A few years ago, yes, I was flirting with sailors and knocking back watery Buds like a bargain basement bin Carrie Bradshaw, but these days, I tend to go to bars at 2:30 pm, in yoga pants with a toddler in tow (I know that makes me sound like a sloppy alcoholic, but I'm trying to be sensitive to the needs of normal adults, specifically the after-work crowds who would rather not have babies harshing their 5 o'clock mellows).
Truthfully, I've never been much of a bar girl to begin with. I'm naturally standoffish around strangers, I like to have a place to sit down at all times, and my go-to drink is red wine, which is just not a cool bar drink (the divier the bar, the more asshatty you look clutching your dusty stem glass of Yellowtail merlot). I can and do drink beer and hard liquor, but it doesn't usually end well. Which, incidentally, is a great segue into my story!
I went out with two friends, who for the sake of Internet privacy I'll call Flopsy and Mopsy. Flopsy is a married mother of two; Mopsy is a single gal about town who spends most of her time trying not to get kicked out of the country for being Canadian. Both are awesome.
We started out at a wine bar, where we drained two bottles of red over a light dinner while Flops and I scared Mops with stories of our kids almost choking to death on organic cheddar bunnies. You know, girl talk.
We were tipsy by then, so we wandered through the softly falling snow to a bar a block away. None of us had ever been. We squeezed behind the bar in our puffy winter coats and were debating what to order when a thin, nerdy gentleman with a Mr. Rogers/Norman Batesy vibe offered to buy us a round of beers. He was wearing a sweater and said he was a historian. We looked at each other and were like, why not?
Here's why not: Letting someone buy you a drink is basically agreeing to make forced, awkward conversation with them for the duration of said drink. That's not so bad, right? Well, not usually (says the girl who has been offered drinks by strangers maybe twice, total, ahem), but this guy--who, for the sake of Internet privacy I will call The Racist Historian--turned out to be a super creep. The whole Norman Bates aesthetic should have been a giveaway, but what can I say, I don't get out much.
When your name is Una, no one hears it correctly the first time in a loud bar. This is my life:
"I'm Una."*Una With An N is going to be my self-produced cabaret album title.
"Una, with an N.*"
"Uma. Cool, like Uma Thurman?"
"No, an N. N like Nancy."
"Wow, sorry Nancy. I totally misheard you the first time."
So TRH's first mistake was calling me Uma.
His second was casually dropping the word "mulatto."
I wish I could tell you in what context he said it, but I was busy sipping my shitty free beer and trying to adjust to the new landscape. Being out at a bar after midnight on a weekend without my husband or child was like being abruptly socialized after years in the wild. I was basically Jodie Foster in Nell. My inner monologue went something like:
Should I take off my coat? Everyone else is magically not wearing coats, even though there are no visible coat racks. But if I take off my coat, then I have to pretend to hang it nonchalantly over one arm, which works with a light jacket, but not in winter. If I did that now I'd just look like I was trying to strangle a sleeping bag to death. Also taking my coat off might be seen as an invitation to look at my--HOLD UP, did he just say mulatto?
So. Flopsy, Mopsy and I tried to start our own conversation without seeming rude, by doing the patented lady move of turning away in small increments until you are facing in the opposite direction. Flopsy started talking about her dad's heart problems--again, fun girl talk--when TRH awkwardly attempted to insert himself back in.
"I'm feeling kind of left out here," he said loudly.
"Oh, we were just talking about my father's medical history," Flopsy muttered.
TRH sighed and then reached over, grabbed my beer, and used it to refill his beer. It was as stark a rejection as I've ever seen in person, except maybe for that scene in Gladiator when Joaquin Phoenix does the really dramatic thumbs down.
I began furtively texting Jeff:
Me: Is it rude to ignore the dude who just bought you a beer?*Sorry, I can't say--or type--the word p***y if it's in reference to anatomy and not to, you know, just being a pussy.
Me: He is a racist historian, though.
Jeff: Bold angle for a p***y hunt.
After that we did the somewhat less classy lady move of quickly walking out of the bar and erupting into drunken giggles. I mean, it was nice and all for him to buy our drinks, but what did TRH think would happen? That he would hit on all three of us simultaneously, kind of cast a wide net, and fill us with hops and whispered epithets until one (or more) of us decided to throw caution to the wind and go home with him? Obviously he didn't even do a ring check. Amateur.
The next bar we teetered into was a lively, cavernous establishment that caters to the Brooklyn hipster, which is the most advanced species in the hipster taxonomy--and the mothership did not disappoint (it had two full-size bocce courts, for Christ's sake). Almost immediately, once again, we were set upon, this time by two much friendlier and more attractive men named Wasn't Listening and Don't Care (to be fair, my name for the evening was Look, I'm Married and Tired and Wearing a Giant Puffer Coat With Dried Banana On It, Can Someone Just Find Me A Seat And Maybe A Cheese Plate? )
Seriously, though, it sucks to be married and talking to nice single guys, because you don't want to wait until an awkward moment to flash your ring ("So, Ula, why don't you take off your coat, get comfortable?""Haha, I need to get going soon. My husband is watching our child. Haha.") but you also don't want to be so presumptuous that you start every conversation with "HI, I'M MARRIED, DON'T BOTHER." So I just sipped my Jack and ginger and stood there being jealous of everyone at the bar who wasn't wearing a stretched-out maternity top. Bitches.
I won't lie, it was a blast to go out on the town with girlfriends for the first time in what feels like years, and of course it was nice to be quasi-hit on by three men, even if one of them was a confirmed racist and probable serial killer. But as I walked home in the snow, and then tip-toed into my warm, quiet apartment, finally doffing my down-filled armor and forcing my sleepy-eyed husband to slow dance with me in his boxer shorts, I realized that I needed to get out just to discover that, most of the time, I'd rather stay in.
Vomit, I know. But all good bar stories end in vomit.