SEX & HEALTH: SEX IN THE CITY
The Dating Experiments - Sitting Solo at a Bar
I order a beer and, not knowing where else to look, stare straight ahead at the back wall. The bartender, a cute brunette with tattoos on his forearms, glances at the empty seat beside me as he sets my drink down. “Waiting for someone?” he asks.
I wish. On the advice of a few women’s magazines and one well known “love guru”, I’ve come to this bar solo. It’s supposedly a great way to meet guys. Why? It’s simple, really: booze = instant confidence. An unaccompanied female = less intimidating target – there’s no one ready to swoop in and save her, no audience of her friends for a possible failed come-on. You put those two together and you’ve got all the makings for a great love connection.
“No,” I answer, sliding my payment across the bar. “Just me.” I speak confidently, with a friendly smile, but the truth is I’m ready to leap off my barstool and run to the bathroom – or my car, whichever is closest.
I feel self-conscious and unsure of myself. I also feel like a social outcast for being alone in an environment that’s all about human connection. Already the bar is filling up with groups of friends and happy couples.
Taking myself out to a bar is proving to be much more difficult. There’s no item to keep me occupied (unless I play with my cocktail napkin) and no task I can hide behind (unless I play the How Long Can I Stare At My Beer Without Blinking game). I feel self-conscious and unsure of myself. I also feel like a social outcast for being alone in an environment that’s all about human connection. Already the bar is filling up with groups of friends and happy couples.
As if he hadn’t heard me correctly – or perhaps is expecting me to say, “Just kidding! My friends are on their way” – the bartender pauses and looks directly into my face. He waits. For a second I hope he’ll hit on me or at least say something reassuring, something like, “That’s okay. Nothing wrong with that” or “Cool. Have a good time.”
Instead, when it becomes clear that I have nothing more to say, he gives me the look I’ve been dreading: pity. He picks up my money, and with the sort of overly sweet voice the characters of Sesame Street or Barney use when talking to kids who don’t have friends (or have lost a pet or are facing some other pathetically sad situation), he says, “I’ll be right back with your change.”
My eyeballs are just starting to burn when I become aware that the small group of girls standing nearby is talking about me.
As if to prove my point, my friend Rob calls while the bartender is still away. “Just wanted to say hi,” he says. “I’m pretty bored. I’m at the video store right now and – crap, I can’t find my wallet. I’ve got to let you go, okay?”
Briefly, I wonder how pathetic it would be if I ask him to stay on the line. “See, there’s this bartender who doesn’t think I have any friends,” I could explain. “Could you please talk to me until he comes back so that he’ll stop thinking I’m a pathetic loser? I’ll pretend you said something funny, and when he sees me laughing he’ll have to assume this isn’t a business call or a conversation with my mother because I never laugh during those.”
“I said I have to go,” Rob repeats. “Liz, are you there?”
“What? Yeah. Sure,” I say. We hang up just as the bartender returns.
As he hands over my receipt, I avoid making eye contact by glancing down at my beer glass. It’s supposed to be a brief look, but pretty soon I am staring at it full on. My eyeballs are just starting to burn when I become aware that the small group of girls standing nearby is talking about me.
“I want to sit down,” one whines.
“Take that seat,” her friend tells her, pointing to the empty barstool beside me.
“I can’t,” the first one says. “That girl’s probably saving it.”
For a moment, I am pleased: someone thinks I have company!
“No, it’s not,” her friend announces in loud voice. “SHE’S ALONE. Didn’t you hear her say that earlier?”
The girls in her group, plus a few others, turn to look at me.
Game over. I take one last chug of beer, stand, and slink out of the bar in shame.
Liz is a southern California-based writer of East Asian ancestry. She loves travel, politics, and incredibly unhealthy desserts. When not front of her computer, she can usually be found chatting someone's ear off. Get ready for Liz to share her dating experiments.
May 30, 2010 @ 12:34 pm nabinbuzz (not verified) said:
I have been dating in a bar many times. This is a new and different story for me. I enjoy reading this.