“What’s the difference between a bartender and a whore?”
Apparently not much.
Lets talk about decency, and the lack thereof, one deals with in the hospitality industry. I was looking back at my writing this past year, and one episode stood out that missed publishing. The audacious depths of depravity involved in that night still set my nerves on end. This is the story of why I left the restaurant business.
I was working at the Pub that night, and had a rowdy group of 40 something’s. From the off, we had a stellar repertoire; very playful and assertive. I liked it. I had the women flirting and complimenting me and the men puffing up all flattering and grandiose. But towards the end, one of those charmers didn’t just cross a line– he charged it. He stormed the goddamn castle, sowing salt behind him.
After a night of excellent service for well over four hours and particular attention to my many attributes– both physical and intellectual– I was finally being cut (translation: let off work for the night) and cashing everyone out. While working on that, the big, belligerent bull of a lug went for the gold.
“So what’s the difference between a whore and a bartender?” he drunk-whispered as he leaned over me, more than invading my personal space.
Thinking he was starting a tasteless joke, I half laughed while spacing myself back to a polite distance. “I don’t know, what?”
“No, seriously, where is the line drawn? Because I want you to make out with this guy behind us. I wanna fuck his sister, but he’s looking all pathetic and needs a girl. She won’t do anything until he’s good. So you hook up with him and I get his sister.”
You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me. The aforementioned Sad Man was indeed looking like a half-drowned puppy swaying on a bar stool. His sister, well past drunk, was my biggest fan in the bunch. While I had a growing suspicion through our time together of an impending threesome proposition– which I typically find flattering or hilarious– this was unexpected.
“That’s not going to happen; here’s your check.” That didn’t satisfy him.
“No seriously, he’s not bad looking. If you’re a little drunk and like nice guys.” His suggestive leer did nothing to improve the ice running through my veins as his determination to disregard personal space actually cornered me.
“I’m sober, and have a boyfriend. No, thank you. Here’s your check.” He really can’t push this any further; there’s no way I’ll have to decline more than twice, right?
It gets better.
“I don’t fucking care about you having a boyfriend or any of that, just do it. He won’t know. I really need to get with this guy’s sister. You’re my last shot,” the Lug said, dangerously unaware of the precarious situation in which he’d placed himself.
I silently handed him his bill, doled out the rest of the checks, and walked to the safety of the kitchen. Quickly. Before the explosive, homicidal rage overcame my desire to evade prison.
I’ve had nights involving sexual harassment many-a-time before; it comes with the territory, as a woman in service. But I generally squash those attempts and shame the perpetrators. Tonight was different: he hadn’t paid me yet. I had rendered services–apparently extensive services, given recent absurdities– and I deserved my pay.
Hold the phone.
How was I any different from a prostitute now? We both perform requested actions and are paid wages on a discretionary, performance-based scale. Now that I think of it, don’t they have a set, pimp-enforced price, rather than hoping to be paid what they deserved? So, in a way–and take this with a biting grain of salt–they are theoretically better-off. (Ok, that’s a thought that is going to fester.)
Well, I hadn’t received my due yet. So I punched a sack of potatoes in the walk-in fridge (to my immediate regret), and steeled myself for round two. I shamefully laughed it off, navigating the group until I got the receipts back. What’s the saying, fool me once? Yep, shame on me.
He tipped me under 10%. In this line of work, in this country, and considering my practiced expertise, this is wholly unacceptable. Especially considering the time I put into them and the horrible trash he’d dragged me through.
The sole redeeming moment: the evident look on my face upon reading his receipt did not go unnoticed. His buddy came over to ask if I had been appropriately taken care of. Out of sheer exhaustion and dejection, I shook my head and squeaked out a quiet, “Well, not exactly, no.”
He took the slips back and asked for my help doing math; the woman supposedly won over by the Lug joined in. Look– I’m no walking calculator myself, so when drunks request assistance in paying me properly, I’ll always be more than happy to help. He said the one sister meant to put 20%, and bumped his own check to 30%. Between the whole lot of them, I think I ended up walking with over $150, for a total of $350 for the night.
I can put up with a ridiculous mountain of shenanigans from customers (and coworkers), but I refuse to provide my industry prowess in an atmosphere where I don’t feel safe. The managers and doormen were appalled that I hadn’t immediately grabbed them, to their credit. And while I might have done so in the past, I had reached a point in life where I won’t work somewhere that allows room for this to slip by unawares. Most other women working there were shocked; they said they had never experienced anything remotely close. However, one of my favorite coworkers was the only one to speak up that she wasn’t surprised, and had been in the same boat many times over the years.
Even so, that was the night that broke this camel’s back; I put in my notice a week later. If I make $350 in one night and am still showing up at home in tears, I’m calling it. As much as I miss making rent in one weekend, the emotional damage really isn’t worth it. I left the industry in favor of committing to a real-world professional (read: office) career move. If I’m going to “whore” myself out– because let’s be honest, a lot of jobs feel like that sometimes– it’s going to meet my standards.
I’m going to be a happy whore.
In a jam for money this fall, I tried rejoining the serving masses at a well-known tapas spot in the U Street area. The hiring manager had boasted two visits from Michelle Obama in as many months, so I looked forward to finally bragging about rubbing elbows with the upper crust to Big Bro up in Philly, where he routinely serves the fabulous and famous. I didn’t have to wait long.
On my third day of training (already convinced I’d made a great mistake, and was planning a graceful exit), the hostess informed my trainer and I that a VIP was assigned to our section for dinner. She didn’t know who it was, but told me “Valerie something” when I asked after the reservation.
“You mean Valerie Jarrett?” She nodded, looking no more enlightened. Everyone else is still oblivious. “Valerie Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to the President.” Still nothing. “She’s Obama’s best friend.” A few faces lit up. I instead talked to a manager, who absolutely knew the name.
When a Secret Service agent showed to post up at a table nearby, I kept thinking about how advisors don’t typically go about with escorts. Two young black girls arrived at the table first, but I assumed one was her daughter. It still could just be her. Then my trainer bolted over to me across a packed dining room.
“Please don’t freak out. I know you’re new, and I don’t know if you can keep your cool or not. But Sasha and Malia just sat at our table. Get bread and water and please, please do not embarrass me.”
For a group who didn’t know Valerie Jarrett’s name, they sure make a fuss over the First Daughters. I had to subtly shoo away multiple coworkers who stopped and gaped at the table. One server even nudged me while I was refilling a water glass and not-so-quietly whispered, “Are those the Obama girls?” My face was not pleased. Jarrett did indeed accompany the girls, along with some school friends. My only moment of nervousness was when the girls thought about ordering another soda from me along with their churros, which put me on edge.
I’m sorry, girls, but I wouldn’t want to face your mother’s disapproval. I sort of worship her. You understand.
The Confessions of Millennial Tribute in the Capital
Let me give you a scenario.
You’re trying to take your love life seriously, and being set up by your friends just isn’t cutting it. First, you go to networking events to meet someone; it’s met with equal failure. So you suck it up, brush off your writing skills, and make an online dating account. (No, not my way of saying I’m single again– bear with me on this.)
