“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.
“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.
Sometimes after telling a friend about my most recent flirty shenanigans, they ask how I get up the guts. How? Easy-peasy: I just do it. Seriously, it’s that simple.
You have an impulse struggling to break free from the prison you’ve locked it into in the back of your mind? Slip it the key. Or better yet: explosives, so it can bust outta confinement in style. Out with a BANG!
That’s how I’ve tried to liberate myself since moving to DC. I’m in a new city, new lifestyle, and trying all the lovely new things along with it. I’ve been outgoing and decidedly-Me for most of my life, but this is bringing it to a whole new level. I go out dancing half the week, soak up new friends like it’s my job [wouldn’t that be cool if being social was my job??], and strive daily to do ‘carpe diem’ proud. Vulnerability can be a surprisingly delicious feeling.
Most often, this fun growing habit [addiction?] manifests itself in my dating life. I think the bartender that always finds a way to knock down my tab is cute? Well, last Friday, I left him my number on the check along with a note saying “in case you’d like to grab the drink I definitely owe you now”. [Note: this is at a bar my friends and I frequent often, so there is sure to be follow-up on this particular one.] Impulses like these are healthy, natural, and downright exciting as hell– so everyone should take some initiative spice up their own life.
Months ago, there was this boy who played an acoustic and sang outside the metro across from my restaurant. He was cute, obviously did it just for kicks, and had a variety of genres he’d jump around in. All summer and fall, I’d listen to him while getting the patio ready for dinner or waiting for my bus home, and we’d do that adorable smiling-at-each-other-from-afar thing. Sometimes he’d play this great Hank Williams song, and I one time shouted that was my favorite– after that, any time I walked by, he’d immediately switch over to that song. I don’t usually carry cash on me, and started kicking myself nights he was there. So, I did what any decent girl would do.
I dug through my purse for paper, and wrote him a note. “I always seem to only have bus fare home on me, but have listened to your music long enough that I figure I owe you a drink by now– here’s my number in case you’d like to take me up on it some night.”
He called the next day. Not a text, but a phone call. We talked a bit, and he said he didn’t know bars in the NW neighborhood area very well, but I said the Red Derby had great beer. We each brought a friend, had a great night of conversation, and that was mostly it. He still played my metro stop, and was adorable but a little too timid for me to date. But that’s not the point. We’d talk whenever running into each other, so I just made a cool neighborhood friend and an even greater story.
Don’t give me that “oh, but you’re so much more outgoing than me, Jules!” crap. I was a morbidly shy girl up through most of middle school, complete with bright red blushes and the inability to speak when it came to boys and bullies. Then I took to heart my mama’s best piece of life advice: you are who you want to be. Seriously, it’s that easy. You want to be the extroverted girl flirting in a circle of guys or walking up to a cute guy to buy him a drink? Then get over yourself and just do it. The only thing holding you back is you.
I know this is coming off as preachy, but it’s because this is what’s running through my head whenever I get into such situations. I like a guy at a party, bar, coffeeshop, or any other random place. There’s something I want to say to him. The introvert deep inside wants to just watch or run away, so I tell her to shuttup and walk over before I lose my nerve. I’m a recovering shy girl, it’s a daily struggle to overcome. But I decided early on that I didn’t like being quiet and overlooked, didn’t like being the cute-girl’s-best-friend, and definitely didn’t like that feeling of lost opportunity.
So here’s the deal: the end game for this kind of thing isn’t finding a boyfriend, or even a date. I do them because they make people smile. If the Cute Bartender never calls because he isn’t available, isn’t interested, or isn’t assertive enough to do it, that’s fine. I’m peachy keen without any response. Regardless of the outcome for me, everyone likes knowing they’re admired, and I know my note brightened his day. And isn’t that worth taking a few seconds of your time to express something as simple as “I think you’re cute”? Because it always makes them feel a little better, and it will definitely give you awesome butterflies that you will soon learn to crave. Just like me.
So just do it!
