In Ballard is an institution that’s often overlooked with the opening of so many new restaurants in the area. As, perhaps, it wants to be. Almost oblivious to the recent development all around it, Mike’s Chili Parlor is a classic hole-in-the-wall with regulars who know each other’s names. But don’t worry about being a stranger. If Guy Fieri can crash the place, you can, too. (If you’re wondering which “D” Mike’s is, think dive bar.)
Mike’s has been in business since 1922, serving up a “family secret” chili recipe. Belly up to the bar for a bowl of chili and a beer. Enjoy your side of oyster crackers. It’s basic chili, slightly sweet and slightly greasy.
Per the menu board, you’ll see you can get a cup ($3.75), bowl, or “big ass bowl.” You can also get your chili on a dog, burger, steak, spaghetti, or fries. For a little extra, doctor up your chili with cheese, onions, jalapenos, or (first curiosity) tartar sauce. On the right side of the board, you’ll see that you can get your burger, hot dog, or fries chili-less. Or, second curiosity, a grilled cheese sandwich for $54.50.
The final curiosity: You can order abuse.
So what does Mike’s Chili Parlor’s menu teach us about sex?
It’s all about the price of abuse.
The menu shows abuse as free. I asked my server about this, and we shared a laugh when I wondered whether it was about giving or getting abuse. She smiled and said it could go either way, since it’s free.
In reality, though, we all pay the price for abuse in our society.
Some surveys suggest that up to one in three females and one in four males are subject to sexual abuse in their lifetimes. In my work as a sex educator on the college lecture circuit, I know that there’s high incidence of sexual assault on campuses, and that these numbers don’t include the many assaults that are unreported.
The cost of sexual assault is high, including medical (evidentiary exams, pregnancies, and STIs), criminal (prosecution costs), and mental (mental health costs). I read that the cost of sexual violence in Minnesota alone was $8 billion during one recent year, which amounts to $1,540 per resident. There are also costs that are hard to quantify, such as emotional and physical pain, substance use, and even attempted suicide.
And regarding childhood sexual abuse, one of the biggest costs is the cycle of abuse it creates.
This is why my mission is to encourage people to communicate more openly about sex. This includes asking before giving someone a kiss or a hug. Not asking can stir up issues related to prior abuse.
Fortunately, the fine folks at Mike’s Chili Parlor are friendly, not abusive. And the chili, while nothing extravagant, is like a comforting hug.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on October 20, 2011.