At first, you feel like a cliché; one “unique and wonderful person!” among millions. Then you continue to tinker with your descriptions, fine-tuning it to ring perfectly true to who you are and how you want to be perceived. Yes, this includes those little embellishments to experiences and attributes– don’t judge us, world, it’s human nature.
Suddenly, your dating profile becomes an extension of your identity. Each date becomes an initial validation of your entire being. The more you date, the more you tweak small phrases or camera angles. Each time a second date isn’t forthcoming, your self-critique grows harsher.
Sometimes, in a pit of despair, you even scrap the whole lot and start from scratch. A fresh beginning feels invigorating, you tell yourself, but a small part of you wonders about what genuine detail has been left behind this time.
Some versions are full of purpose and inspiration, all raw desire and emotion. “I’m passionate, driven, and unique, looking for something real and a relationship I can grow in.” It’s who you are and what you want—so why do the dates you’ve gone on, which you assume have pre-screened your background and interest level, not moved forward?
You consequently adjust expectations and add: “Doesn’t have to be forever, just something quasi-substantial and fits for right now.” You go on another few first dates, and possibly snag a repeat-engagement. But you both know it’s temporary, and the band-aid dates only provide the minimal level of shallow comfort you need to survive. You might lie to yourself that it’s a worthwhile price for independence, but eventually the fake smiles and stress of uncertainty wears you down. You don’t bother to put much effort into your appearance or performance anymore. Neither of you complain, because let’s be honest—neither of you stopped looking at other fish in the sea in the first place.
Other profile incarnations are reduced to bare facts and cold realities. “This is who I am, what I want, and I’m not fucking around anymore. I have a lot to offer to the right opportunity. Serious inquiries only; I’m tired of assholes and have the track record to prove it.” This usually emerges after a period of life that jerks you around, yet somehow transcends desperation. It ironically sets you apart from your competition, and can occasionally yield positive results.
Then there’s always the option, “I’ll take anything, my standards have withered away to dust and left nothing to compare against. I want to not be on my own anymore. No joke; anyone can have me.” Survival mode is a bitter pill to swallow, but I won’t judge you. Abject dejection has a sad sort of honesty to it that I have to respect.
Before I violently beat this metaphor to death, let me give you another scenario: you’re job hunting in our nation’s capital. You moved here after college, bright-eyed and ready to intern maybe 6 months before you get your first admin. assistant position. You go through two or three internships (6 months-1 year), unpaid, while working full-time nights and weekends at a restaurant. (Let’s assume you’re like me, and there is no family money to skate by on. Bills gotta be paid, yo.)
You have bad luck, and the first round of staffing agency attempts land you with young recruiters who drop your ball. So you give up for a bit. Restaurant money is way easier anyway, and you’re tired of being broke. You spend a few months enjoying the successful income and job satisfaction, half-heartedly send your resume out in spurts, but mostly try to get by without it. Plus, you’re in your early 20’s, and working in bars is fun.
A year or so pass this way; time flies when you’re goofing off. After a while, your discarded diploma pushes itself back into your mind and demands life. Time to resurrect that horse! The little “if you know anyone looking, my company is hiring” emails that your friends forward just don’t cut it anymore, and networking events are the purest form of debasement and an almost entirely worthless exercise. (It does toughen the skin, which serves you well in the future.)
You’re trying to take your future seriously, and the search for career opportunities has yet again thoroughly exhausted and rejected you. Nonetheless, you dig back down into your “Jobs Please?” folder and dust the depression off those resumes. Polish them up nice and shiny. Come up with [what you think are] new ways to say “educated, entry-level, eager, DEARGODHIREME, skilled”. You research how cover letters and CVs are formatted these days, what content to include, which are the sought-after catch phrases. You spruce up that LinkedIn account with a photo in well-pressed Interview Clothes and update your connections.
You go through nearly identical phases of your profile/cover letter as detailed a few paragraphs back, to similar effect. (Read: none.)
One-time engagements provide the negligible paycheck you need to survive, but you still feel like your life is starving. You even land an “indefinite” assignment (which means they’re supposed to give you notice when it will end), only to get dropped at 4:55pm on a Friday after three weeks of hard work for a rather difficult individual. It feels worse than the time a guy broke up with you via text; at least he wasn’t your sole source of income.
Bills start to change color for the first time in your life; you never thought, learning about our economic recession and the poverty line in college, that you’d see red delinquency notices. That your rent checks would bounce. That you would apply for one deferment after another forbearance on your student loans. That you’d have to pay your phone bill with cash just to keep the line going, suffering a constant fear of missing “The One” call from recruiters. It never occurred to you, studying economic development programs and applying for jobs at their corresponding institutions, that you would one day qualify for Welfare.
Cold weather means my garden– which supplied the only produce I’ve really managed this summer– has come to an end. My grocery list is no longer the greens, fresh fish, and healthy choices I prefer; I now live off of canned tuna, frozen vegetables, and cheap pasta. Purchasing salad items is a rarity. I’ve had friends and roommates offer to buy the food if I craft a meal– a great deal for both of us, since I’m a great cook and they can afford normal food. The first few times someone offered, it was just fun. Now, I realize that those are the few times I eat well these days. It’s the Hunger Games now, DC.
The weight I gained struggling last winter, which I had started losing over the summer, has come back to stay. To rub salt in that wound, this means the selection from my professional wardrobe that fits has been slimmed down (ha! get it?) to very few items, and I can’t afford new pencils skirts or dress pants. So I have taken my clothes to resale shops and eBay to buy the necessities I can’t afford. I’ve gone through my group house basement to sell anything in working order that’s been left behind, and have now made at least $250; thanks, Craigslist. With holidays coming, I’m prepping an extensive Etsy account with the products of various artistic skills.
The past six months, I have had to make medical decisions based on finances, rather than healthy necessity. I have forgone my Adderall some months, which genuinely impacts my ability to concentrate on professional tasks. Recently, I’ve even opted out of serious tests on concerning issues, for fear of the hundreds of dollars of medical bills I’m already going delinquent on. I am literally choosing between prescribed medication and health care, and affording my food and shelter.
It also means not seeing friends as often. I have a social life entirely dependent on service industry connections. I go out to bars where friends work, and usually pay for probably one PBR or whiskey-ginger out of every five I drink. My “tabs” over the weekend amount to maybe $20, when I easily consume over $100. (This also usually replaces that day’s spending for food.) But with the options in this city–and we all know I love them– my friends don’t want to go to the same handful of bars every night out. I usually lie and say I’m home with a cold, trying to save money for a trip home, or something pride-saving of the like. So I stay in, and watch my social circle dwindle.
This is where the decision to leave the hospitality industry in order to chase down my start to an actual career has taken me. I am young, [still] well-dressed, and professional. I have a marketable degree from a well-reputed university, and an extensive resume of experience. I am a progressive, skilled, and driven woman. These are all attributes a city like DC claims to desire in an applicant. I have earned and deserve my place in this society.