So my little sister and her friend Abigail shot me this video the other day, and it’s naturally been stuck in my head ever since. I think the ridiculously cute lyrics/video/everything about it are pretty appropriate here. So thanks, sis.
I’ll admit, the “shit people say” trend is cracking me up. I’ve ignored most of them, but a few snuck by and stole a few giggles. What I’d love to see one for, though? Pick-up lines. They’ve been on my mind lately.
Who am I kidding? That’s always on my mind. I’m what you’d call a pick-up line connoisseur. I blame Night at the Roxbury; those SNL goobers instilled a love of the ridiculous in me at a very young age, and I’ve never recovered.
For me, the more absurd the line, the better is works. My theory is that a guy with the guts to walk up to a girl he thinks is pretty and knowingly make a fool out of himself deserves at least a drink. (Note: key word being ‘knowingly’; guys that pull those lines thinking they’re smooth are just gross. It’s a fine line to walk, so please know you can pull it off before opening your mouth.)
Last Saturday, my group was out in Dupont Circle. We like to start the night at a sushi-place-turned-nightclub because some friends work there and great cocktails should be enjoyed while still sober. We ended up befriending two men that had been at the end of the bar and looking our way awhile. The attractive Lebanese one seems to take to one of my friends pretty well, and joined us for our night of club-hopping. [This eventually led, once the other guys went home, to me spending the later part of the night with two couples.]
At one point, though, the new guy told me that I looked like ‘someone he used to know’. I could tell by his look that he was genuinely being appreciative, but I still replied with a raised eyebrow and “I’m not really sure how to take that. Who?”
“Don’t worry about it. But it’s a good thing.”
Look, guys, if a girl looks like an ex- and you want to compliment her appearance, just tell her she looks pretty and leave it at that. Don’t try to be clever– because ‘someone I used to know’ makes me feel like I look like I’m your high school girlfriend. No woman wants to be a walking reminder of teenagehood– it was all pimples, hormones, and angsty confusion. At least I don’t; but maybe because it’s still in my semi-recent past? Weigh in on this, ladies.
A friend at work says that his approach is simple: if he’s out and thinks a woman is beautiful, he walks right up to say hello and ask if he can buy her a drink. (Full disclosure: working at a Middle Eastern restaurant means that my ‘friends from work’ are foreign, charismatic, and possessing those great accents that trip over the English language in an adorable way. This man is no exception.)
I’ll also say that if this man walked up to me at a bar and asked to buy me a drink like that, I’d find myself in a deep conversation about the beauties of Morocco before I could blink twice. He’s confident, naturally charming, and very comfortable in his own skin. Chalk it up to age, but he’s grown out of the younger-man’s conviction that having game involves complex approaches. You don’t need battle tactics, boys, we aren’t a football game. It’s tennis: volley an opening our way and wait for a response. Simplicity! And this is the advice of an anything-but-simple girl.
Don’t get me wrong, ingenuity has its rewards, too. If you have a unique way to make contact, then go for it. After migrating to our favorite DJ-established vinyl-and-bands lounge and then spending enough time with the two couples, I grew tired of 5th wheeling it and went to the dance floor to listen to the jazz band.
I could tell that a guy nearby was looking, but wanted to see what he’d do. What can I say? I’m a curious girl. To his credit, it wasn’t a long wait. A guy in front of us was blatantly taking up too much room, flailing about like an idiot, and kept knocking into me. I was happy enough listening to a great band, so it was more amusing than anything. In this guy’s favor, it made me back up several times, and the last one that almost knocked my Manhattan from my hand was the last straw. Cute boy went from a smile to busting out laughing and leaned closer to my ear to suggest I fight back.
Sure, such romantic comedy opportunities are rare enough outside of Hollywood, but it’s extra-special when a guy is clever enough to take advantage of it. We went on to have a great conversation over jazz, music, and eventually the fact that he claimed to know how to dance. Naturally, I asked him to prove it. I was far from disappointed.
So sure, sometimes things that would otherwise seem trite actually do work– if you can back them up. And the absurd might pan out, if you’ve the humor to play to the right audience. But the best way to go really is the easiest.
