"What do you mean? You drink."
"Yeah but, what else? Like, do you walk up to the bar and order a drink and then just stand there drinking it?"
I knew that at clubs there was dancing to occupy yourself with--I'd seen Night at the Roxbury--and I knew house parties had drinking games and promiscuous sex in parents' marital beds, as far as activities go. But what about bars?
"You just drink and talk and whatever," she told me. She clearly didn't understand the anxiety I felt as my 21st birthday approached. I didn't know how to go to a bar.
I walked into my first bar at midnight on my 21st birthday, and immediately got stopped by a bouncer. He scrutinized my ID and seemed remarkably amused by the fact that the birth date on my drivers license was today. It was like he'd never actually witnessed a birthday before. It was like this bar wasn't famous for giving out a free Jager bomb and t-shirt on your 21st birthday.
When he finally got over the fact that I wasn't legal to drink 5 minutes ago but I now was, he handed my ID back and let me go. I looked past him at the rest of the bar and was disappointed at how empty it was. We were at a college bar in the middle of August, so the scene resembled a townie bar at 3:30 PM on a Wednesday.
"Should we grab a table?" a friend asked. Ahh, tables! Now I understood! Bars were just like restaurants, except without food and waiters. Okay, this I could relate to. I scanned the room and saw one of those basketball arcade games I used to play at Chuck E. Cheese, next to a dart board and a pool table. There was a popcorn machine in the corner, pumping out piping hot, salted, free popcorn. I also spotted a flyer on the wall that advertised turtle races.
Image via Caffrey's Pub
It looked exactly like this, in fact.
Okay, so basically bars are like Chuck E. Cheese for grownups, except instead of trying hard to conquer the games and earn as many tickets as possible, you just half-assedly throw basketballs or darts around in between beers, not even caring that you just paid money to play a game that doesn't even pretend to dispense tickets. Instead of watching the creepy, animatronic Chuck E. Cheese characters singing on stage, you watch turtles meandering across a branded table. Instead of playing air hockey, you play pool. Instead of skee-ball, darts. Instead of struggling through those claustrophobic tunnels and sliding into a ball pit, you struggle to walk back to your apartment and slide into your bathroom, where you toilet becomes a puke pit.
Screenshot via Youtube
Every time I go to a bar, I go through the same cycle of awkwardness.
Act One: The first step is actually entering the place. When you walk into a bar, everyone looks up to see who's new on the scene. Especially when you're as devastatingly attractive as I am.
This is when I scan the place for available seating so as to step out of their scrutiny. There are almost no bars where standing while drinking isn't awkward. It's like waiting for your table at a restaurant that doesn't have a waiting area, except worse because they don't promise that you'll ever get a table, and the bouncer doesn't give you one of those light-up buzzers to let you know seating is available.
One time I went out for fajitas with a friend for her birthday. Since we're gluttonous Americans, we each decided to get our own order, even though no one in the history of anything has ever finished an entire restaurant portion of fajitas before. Then, since we are also thrifty, conscientious Americans, we got doggie bags and took them with us to the bar. This bar had like, a table, which was of course occupied. So we stood around, staring at each other, sipping rail drinks, and complaining about how we were holding friggin boxes of leftover fajitas.
"Ugh, these fajitas!" we said. "Goddamn fajitas. We look like assholes."
We left early because we were so ashamed of ourselves. Then I accidentally left my fajitas in the car overnight and ended up throwing them out anyway. I hate myself.
I bet I look good when I eat fajitas.
Somehow, I believe that if we had gotten a seat at this bar, I would have gotten to enjoy my fajitas the next day.
Act Two: Anyway, after you look for seating, the next awkward task is figuring out what drink to order. You can't stand or sit around too long without ordering a drink because then people start to think you're weird, and you, in turn, become more and more aware of how drunk and annoying everyone else is and how not drunk and annoying you are. It's the seventh insight.
"What are you gonna get?" I ask whoever I'm with.
"I don't know, you?"
"I don't know."
I wish I liked beer so I could be one of those laid back girls who just grabs a beer like it's NBD. "I'll have a Miller, please." Doesn't that sound so Ideal Laid Back Chick to you? On the other hand, I wish it were legit to order wine and get crunk off of it at bars. I seriously love wine and wouldn't have a problem with participating in a wine-fueled, drunken dance party.
I once ordered a glass of wine at a douchey bar that had live music (it was one of those 80s cover bands that drunk chicks like, especially when they play "Don't Stop Believing"). The bartender douchily poured it into an actual wine glass, like, made out of actual glass. With a stem and everything.
Like I was really gonna carry a wine glass out into that mosh pit while "The Final Countdown" was playing. Get real. So I asked for an empty plastic cup on the side and transferred it so I could drink my wine on the DL, and it was perfect.
Unfortunately, I'm usually forced to drink actual liquor when I go out, and I know so little about the subject that I end up ordering one of approximately 4 two-ingredient drinks in my repertoire: rum and coke, gin and tonic, vodka cranberry, or seven and seven. I don't particularly like any of these drinks, but I imagine they make me look like less of an asshole than I would with a glass of chardonnay.
This is basically what I'd look like at a rave.
Act Three: The next awkward order of business is filling the time after you get your seat and your drink. The first few moments are filled with frantic sipping, but then what? No one's drunk enough yet to start shouting dirty secrets or doing the worm for no reason. And it's too loud to actually talk. If I'm with single friends, their question is always if and when the hot douches are gonna flock to our table. My question is always, which foul-breathed wingman are they gonna make me talk to so that my hot friend can talk to their hot friend without me cock-blocking?
Aren't you excited to talk to me, wingman?
Act Four: As the night progresses and I move seamlessly through all four of my known cocktails, it becomes dancing time. This is true whether you're at an actual club or not; if there's music playing, there will be dancing. Even just rhythmic shoulder gyrations in your chair count. At this point in the night, you no longer care about or are aware of the people you came to the bar with. You just need to sing the lyrics to whatever song is playing as loudly as you can, with a pained expression on your face (you're feeling the music). It helps if you have a good working knowledge of Pitbull's discography before you arrive.
Sometimes when I'm out on the dance floor bustin' a move, I have these occasional lucid moments where I think "Self, what are you doing? You just did the white man overbite while executing a weird full body roll that you saw in a Jay-Z video 15 years ago." But then I go back to being happy and tipsy, and I do another body roll. These lucid moments suck, because they remind me that I really shouldn't lower my inhibitions. My inhibitions exist so that I don't do stupid things like body rolls. (By the way, this video is really terrible, both the fact that it exists and the quality of the instruction. Also I just lost about 15 minutes of my life watching twerking tutorials.)
Act Five: After the dancing ends, it's time to go home. The bouncer says he hopes we have a good night. He was jealous of us on the way in, but he's not jealous now as we stumble down the sidewalk.
Act Six: I leave my credit card with the bartender. Every time.