And yet, this has been the legitimate, brutal price for me. I in no way mean that this will happen to everyone committing to their future; to be honest, a majority of this city isn’t capable of the stunts I’ve pulled. Not everyone even enters the true Capital Games; there are those who luck out or rightfully earn a place in the professional workforce. But over the years, I’ve met countless just like me: some flamed out after an epic internship, and others eked meekly by. They all end the same: as competition killed off by the game. They weren’t survivors.
This is what it has come to, for this Washington Tribute. I have sold, repurposed, and bartered my skills to manage survival in the Capital. I graduated into the end of a recession and moved to a dog-eat-dog city that went rabid; we’re all hungry here. At first, I tried to wait it out in the safety of my restaurants– but we all know what happens to those who play it safe. They don’t make it.
So it’s time to sharpen my weapons and go hunting. I suggest those in the Game, both untried and battle-hardened, take heed and evaluate the sacrifices you are willing to forsake.
I would say “may the odds be ever in your favor”, but there is no room for sentiment in this arena.
What a question!
Oh buddy, am I in trouble.
It has now been six months since I last wrote [refresher: Luck of the Irish]– eep! Yes, I’m still alive, kicking ass, and taking names [i.e. job applications]. Sorry about that. I could blame work, friends, job hunting, or Martian invasions, but we all know the reason: a boy. [Man?] Isn’t that always the reason! But I had half-finished this article, and it stays true. So let’s jump back to the end of the summer, and roughly two months into our relationship.
Two months: my most common expiration date. I’ve only ever dated someone for longer once before, my only titled ‘boyfriend’. But just that week, my Mick was goofing with my hand, gave me a look, and told me my claddagh was facing the wrong way.
Side note: the claddagh, commonly called the Irish Love ring, is our symbol for true love. I prefer not to call it the Wedding ring, because my grandma told me all good Irish girls wear one; I have since age 16. It is fashioned of a pure heart clasped in the hands of friendship and crowned with loyalty. There are four ways to wear the ring, each with its own meaning. On your right hand, the heart facing out [so others can see the shape properly] tells others you are unattached; facing in means your heart is taken in a committed relationship. The left hand out says engaged, and in is married. Only supposed to be worn on the ring finger. [Duh.] The choice of metal and stone used mean anything from sterling strength, heart of gold, or diamond in the rough. Personally, I go for silver with a heart of green. The color of passion, strength, and Ireland. A perfect claddagh.
Which is now turned in. I’d said it only turns for monogamous relationships, and I’m clearly dating a dozen other guys. Right? [Circle: false.] I later turned it in, quietly beaming. Last night, he noticed again, “It looks like a much better fit this way.”
So that’s that. A subtle answer from a simple man.
When I say ‘simple’, it is meant as the most genuine admiration possible. It is difficult to finish this description of Mick from that earlier perspective, with six months more experience now. But I’ll tell you, I was absolutely starred. He is the kind of strong, good person you don’t meet often. He is a five-year Army veteran of both wars, medically discharged and half-homesick for his military life. We initially met only six months after he got out, he was still adjusting to civilian life when he started working at my Bar. He deserves a medal for being the first coworker I’ve dated; should I have said for ‘War Hero’? Well, the valiant effort succeeded. Mission Accomplished.
The effort was mine. True to form, I do believe I seduced him. He was new, an unusual novelty. Tall, broad, attractive in that solid Irish way. A real man. Maybe a bit withdrawn, a little quiet. I don’t hear it often anymore, but when he did speak up, it was with a slight lisp. Being me, I’d call him out in the kitchen for his silence. Finally, he joked that he was quiet to start, but won’t shut up once he gets going. Nearly a year later, I can vouch for that.
So I always had this running Hangman game with the sous chef during slow times at the Bar. It helped keep me from sticking my hand in boiling oil out of boredom. Trying to be inclusive, I pulled Mick into the game, only to find out he is seriously dyslexic. I haven’t figured out if the lisp is from the dyslexia, his severe war injuries, or a combination of all three. All I know is that from a cute, withdrawn veteran… it was rather endearing. So I’d invite him out with the Teambuilders to find trouble. Sometimes it worked; it was hard for him, living out in the boonies without a car. Then one night, I offered the couch instead of his trek home.
I have never been so caught up in a whirlwind. Though we kept it professional at work, all I wanted to do was grab him. After a month, everyone knew. After two, we were exclusive. He called me his best friend, the best thing to hear from your boyfriend. After three, we met the families. A bit early for the judgment, but still another first for me. The first night I met one of his best friends, he told me he had never seen Mick like this. The teasing over him loving me was received with mixed emotions, and made me blush to my Irish roots. After that, we essentially lived together. He bought me a new claddagh for Christmas.
Word-for-word what I wrote six months ago:
“So in the weirdest progression possible, I’m pretty sure I’m falling in love with him. Which is terrifying. I’ve never said that about anyone before. And definitely haven’t said it to anyone. He’s so uninhibited and honest, it makes me shy sometimes. But I’m working on the nerve to say it first. I think. Oh, lordy.”
Though it was rough, I did say it first. And it scared him. A little [lot] tipsy [drunk], it sort of slipped out. He said to not say that word; everything goes to shit after it happens. I was in shock; it was jumping off a cliff and not knowing if I’d be caught when the fall ended. I had never said ‘I love you’ to anyone before. I told him so. It was important for me to say it, even if he couldn’t. I only speak what I mean, so I couldn’t fault him for not saying something he didn’t feel.
The first time he did, a week later, drunk and still scared, I almost cried.
So here I am, ten months later, and I love him. In the immortal words of one of my favorite artists, in my absolute favorite song…. he’s got a hold on me.
The few times in my life someone has mistakenly quoted the ‘when you least expect it’ cliche, it has typically ended in heart-arresting glares or a smack upside the head. [If you say something stupid, I will punish you.]
Unfortunately, this spring had a twisted sense of humor for many in the District. The past few months saw friends falling in love with friends, roommates fooling around, coworkers getting complicated [officially called the Taboo Trifecta, f.y.i.]– it’s the Capital of Confusion around here. And I’m no exception.
Here’s the deal about the whole ‘Luck of the Irish’ bit: it’s ironic, in the true sense of the word. Much like the “blood vs. water” debate from awhile back, it is an abused saying. It actually refers to bad luck. [Like the fact that I need to replace a dying laptop, right in time to take money away from my Birthday Fun Fund!] Fact: nothing good happens to the Irish– and if it does, we didn’t deserve it. Or it’s some twisted version where the good and bad distort into something that only the Irish would consider luck. Example: when I was 20 and a senior in college, I was beaten pretty badly in a gang fight. Long story short, Big Bro, my boyfriend at the time, and I were jumped by 15+ kids on the street in front of my off-campus house. It was legally determined a riot. I ended in the gutter nearly curb-stomped. It was horrific, but we survived; I credit this more to my brother and ex than anything.
When I finally took a shaky trip back to the house a few days later, I found a four-leaf clover. It was in the exact spot my brother tackled off of me the three guys about to kick my face into the curb and likely kill me. Now, that four-leaf clover rides in my wallet everywhere I go. Some people would say good luck would have been never being in the riot in the first place… but the way I was raised, it was a fair bit of good luck to have survived. And to have big, protective Irish guys around. [Note: four-leaf clovers are not called shamrocks. Shamrocks have three leaves, for the Holy Trinity, and represent Ireland; four-leaf clovers are rare, and considered good luck; five-leaf clovers are witchcraft and considered a sign you’re going to hell. So get it straight and stop calling 4-leaves shamrocks, or the devil will take you.]
Mid-March, this melting pot nation loves to paint itself green for a day to reap the benefits of what they think is the luck of the Irish. You want my emerald-tinted birthright on March 17th? At least know the mess you’re getting into. I told you I punish stupidity: your post-St-Paddy’s- hangover is payment for claiming my background, when you genetically cannot handle it. I bleed whiskey, so stick with your tonic and gin. My sadistic hope is that anyone claiming a heritage not their own– especially when it is rightfully mine– will next be met with a seriously unfortunate series of events. Because THAT is the true luck of the Irish.
Another factor of Irish luck is when you finally DO get something good, it’s when you don’t look for/want it. Much like the “when you least expect it” bullshit, only a serious pain in my ungrateful ass. Enter: my role in this bizarre Capital of Confusion. My typical DC life has followed a consistent pattern. I date, I experience, I write. Sometimes, I want more. But it’s summertime! Summer is for adventuring and new people! So it figures that, of all moments, this is the time only one person has managed to capture my attention. [And with my Relationship Attention Deficit Disorder, that’s no mean feat. Maybe he’s my RADD-erall?] And it definitely bites into my writing/ painting/ creative activity time.
Everything about it is unexpected. The timing, the meeting– him. Just as I’m gearing up for summer in the city, my favorite time to date. And one of the Taboo Trifecta, to boot! [Taboo Trifecta: friends, roommates, coworkers.] When it first started, I assumed it was a one-time thing, much like the majority of my liaisons. But then it happened the next night. Sparks took fire. And four times over the next week. And then five days in a row.
Now, it’s well over a month later. This fascinating Irish boy quickly blew right through my Two-Week-Expiration-Date deadline. [I have mentioned my dating style has the attention span of a goldfish, yes?] People learned of it the first few weeks, and we’ve met each other’s friends. I hadn’t even realized it until we were at the bar with another coworker talking about dating/sex/et al. I mentioned that I typically get bored with guys after two weeks, and Smartass Coworker chimed in, “Hey, hasn’t it been over three for you guys?”
Realization, meet Dawn.
So I wasn’t looking for a relationship. I wasn’t even looking for a date at that point. I just wanted to go out and have fun with friends for awhile, since I’d been working so hard at the Bar [and still am, to explain the long gaps in posts]. But does my leprechaun godmother give a shit about what I want? NO. She knows what’s good for me, my thoughts be damned.
Which is why my claddagh is turned in. Because, want it or not, this Mick has stubbornly stolen my heart.
There’s something uniquely reassuring in the comfort of Sex With Friends [trademark pending?].
There is a different sort of intimacy that comes out of camaraderie. You know each other in ways distinct from someone you’re dating or romantically interested in. There is less rose-tinted idealizing. I might admire a friend, but I don’t put them on a pedestal. So in a way, it’s a much more honest relationship. And with that honesty comes a clarity of experience that is exclusive to Sex With Friends.
But maybe it’s just me.
Reactions to the topic have been stupid funny. Even if inexperienced in platonic explorations of sex, everyone has an opinion. [It’s one of the few things you can knock without trying, if it’s to admit that you wouldn’t be able to handle it. But please hold the judgement of others.] One friend says it would make her feel too self-concious around them after. No matter how solid the friendship, going out with the group later would be a new level of uncomfortable. Her mind wouldn’t be able to get past the “I’ve seen you naked, and you did things to me.”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely happened to me. [And my mind never stops thinking about it, giggling in some dark corner of itself.] I have had more than my share of awkward social gatherings. I would hook-up with a friend and have to pretend like nothing had happened the next day. Blushes occur, and eye contact may weigh loaded and infrequent. The thing about Sex With Friends is that it isn’t dating. You’re just friends. And friends accept each new experience as they come.
It’s up to each pair whether they’re open to others knowing about their bedroom [out-of-bedroom?] activities, or not. Everyone’s unique. I’ve had deals where one group of friends were rather incestuous and no one minded. It was a specific situation in our grouplife, and we were all aware of what was happening. Then there have been times when a friend and I would hang out normally, and more-than-friendly things happened. As far as the world was concerned, we just watched TV like we did every Thursday; only we knew. Some friends don’t care if others know, and some want others to mind their own fucking business.
College sees the worst sides of Sex With Friends. Adina puts it well: “It’s fun, but it’s dangerous.” Our Hook-Up Generation has a particularly terrible aspect: it conditions us to treat sex with an overly casual attitude. It can range from simply dismissive to surprisingly disrespectful, and young adults can be too underdeveloped to handle the fallout. I personally reached a point where thoughtless gossip and crass attitudes became too much, and pulled back from it all. It was emotionally damaging, because the snide comments and judgemental jokes didn’t come from random strangers or social enemies– they were spoken by friends. And during such a fragile developmental period of life as college, when you’re still learning what life is and how to deal with it, these incidents can be particularly harmful.
Such circumstances arise when people treat Sex With Friends without sensitivity. Just because the relationship lacks romance, doesn’t mean it lacks emotion. Sex is a profoundly intimate act, and should be treated with respect. You are engaging in one of life’s most penetrating experiences; anyone claiming to have sex without emotion is dead inside. [Seriously: a sociopath or zombie, but needing therapy either way.] Even if the emotion is as light-hearted as dopamine-fueled happiness or oxytocin-powered trust– the reactions are there and biologically proven. So I hold issue with people who say friends-with-benefits means sex without emotion. If it’s without emotion, it’s just fuck buddies. [See full definitions here.] Sex With Friends definitely has emotion– they’re just not romantic ones. They’re platonic, they’re sexual, they’re genuine affection. I can appreciate a friend’s sexuality, attractiveness, and fun without being starry-eyed. And I can definitely appreciate that special trick they do without wanting to be their girlfriend.
“It’s a good idea, until it’s not.”
Then there is the situation where one of the two grow more than platonic feelings, and everything goes to shit. Someone forgets that it isn’t dating. They start to take the little compliments as an intent to woo, when it’s really just a friend telling you your eyes are pretty, or they like how you do that one thing with your mouth. Suddenly the little moments become charged, and eggshells are required for walking. I recommend cutting it off immediately. Talking is necessary to make sure the air is cleared between the two of you, or you’ll never return to the friendship you had before. Note: the friendship will never be like before. Be real, you’ve done dirty things together. But it can go back to something good, if you’re up front and honest.
This is the crucial moment where most pairs fuck it up and ruin what they once had. If you are unable to talk about difficult emotions/sexual issues and don’t want to lose a friend, please never engage in Sex With Friends in the first place. Because you will fuck it up. And you will never stop regretting being such a royal fuckup. In your defense, most people are just like you. Not many are evolved or open-minded enough. So don’t even go there; you can’t handle it. Just keep it in your pants and fantasies, where it belongs.
I maintain the benefits of Sex With Friends. As a more experienced adult, I can maturely decide on the potential for fun or fallout. Unlike college, I am now much more proficient. Since joining the real world, I’ve played the game a number of times, and had plenty of fun winning. Mostly chosen for pure enjoyment, once for the solace of distraction, I discerned the value of each worthwhile. They were fun while we played, each ended amicably, and they are still in my life as good friends.
And in a city where we are all racing about our hectic professions and lives with rarely a minute to spare for groceries or the gym, let alone the effort and mess of dating… Well, enhancing your aptitude for Sex With Friends can easily make your life that much more fulfilled. If you can handle it.
One blush means I’m amused (or have done something stupid). Two blushes = definitely interested. Three blushes, and the deal is sealed.
I have a crush.
Once upon a time… fate, genetics, and a healthy sense of humor got together one night and created my complexion.
We’re talking seriously pale here, folks. To the point of multiple childhood nicknames and countless burns. (I once got a sunburn sitting on a cafe patio by the time I finished lunch. [Okay, it’s happened more than once.]) So the general exertion of walking from A to B, thinking hard, or even the general frustration of where I left my phone– they visibly show. I wear my heart on my skin tone.
Sometimes, I’m like reading a book. I can play a mean game of RISK, and a decent hand of poker… but certain emotions are easy to tell. Denying a crush would be like me calling a ream of paper white; the pot and kettle have nothing on me. So, color me intrigued– literally.
An honest to God, old school, makes-me-blush crush.
We run in the same group of friends, so I can’t tell you who it is. But I can tell you what he’s like.
He’s tall [no surprise], strong [makes me shiver], and goofy as hell [is there any other type I like?]. He’s the kind of guy every girl sits up a little straighter for when he enters a room, but doesn’t notice. He simply knows who he is, and puts it out there in a confident, natural way. Such a straightforward personality is refreshing in a city of professional ladder climbers and social manipulators. The world zeros in when he’s around, to the point where I’m more aware of his proximity to me than whatever I’m actively doing. The rest of life is just on auto-pilot. I’m not just saying he’s attractive; he’s actually beautiful. A lean build, great smile when I tease him, and perfect eye contact. The kind you can’t look away from; as if you would even want to. [Like in oncoming traffic? Doubtful.] I can be quite the cool cucumber, but he’s tripped me up more than once into being damn flustered. And I don’t get flustered.
He’s not the only one I’m sweet on, though.
I pick up crushes like baseball cards. Like this one, most don’t amount to anything more than simple appreciation. I like picking up on something that fascinates me about a person and admiring it. That’s the beauty of crushes. And any little thing can kick start it. A common one lately seems to be a cute guy sitting at My Bar ordering a great beer and shot of Jameson. That one gets me every time– there is something admirably simple about ordering the working-man’s boilermaker that pulls me. Especially when followed by great, easy conversation with an attractive smartass. (I’ve said it before: you DC kids really need to step it up and put yourselves on the line more. Hint: a free drink means the bartender is interested.) This week definitely introduced a new rockstar crush of the boilermaker variety. He only got me to blush twice; we’ll see if he returns as promised to earn the third.
But more than the tripwire that spins me into infatuation are the qualities that keep me there. A quick mind and clever tongue. Culture and curiosity. A sweet nature and spontaneity. Impulsive ideas and the confidence to see them through. Assertive smartasses really steal my heart; no wonder I moved to DC. Right now, I want someone who actually thinks, recognizes their impact on others, and puts it to good use. I’m a heart-on-the-sleeve kind of girl.
I put serious effort into making other people smile with random stunts or little gestures on a daily basis; I like to think there are kindred spirits out there. I even see small moments like someone offering their metro seat, or running after an elderly man to return his dropped glove [happened in front of My Bar Saturday afternoon]. Today, I watched a businessman– fresh off the train with a suitcase and the distinctly-DC running-late look– stop to give a homeless guy two $20’s and tell him things will look up eventually. Heart = warmed. But apparently my personal karma is playing it a bit sadistically these days. Life’s been throwing a number of sharp hardballs my way, and I’ve have a rough time of it. Nothing terrible, just consistently difficult. So I thoroughly enjoy fun times when they come, and safe-keep the sweet moments in my pocket for later.
That translates into when a sweet friend-crush interrupts me to say I have beautiful eyes, or a cute bar patron says I’m trouble and will have to visit again next week….. well, those are the butterflies I keep to make me smile again later. I take these little moments to heart– so don’t break them.
Everyone needs a little more love in their lives. I’m not just talking about candy hearts and teddy bears (though I won’t reject the classics). I mean acknowledging the homeless person you breeze past every day outside Farragut North, or the Metro Express lady in Columbia Heights (who is a real sweet woman). How about helping the mother off the bus with her toddlers and stroller, or giving the elderly a hand. And yes, maybe even bringing a flower to that cute someone who comes to mind, or asking them for a drink. Happiness and romance don’t have to be grand gestures at the Empire State Building or airport terminals. They also don’t have to have some weighted end-game of commitment or marriage. They can be little things. Like just saying, “Hi, I think you’re cool– want to go for a walk?”
So here is my challenge to the City of Politics and Pride: how about you try making a random gesture to brighten someone ELSE’S day, with no goal in mind beyond making someone smile. If you want to share it with the world, tell me about it and I’d love to have a follow-up article of stories. If you want to make it selfless and keep it to yourself, more power to you. But just try it– it’ll make this week more bearable for everyone involved. I promise, warm fuzzies are contagious.
And since I will be working Thursday night: Happy Valentine’s Day, world. This gem is thanks to an NYU Improv friend:
The internet has been seeing a lot of restaurant checks and server horror stories lately, most notably the “Redditor Waitress vs. Non-Tipping Pastor”. And now, I have joined their ranks.
When I first heard about it, I thought, “Way to do God proud, Pastor.” Then, when I heard she later called and got the waitress fired, it upgraded to, “Sometimes I wish I believed in hell, you asshat.” But I hadn’t experienced such an insult where someone clearly went out of their way to offend me, as it happened to this poor Applebees Redditor. Until this week. Apparently, some people think to themselves, “What would Pastor Bell do?”
Now let me be clear. I’ve worked all levels of front-of-house for eight years. I don’t mean I haven’t been yelled at, scolded, complained to, stiffed on tip, sexually harassed, condescended to, and all those other fun things humans think up to fuck with one another. These are simply occupational hazards. We deal with a lot of asshats in the restaurant business. We deal with so much disrespect, I feel like Aretha is talking just to me.The trick of the trade is to emotionally stunt yourself until you feel dead inside. THEN, you’re ready to go to work for the night. You’ve heard “if you can’t handle the heat, get the fuck outta the kitchen”? Front-of-house has the same mentality. If you can’t handle the job, then find somewhere more suited to your delicate constitution, cause this sure as hell isn’t it.