Because in the end, the most charming guys aren’t the ones with the most interesting pick-up lines, which take a deal of contrived forethought and are likely recycled. No, you want to know the shit charming guys say?
They say, “Hello.”
Big D and the Kids Table got it right in their stroll song, A Kiss A Week:
It’s a simple guideline to follow, fellas. When you’re out at a club or local watering hole, you can appreciate a lady’s appearance without invading her personal space. It’s cute that toddlers have to touch anything they can get their hands on, but at our age, it’s more like grounds for harassment.
Take this past Friday, for example. A girlfriend and I had a singles’ night out in the Adams Morgan neighborhood (you will soon understand why this is an ‘oh, lordy’ detail), and experienced a variety of pick-ups. Most were at least amusing, an attractive handful entirely encouraged… but there are always those few that cross a line.
There are the guys on the dancefloor that walk right up behind and grind against you, like it’s perfectly acceptable behavior. I’m pretty sure that even monkeys like to know who is forcibly assaulting them, and violent rejection is A-okay in the primate kingdom. Turn on Animal Planet– you’ll quickly see a female chimpanzee knock an unwanted suitor out of a tree. At the clubs, I particularly like it when they look put out, or even offended, when I turn around and tell them to keep it moving if they want to stay intact.
Apparently, the simple act of going out in public on a weekend sets up a neon sign over your head that screams “Anything goes!” There are also the slightly less bold/felonious types that think it’s a great idea to run their hands down your arm or the small of your back to get your attention, as if we love it when strangers stroke our bodies. Of course it is, that’s why we were all raised to be prostitutes.
Oh wait, my mother taught me to NOT sell my body when I grow up? That’s RIGHT… So don’t touch me.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a pretty high threshold for bullshit-tolerance. I know I’m in a nightclub, and I know alcohol is flowing like the Potomac, but give me a break. I have no problem with pick-up lines. [They’re actually welcome, because I think they’re absolutely hysterical. If you can make me laugh with just one sentence, I’ll probably be up for having a drink.] I can even handle questionable flattery most of the time, like a complete stranger telling me I have a great ass/rack/whatever floats your boat. It’s just the touching without even putting in the effort to try and woo that bothers me. If it helps to have something to relate me to, think of me like the Smithsonian– look, but don’t touch. Because if you DO try to touch, you’ll be tackled by a security guard. And it will probably hurt.
Among the myriad of come-ons we experienced Friday, there was one that stands out. I split from my friend while she was dancing to go get a new drink. The dancefloor bar at this club is a more confined spot, and as I walked up the stairs, I noticed I’d be the only female in the area. Oh, lordy. While waiting for the bartender to finish pulling a pint, a guy next to me leans over a little and tells me pretty loudly that I’m the finest girl he’s seen all night.
Great line, buddy.
He and his friend are both pretty good-looking, even if he seems a bit older. Yes, I’ll specify that they were black, though that doesn’t impact me much. [I’m an equal-opportunity dater, and they were verrry good-looking.] No, I comment on it because the next thing he continues to praise is that along with an amazing figure, my ass looked damn perfect in my dress. Definitely not something I hear too often. As he kept going on and on about my various appearances that floored him [in the end, he decided I looked like a classy movie star], his friend kept shooting me apologetic looks. Hey, I’m peachy keen with compliments when they’re hands-off. As the guy took my thanks to mean encouragement, he tried to slide an arm around my waist. His friend checked that movement and shook his head smiling, “I don’t think that’s a good idea with this girl, man. She’s a knock-out that might knock you out.”
I laughed and shrugged off the comment, telling them to flirt with a girl a bit more before trying to touch her. Before leaving with my drink, I did tell the friend he seemed like a good guy, and I would have actually talked to him if it weren’t for his plastered friend. Maybe next time.
In short, gentlemen: Accost at your own risk, or just learn some damn manners.
For those new to DC, expect this in the Adams Morgan neighborhood: