In college, going to bars became like kissing. At first it was exciting, but then you wanted more. For a small window of time, it was exciting getting all decked out, straightening my hair, putting lotion on my legs, manicure, pedicure, black lace matching underwear. The bouncers knew me from doing the Amsterdam and Columbus Avenue strip. I knew the bars that would let me in without an ID, and I always ended my night by saying goodbye to the bouncers, calling them by their names. Bars became boring after a while, and not just for me but for all the girls. Men have sports. Men can go to bars and claim they’re there just to hang out with the guys, just to shoot pool, or play darts, or watch “The Game.” With women, it’s not the same; girls don’t really get together to talk at a bar. We do that over the phone constantly, or at the gym, or when we’re shopping, via emails and IMs. Bars are for getting attention from desirable men, having any kind of men buy us drinks, and for seeing the latest fashions. Women, after all, dress for other women. Not many men notice you’ve got on this season’s Manolo Blaniks and the gotta-have-it-Gucci …and the men that do notice are gay or in a relationship. So whenever a woman is in a relationship and her man says he’s going to a bar to hang with the guys, she usually doesn’t approve. Only because we women know why we go to bars…if the guys just want to catch up, why don’t they go out for dinner instead of going to the hottest new bar where there’s a line outside to get in?
When the bar scene became unbearable, my friends and I had a game we liked to play. Whoever could get away with telling the biggest, most outrageous, lie to a guy at the bar would win. Winner received one drink from each woman playing. Once I was a toilet paper sales person, specializing in selling both toilet paper and paper towels to schools. Another time, I chose the flowers and shrubbery for the island dividers on Park Avenue. I worked at the US Open, as a ball runner, worked at Madison Square Garden, mopping up Knicks sweat. Oh, and I helped deliver babies under water because it was so relaxing to the mother and much less traumatic for the baby. The girl can four-flush like you read about in books.
When we weren’t betting on the best liar, I was still busy practicing. Certain lies were like coffee and kissing, just something women did. Weight, for example, was always rounded down ten pounds, and height was always rounded up to the closest whole number. 5’5” was much better than 5’4½.” Age is trickier. When we’re young, we’re not just 8, we’re 8¾. We are very accurate. I always thought that only older women tried to conceal their ages. But when I was in college and meeting men who worked on Wall Street, I became 23. When a man found out I was only 19, he didn’t take me seriously. He crossed out my number.
McGee’s was not the kind of place I would ever choose to meet my friends. Bars with cokctail menus, bars with flavored vodkas, bars with velvet ropes and sofas. That was my choice back then (now I just stay home or go where there’s good food.) Guinness on tap, hockey on tv, and a chalk board outside announcing $2.00 pitchers. That’s McGee’s. The men who go to Irish pubs have goatees; they own sports jerseys and even wear them in public. They use toothpicks after a meal. They’ve all played football or hockey at some point in their lives, but now, they play softball. The bars I prefer attract professional men who wear Hermés ties, have their shirts made at Charvé, and who wear JM Weston shoes. Men who probably preferred soccer to football, basketball to hockey and who now golf on the weekends.
Hillary issured an e-mail inviting all her friends to her birthday bash at McGee’s. I think she chose the bar because it was next door to her apartment. Hillary is the laziest person I know. And that would be fine, except she ropes me in. She makes me wait for her when she’s being slow, asks me if I would mind getting her a glass of water when she’s closer to the kitchen and I’m not even standing.
I complain to Hillary that only jerks hit on me. To which she says, I must be secretly flattered by so much attention and to just shut up. This Hillary doesn’t get. I don’t bitch about the losers that hit on me to brag about the attention I get. I complain about the guys that think they’ve got it, the guys that end up whispering too loudly to their friends about how they just had their hand on my thigh, the guys who probably made up their own nick-name and told their friends to call them by it. Actually, it’s not flattering at all to be hit on by these men. The fact that they have nerve enough to approach me suggests that they think I’m in their league. They think I’m attainable. They think they might score. This is insulting. This is a mockery. This pretty much makes me feel more ugly than if no one approached me. If no one approaches me, at least I can go home thinking I was too beautiful that night, just flat out unattainable.
So, there I am sitting in the back of McGee’s, watching everyone who walks in make a bee line straight to the back of the bar, only to do a u-turn at the end. There’s nothing worth stopping for on your way into a bar. I don’t know why at parties they even bother to stand by the entrance with champagne because it never stops anyone from going straight toward the back of the room to check out the scene and order a drink to bide some time.
Mostly, when I’m at bars like this, I’m just bored. After saying hello to friends of friends and finding out how their jobs are going, complimenting them on their shoes or great belt, I end up sitting alone on a banquette, pecking at my vodka tonic wishing it were a Green Apple Cosmopolitan. When a guy approaches and asks me why I’m sitting all alone, I usually tell him that I’m tired and bored. That’s only after making sure he’s not holding a colored beverage. I all but ignore men who drink anything with more color than a dirty martini. If I like the look of him, and he’s holding something clear, I ask him to tell me a story.
“A story?” Furrowed brows, wrinkled eyes. This guy was definitely older.
“Yeah, why don’t you sit down and stay a while.” I say as I pat the green leather spot beside me. Rich outlines of his shoulders strain against the pink fabric of his monogrammed shirt. This guy was not a weekend softball player.
“What kind of story are you in the mood for? I aim to please.” His honey-wheat hair glows blue from the fluorescent light hovering above our table.
“Well as long as you’re taking requests, why don’t you tell me what has been the highlight of your day today?” I cross my legs and lean toward him.
“Well before I do that, I insist on replenishing your drink. What can I get for you?” The expression of his eyes is hidden under the glare of his funky frames.
“Trying to bide yourself some time? Okay, I see. Fine, I’d like a seltzer with lemon.”
“On the rocks?” He says with a thin smile as he steps backwards on his way over to the bar.
After he orders with the female bartender, who incidentally really shouldn’t be wearing that tank until she tones up that Hadassah Wave flab, he starts speaking with three other guys. With his back to me, he tucks in the back of his shirt deeper into his slacks. One of the other guys is pretty cute, but young looking. Young, like you want to take home and shock young, young like you want to play teacher/student with. If I get to know Mister-Monogram better, I will introduce his friend, Mister-I’ve-been-bad-and-need-to-be-punished, to Hillary. Then Hillary’s future boyfriend and the other two guys he’s with turn to look over at me. Good. He’s talking about me. I look down at my nearly empty glass, lift an ice cube out of it with the tip of my slim red straw and pull the cube into my mouth with my tongue.
“What I wouldn’t give to be that straw.” He is back. “For the lady.” He offers me my drink.
“Well thank you.”
“Now where were we?”
“I believe you’ve left me here waiting. And I have to say, that’s not a good start.”
“Ah yes, the highlight of my day. Well, without a doubt, the highlight of my day was shooting a 74.”
“You mean to tell me you bought yourself some time to think up that one? Walked all the way over to that bar, and that’s the best you could do? And you were doing so well.” I say shaking my head and patting his knee. “Don’t you know that meeting me has been the highlight of your day? Did your mother teach you nothing? And to think that I was even considering taking you home with me tonight.” I wink and give him that look, the look I feel myself making when I feel my eyes narrowing, when I drink too much and feel like a seex goddess.
I suddenly have to pee and ask him if he’ll save my seat, that I need to use the ladies room.
“Well, I gotta say, I hate to see you go. But, I love to watch you leave.” Look at that wry smile. He is a fox.
The line at the ladies room is obscene. I stand on it for maybe a minute before I just can’t hold it anymore. I knock on the men’s bathroom door. As no one answers, I swing the door open, to find some guy facing a urinal.
“Oh, don’t put that away on my account. Just relieving myself. Imagine if you had to hold it ‘til you got to the front of that line.” I pee like a man…almost standing but facing away from the bowl. I don’t bother with applying more lipstick, or even trying to fix the hair. I am too drunk; my eyes just don’t look right. I suck in my stomach and exit the men’s bathroom.
I return to what has become my spot in the bar to find a leggy brunette in my seat talking with too-good-to-be-true-pink-shirt-guy. This is a tough one. She could be his friend, listening to how psyched he is that he just met such a cool girl. She could be his annoying coworker that he can’t be rude to. She could be a woman he solicited, a woman he invited to sit beside him with the pat of his hand.
I decide to see how Hillary is holding up, walking past pink-shirt-guy’s eye line.
“Is that guy over there in the pink looking over here?” I ask as I take her glass away from her.
“Ah, I’ll check in a second. Why, should he be?”
“If he knows what’s good for him. This tastes like ass. What is it?”
“Dewar’s and soda with a twist.” Who drinks Dewar’s? I mean really.
“He’s standing, talking to a women and two other guys.”
Hillary is a good friend. She understands some things. Like to look over at Mister-I-shot-a-74 in a subtle fashion.
“Do you have a cigarette?” Whenever Hillary drinks, she has to smoke. Somehow she never remembers that I never smoke, never have smoked, can’t stand smoke. But then I realize she’s not asking me. She’s asking my Mister-Matsuda-glasses-man. He wasn’t wasting any time.
“Hey, so I never got your name.”
“This is Hillary. I’m Stephanie.”
“Well, Stephanie, and Hillary, I’m Roger. And it was nice almost getting to know you, but I’m afraid my bed-time has come.”
“Early tee-off time, huh?” He is even cuter in this light.
“I was wondering if you would like to get together for dinner sometime.” Sometime meant that he was going to wait a week to call.
“Well, no I don’t do dinner for a first date.”
“Well good because I wasn’t talking to you.”
I turn to look at Hillary, but she had already walked away. “Very amusing. I see someone took his funny pill today.” Then Mister-dimples put his hand to my chin, shook my head slightly and said, “Stephanie, it has been a pleasure. You really are a cutie. Now give me your number so I can call you up and invite you out properly.”
Roger never called.
(And incase you’re a google fanatic, I’ve changed the real names to protect the innocent, and myself.)