With that said, we all have hard days. Sometimes you just can’t shake the rude tone or abusive language of a table. Occasionally, you’re wound so tight and tired, the attitudes that would normally roll right off your skin decide to stick instead. I could make excuses. [Over]working two jobs, I had already worked ~60 hours by Sunday. My broken toe is still healing, I ache all over, and sometimes only candy and smiles keep me going. On my way at 9am, I easily could have been that sour-faced server that ruins your brunch with forgetfulness, irritability, and a hangover.But no. Somehow, I was in a great mood. It was a beautiful day, I knew there was a solid staff team on, and I had cash to buy people lattes. There’s nothing like walking into a bar on a weekend morning with a pile of hot coffee and fresh muffins—it’s great to see my friends happy. Soon, we were open, and my roommate and friend decided to visit for brunch. Then an adorable family was seated in my section, with the cutest 9-year-old girl ever. By the time they left, she had made me a present with the wax toys we give to kids. My housemate looked jealous, and said he never gets gifts from happy children at his job. Yea? Well I have to soak up the great moments when I can, to hold me through the crap ones; I just didn’t know a crap one would be my next table.
They screamed “ASSHAT” from the second they set foot in My Bar. The hostess pulled together a table for them, which they blatantly passed by to beeline for a corner booth instead. Six kids, clearly hurtin’ or still drunk from the night before, disheveled and un-showered, and so fucked up they could barely read the menu. I watched with my coffee as they all fell into the cushions, and one curled right up as if he were at home. When she tracked me down to tell me I had another table, all she could do was sigh and say, “I’m so sorry… they’re total dicks.”
Well that’s fine. I’m great with hungover people, they need compassion. Call me the Alcoholic Angel of Mercy—I’ll clear you up happy, right quick. So I popped over and asked if I could get them started with some drinks. All wanted water, one desperate coffee, and three wanted mimosas. The others cringed visibly, and I mentally wrote them off as needing constant refills. The one curled up like a drunk cat was, in fact, still intoxicated. That should have been my first flag.
But the real kicker was when I took their orders. Normally, I don’t care to note the race of my tables, but it’s relevant. Here, we had three white kids, two brown, and one black. While ordering, the black kid said he had an unusual question. Used to this, I laughed and nodded. Pointing to the Fried Chicken and Waffles on the menu, “I feel like this is only on here for a certain demographic…” And the table erupted. Some saying, “yea, seems racist,” along with others telling them to shuttup—and all at explosive noise levels. It’s usually best to smile and walk away. But as a white girl being told by a black kid that her bar’s menu is racist because we serve fried chicken and waffles… I take issue. I told them it’s a regional favorite and we serve southern cuisine—so welcome to Columbia Heights. Shut up and drink your free water.
The rest of their stay went relatively smoothly. I was repeatedly told how grateful some of them were every time I appeared, because whatever they were going to ask for was served before they even asked. One guy said he wanted to be called ‘biscuit’ every time I came over, and made me laugh. Their food was made promptly and properly, and inhaled at likely-unhealthy speeds. My section wasn’t seated much, because they were so Goddamn loud and obscene that all tables asked to move further away. Well, that’s peachy. Their bill totaled $125, though, so that should be a solid $20+ tip, and would make up for lost money. It was only 1pm, so I didn’t mind much. When the check was dropped, the Drunk One took issue with being charged for bottomless mimosas when he only had one. Two others had bottomless, and I was sure he had more than one, but didn’t care enough to argue and bumped the check down.
After they left, I assessed the damage. Between four of them, I was tipped a total of $15. One guy (pretty sure it was the kid who thought fried chicken is racist) didn’t tip anything. And finally, the Drunk One, the arsenic cherry on top of the whole fucked up shitpie. Not only did he tip me zero, but he wrote a little note on the tip line. His food cost of $21.00, plus a tip line of “dontrobme”, for a total of “kthxbye”.
That was the last straw. At least be a normal dick, like your reverse-racist friend, and don’t tip anything. But don’t come into my bar acting like a fool, degrading our atmosphere with your train-wreck attitudes and illegal intoxication levels, and ultimately go OUT OF YOUR WAY to insult the server who went above and beyond to help your disrespectful asses.
The busser saw the look on my face as I stormed away to the kitchen, and followed repeating with a calm voice, “Aw, come on now, Jules, don’t be like that…” and let me explode in the dish area. I saw several shocked faces from kitchen staff, who have never seen me more upset than disappointed over being out of my favorite dessert. After I blew off some rage, he offered a hug. It worked wonders, and kept me from crying. But I still burned with humiliation. Because that’s what it is. Imagine you worked hard all day in your cubicle, doing whatever it is you do, and your boss leaves you a post-it saying you won’t receive pay for the day’s hours. Because he’s drunk and feels like being an asshole. But at least he included a “thx” in the note. His sadistic glee definitely helped the situation.
In retrospect, it wasn’t the worst serving experience I’ve had. But I’m not going to rationalize away Asshat’s behavior; no matter how much worse other shitheads can be, he is still one of them. When I told my manager about it, he wanted to know which table, so he could have a few words with them. They were gone, but I told him how shit like this is all over the internet anymore. He responded, “You should Facebook that kid; people like that aren’t welcome here. He tries to come in again, let me know.”
So here it is. [He needs a name, so why don’t we call him Scott.]
Scott, you are no longer welcome at My Bar. I will count it as my due payment if you never come again. Don’t get upset with me– it’s company policy. Asshats are not welcome at My Bar. You know where. But just to be safe, let’s make it the whole of Columbia Heights. It will be a public service to my neighborhood.
At the end of the day, I’m grateful for the stellar staff at My Bar. The rest of that day, and every day before and since, we have been a goofy, supportive team. They are my family, who I love with my whole heart– this includes our kickass regulars, who never fail to brighten my day.
And since a day isn’t complete without Aretha…
“Yea, and after brunch, we’re going to get group tattoos of our crew’s name!” Hipster Flirt responded.
“What the hell is a ‘crew’? Is that the yuppie version of a gang?” Confused Jules asks.
True story. Sunday afternoon, my girlfriend Adina and I went for brunch at The Red Derby. Hands-down one of my favorite dives in general; they also sport one of the best brunches around. We’re talking $2 Bloody Marys, mimosas, and Screw Drivers. I chose the latter; Adina had mimosas. These boys were several buckets of bubbly in, and clearly still drunk from the night before.
One of the things I love most about brunch up in our neighborhood bars is how eventful they can be. This past weekend, I either was either bartender or customer for brunch– and both days saw some crazy things.
Saturday morning, I was bartending brunch at My Bar. For those of you unaware of the epic proportions of awesomeness this entails, I highly recommend figuring out where I work and hopping over. We have bottomless mimosas and a full Bloody Mary bar. We have multiple Benedict options, and one of the best chicken and waffles around. Plus, you get to bask in my hangover-curing presence. Can’t get much better than that. It’s priceless, and served with love.
