alien. "Sometimes love is complicated, huh? Don't worry. You'll find someone someday, just like I did. How old were you again?"
"Sixty-four."
"Only sixty-four?" The other two Jimbonarians croon, "You're still a baby! You have plenty of time."
You do not bother telling them that sixty-four is approaching the end of the human lifespan, or that you picked an assignment in a galaxy lightyears away from humanity to avoid coming to terms with your fear of commitment, or that if Sombrero WERE your husband you would still likely die alone due to his unfortunate early onset of canine diabetes. Instead you smile. It hurts your cheeks. "You're right. There's someone out there for everyone."
"That's the spirit! You know what... I think you deserve a VIP blob bounce."
A...what? You've been studying the Jimbonarians for twenty-five years and you have no idea what this is. Blob bounce, blob bounce, blob bounce. Nothing about those words inspire optimism. "No, that's... that's ok."
Your words are meaningless.
You are corralled backstage by the members of the bachelorette party as one of the dancers oozes seductively off stage. Your fight or flight response is going off like a klaxon, but it's too late. Twenty-five years too late. You should have stayed on Earth. You should have listened to your mother. You should have tried to make up with that guy who, in retrospect, could never have been as awful as becoming a patron of a Jimbonarian strip club.
The three Jimbonarians who led you astray into this den of extraterrestrial debauchery have long since left, leaving you alone with the stripper. Honestly, you're not even sure if stripper is the right term as Jimbonarians don't wear clothes, but--oh god. It's coming towards you, it's oozing onto you, IT HAS ENCAPSULATED YOUR LOWER HALF INTO ITS SOFT, GEL-LIKE FLESH. Seconds pass and nothing happens. You relax, you utter fool, and think to yourself that actually, this isn't so bad.
Then the top half of the stripper splits down the center, revealing flaps lined with barnacle-like ruptures. As the flaps clap together, oozing out an incandescent fluid that begins to harden and--oh, bounce, ah-hah, that's why it's called that--your last two brain cells rub out one final thought.
You got a PhD in order to do this.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, September 20th, 2019
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