And that’s what my new favorite regulars believe, too. The Three Musketeers have been in a few times, but none more memorable than last weekend. Each a cool 20-30-something woman, the three of them together create a damn funny trio. They stumbled in around 2pm, stated they would likely be drinking their calories, and ordered bottomless mimosas in every flavor. Overhearing and joining conversations about everything from family politics and religion to sexuality and male alter-egos, they definitely made my day. [The pint-sized Birthday Girl described how she has an inner frat boy alter-ego, despite clearly not knowing what a frat boy looks and acts like. We eventually settled on a name, and Preston was born.] They stayed until 5, when Preston’s mom called asking when she would be arriving for her birthday dinner; well-intoxicated, she had to leave to sober up before facing her Mormon family. I believe I have a total girl crush on the lot of them, and look forward to our next brunch date. Also, on top of a healthy pile of bills, they tipped me with a huge heart-shaped pink cookie. It was DELICIOUS.
Sunday dawned a glorious morning in Petworth.
It started with me getting off on the mildly tipsy side of the bed, after a long, late Saturday night. I was awoken by a loud text noise from Adina, “BRUNCH TIME. WAKE UP, I’M HUNGRY AND THIRSTY.” Who could say no to that? Especially since I live a very few blocks from the Derby. So I pulled on some clothes and stumbled over to wait for her with a book and a quickly served, very stiff Screw Driver. [Seriously– I’m talking yellow-colored vodka. I’m in love with the Derby bartender for oh-so-many reasons…] By the time she arrived, I was emotionally attached to the idea of Derby’s morning burger, served with all the fixin’s and a fried egg, tots on the side.
By the time we had finished most of our food and were nearing double-digit drinks, the table next to use was reseated. Four guys and a bucket of mimosas plopped down, and quickly grew rowdy. I’m talking “asking for the last of our tots and feeding them suggestively to each other” crazy. It was damn funny. One guy’s opening line was to tell me he loved my curls [we’ll call him Curly], because they looked like they had a crazy night last night and were all disheveled now. [Which is exactly what they were; aptly described, sir.] Another simply exclaimed that Adina was the cutest girl he’d ever seen. He is the aforementioned Flirty Hipster. The tattoos were his idea.
Speaking of: after they’d eaten, we started to overhear talk of tattoo shops in the area. Curly leaned forward and asked if I had any. When I said no, I’ve played with ideas, but haven’t taken the plunge, Flirty Hipster had something to say. “What? No. You totally look like the kind of girl who would have tattoos.”
Okaaaay…. I don’t know what that means, but thanks? I’ll take it as a compliment. I love ink.
The interactions became more outrageous and more frequent. The Hipster decided Adina was the love [lust?] of his life, and Curly thought the same of me. We switched to beer. A round of shots were ordered. The four rearranged so the two were sitting next to their supposed soul mates. I had no problem with it; I wasn’t interested in any of them, but they were amusing as hell. Adina was laughing along and enjoying the attention, but quickly growing uneasy. Because she has a long-dedicated boyfriend. And the Hipster didn’t like the sound of that. He said it was okay, because he had a girlfriend, too. Then two seconds later, moved on to suggesting a double-date with Curly and I after they got their tattoos. Adina went to the bathroom, and the other friends had had enough of the tattoo talk. So our exponentially-drunk Hipster decided, “Either I’m going home with that girl, or we’re getting fucking tattoos.”
I think beer went up my nose then. So I smiled at the others and told them to get drunker, to help with pain tolerance; the tattoos were definitely happening. Because it wouldn’t be with my girl. Hipster didn’t like that idea either, so he bet me $50 he’d sleep with her by the end of the night, and I wasn’t allowed to cock-block. We shook on it, and she came back from the bathroom. In the long-drawn-out farewells, Hipster wanted a goodbye kiss. Adina declined. He wasn’t having it. So he climbed on to her lap, straddled her, and held her head to his chest. Repeating vows of love for her, he kept asking for one kiss to keep him going. The entire bar watched. It was surreal. Lap dances, at brunch. Who knew?
Naturally, I couldn’t stop laughing and was no help at all. He never got his kiss, though I think several were awkwardly showered on her cheeks. The boys eventually left, after insistently obtaining our phone numbers and “promises” to meet up later that night [clearly not going to happen, even if I didn’t already have Downton Abbey plans]. We each received texts, ranging from persuasive to downright dirty, for the rest of the night. And when I told her about the bet, she lost it laughing. “We’re going halvsies on that, right?”
So, dear greater DC area: tell Don I’m looking for him. He owes me $50, and his friend Ken visiting from Connecticut witnessed that I have every right to mug him next time our paths cross. And maybe, next time he’s drunk at 11a.m., he won’t make outrageous brunch bets with savvy girls out to shark him.
Happy MLK-Obama Day!
Ooooh, I’m excited enough to burst. Two of my favoritest people in the world are renewing their vows this weekend, and I couldn’t be happier! Barry and Joe have been together for four years, and what a whirlwind their relationship has stirred. They’ve had their ups and downs, but in the end, the struggles made their bond stronger. And as a girl with starry eyes for Biden [literally] since birth, it makes me proud to see him with a worthy partner. In addition to Jill, of course.
Everyone knows you never forget your first time, and this is mine. Though the last time around was my first chance to vote [and what a vote!], I was still at university and couldn’t come down for the celebration. [I heard it was cold, did any of you die?] So I’m not missing my second chance!
Which means it’s going to be a long weekend. The housemates all have friends in town, so the Clubhouse will be at full capacity. Jules Junior, Fabala, and Abigail are trekking down from the Motherland for the occasion. And it’s Fabala’s birthday to boot! Friday, I will be working. But only because my friend’s band, Jonny Grave and the Tombstones, will be playing and I adore them. Saturday morning, the Brunch Bartender Extraordinaire will be serving hangover cures and love until five, and then switching over to serve a few more hours. Then I’ll be off for the event I’m excited for…
SATURDAY NIGHT: The Shitkicker’s Ball So. Stoked. I love the Looking Glass Lounge any day of the week, but this is a whole new experience. Want to join? I’m not even going to paraphrase the description.
From the big man behind it all, “Shitkicking is about starting dance parties where even the fucking dudes who wear tucked in shirts and try to hit on women using their LinkedIn accounts wind up breaking out the funky chicken; and when everybody shares not just phone numbers, but sacred family recipes from the old country for drunk food… Shitkicking is about standing up for the people that nobody gives a fuck about in this town. It’s about staying in the kitchen because you love the goddamn heat. As Omar put it in the Wire “How you expect to run with the wolves come night when you spend all day sparring with the puppies?”
Now THAT is my version of an Inaugural Ball! I’d wonder what to wear, but they are pretty explicit.
For the rest of the weekend, the Clubhouse will be an explosion of madness. Literally and figuratively. I’m taking advantage of all the people, and will be cooking on Sunday. So many things to celebrate! Barry and Joe’s vow renewal, my sister’s birthday, MLK’s memory, surviving the Mayan Apocalypse, being awesome people in general… You know how much I love celebrations. Specialty cocktails will be made. Food will be consumed. Bonfires, firecrackers, and sparklers will ABSOLUTELY be involved. And all done in time to wake up at the crack-of-death 5 a.m., in time to catch the metro and beat some of the crowd for space near speakers on the Mall. What are the chances Park Police would confiscate thermoses? Because I’d survive much happier with a lot more Irish than coffee in my system…
INAUGURATION: [better details]
5 a.m. Wake up, throw coffee in our faces, and race to the metro. Time subject to change.
11:30 Vow renewal, on the steps of Our Nation’s Capitol. From a view of a million feet, back in the nosebleed section. Likely will be hugging a jumbotron for warmth somewhere back near the Washington Monument. Did anyone else see that Kelly Clarkson is singing? Lame.
2:30 Ba-Rocking Parade! Unsure of my attendance. Might physically require sustenance by this point, and belligerently demand alcohol. Return to Columbia Heights imminent.
MONDAY NIGHT: TBD. So many options, so little of me to go around. Did you know that, for the mere price of a quarter of my rent, you could go to an official Inaugural Ball? Yea, that’s one of the reasons why these might be better. [For a full list of all bars open until 4am on Inauguration, check out my friend at Guest of a Guest.] Madam’s, R&R Hotel, El Centro, and more will be Ba-rocking the body republic all night, and I plan on fulfilling my civic duty.
Where will you be celebrating this grand weekend?
There’s an undeniably perverse sex appeal to smoking that transcends rhyme or reason.
I know, I don’t like it either. It’s a bad penny that keeps showing up in your pocket, covered in grime, but somehow still works. I can’t help seeing it and thinking, “Yea, alright then. I’ll let it slide.” Somehow still ups the tally.
The guy from this week (yet to be named; I’m waiting to see if date two occurs) is a smoker. Said he’s quitting, but I suspect that’s a dating ploy. So many people list is as a dealbreaker, he’s probably adapted to social norms. I’d much rather people be unapologetic. The Mistake was a smoker, and didn’t claim otherwise; he simply made sure I had a full drink and was content before popping outside for a quick one. But unlike with him, this week I joined.
When a date smokes, I usually send them out on their own and amuse myself talking to the server/bartender/surrounding patrons. I’m perfectly comfortable taking care of myself, and I appreciate the added proof to the guy that I don’t need his constant presence to enjoy my night. I’m not clingy, and don’t require incessant attention. It’s monotonous.
Unless you smoke gross cigarettes. A coworker of mine smokes something nasty, and each time we talk after a break outside, I have to fight gagging. And these excursions occur every twenty minutes. I don’t know which poison of choice he carries, but the smell trails after him like a shadow of ash and odor. It’s awful.
Some don’t bother me; I think it’s the more natural tobacco. The scent triggers memories of college parties and nights with Big Bro’s friends in Philly or home. It’s basement shows and late-night rages, wandering South Street for pizza and following DJ sounds to a new dive. They’re good memories. And I smoke hookah anyway, so not all tobacco rubs me wrong. As a social smoker, I see the shared enjoyment of it. The communal moments circled around a shisha or ashtray. The particular intimacy of a shared cigarette, or leaning to accept someone’s offered flame. There is something illicit in such communion; it’s dark and alluring.
What does hit me wrong are the brands crafted solely for chain smokers. You can actually smell the addiction in the air. It’s all strained teeth, yellow skin, and cancer. It’s my aunt’s chemo, head scarves, and funeral. It’s the kids that barely survived our high school, and a few that didn’t. They smell of degenerates, death, and dumbasses. I might date smartasses, and a few jackasses– but I never date dumbasses. If a were ever out with a guy that smoked these, he would never reach date two. Kissing these smokers is like kissing an ashtray of disease. Just don’t do it. I don’t want all of my kisses to taste bad.
Thankfully, Mystery Man’s smoke doesn’t bother me. In fact, I switched it up and joined his breaks this week. He seemed a little more nervous than me, and relaxed more in his zone. Our bartender is an industry acquaintance, and was more than entertaining on the patio. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to ensure him that I don’t mind cigarettes, though I don’t personally partake. I mentioned hookah, and he perked up that he had never tried it but was curious. So I explained, and added that one of my goals during my time in the Middle East was to learn how to blow smoke rings. We compared notes on the easiest way to make them, and promised I’d show him a few great spots if he’d like. I think this is when the date turned to more comfortable level for us both. The chemistry ignited and caught fire.
So he’s an interesting one. He’s older (a topic to be discussed in my upcoming article, “What’s Your Number?”), taller (despite size not always mattering, I really do enjoy a 6″4 guy), and new to the area. I love new people. Showing them around, sharing the city as I know it… nothing beats it. Because they’re just as excited as I am; others who have lived here as long or longer than I are typically calmer or more jaded about our town. I prefer the excitement.
And he is subtly exciting. He’s old enough to know who he is, what he wants, but young enough to still want something new. He lives rather far out in suburbia, and deeply regrets it– something I find attractive. I only want to see people interested in being in the middle of it all. He is rather good at dropping the most interesting comments into conversation in the most quietly unassuming way. Instead of asking if I like Doctor Who, he mentions how our topic is like an episode. (And I fucking love Doctor Who– very geek chic.) While talking about how he didn’t start drinking until his later-20’s, he modestly credited it to having to be out on his own at age 17, being responsible with a full-time job instead of partying. In lieu of declaring the much-sought-after ability to keep rhythm and dance, he broke off mid-thought and said he loves the blues tune the band was playing, and the inspiration to dance was distracting him. He loves live music, but also likes to be able to hear the person he’s with? Alright, then– let’s move to the back bar, where it’s a little quieter. And hey, there’s even a real fire back there! (Both figuratively and literally.)
He’s comfortable with who he is. He admitted the first thing he drank was a period of Rumplemints (of which he had to get the bartender to hit me a shot, since my lack-of-girly-drinking had never had it). So maybe he actually is unapologetic in personality; he laughed enough at himself for it, and maintains it’s a delicious liquor. He mentions his experiences being single in DC in a relaxed way, and has no problem with questions. He asks some on his own, too. By the end of the night, he offered to drive me home. We parked outside my house to finish a conversation long enough to make me wonder if I should kiss him. But I refrained; I made the first move twice with him already. First, in contacting him; second, in asking him out. I know he’s older, but he needs to make the next move. I need him to make the next move.
When I mentioned earlier in the night that I usually go to Madam’s on Thursdays for salsa and karaoke, he looked thoughtful and said he could probably make it. So I texted him yesterday that my friends are definitely going; he has an early flight Friday, and said maybe. Today, I texted that I promise the roof patio will be open to smoke this time, and I promise I won’t make him do birthday cake shots with the bartender again. He wrote back laughing. I understand flights and late nights don’t mix, but I can’t help hanging on the suspense if he’ll put in the effort. (And therefore judging a possible lack of it if he doesn’t show.) He’s attractive, tall, older, interesting– and fuck me, he looked hot smoking those damned cigarettes.
I don’t know if his smoke is hiding mirrors or if this is a genuine and sustainable interest, but color me intrigued.