I like to write in bars, mainly because I am most productive between the hours of 9pm and 1am. (Point of clarification: I do this twice a week at most. One: it’s expensive, two: all of the empty calories, three: I like my liver functional) If I go on a weekday, I am generally able to get a good amount of writing done and mostly am left alone. But there are consistently dudes at various levels of intoxication who feel the need to come up to me and say “Sorry to bother you, but I just have to ask what you’re writing about.”
First of all, no, you don’t have to ask.
Nine times out of ten, I tell the dude what I’m writing about, and he responds with a long story about himself and what he does, which ultimately has nothing to do with anything I said.
A couple weeks ago, I was at my favorite writing spot. It was a Friday, and I had four articles I wanted to get done. I’m a new freelancer, which means I don’t exactly have clients lined up out the door yet. If I want to get work, I have to go and find it. I need to have ideas and content to pitch. While I am not technically on a deadline, if I don’t have content to pitch, I will not get paid. No one is begging me to submit anything yet, but I like to, you know, eat and stuff.
I’m sitting at the bar, and this one dude starts talking to me. I had finished my first article and was just starting on my second one. I responded to his questions and listened to his personal view on religion (this is common: when such dudes find out that I write about faith, they explain to me how the world works).
I am a sassy person, but I also like to treat people like they are people, and I have a crippling need to be liked. Also, rejected dudes are wildly unpredictable. Add any amount of alcohol to the mix and there is no knowing what you’re going to get. My strategy is generally to give them as little personal information as possible so that I seem like a human turnip, and they lose interest.
I talked to this first dude for like 40 minutes. He suggested we go to another bar, and I said, “I actually do have a lot of work to get done.” He said OK and he left.
I brushed this experience off; it had been positive on the whole, and I started writing my second article. I got a whole paragraph in when another dude comes up to me and says, with no preamble, “Can I read that?”
Jesus, you need to take this wheel because I cannot with this.
The first guy at least had the decency to wait until I was between articles.
This dude proceeds to do all the “drunk dude trying to engage the only person with ovaries in the bar” moves, one of which was, under the pretense of inspecting my tattoo, to grab my wrist (not aggressively, but still), and turn it various directions, so he could get a good look.
I paid and left.
At one point, dude number 2 said, “oh, am I bothering you?” to which I responded “I’m on a deadline and literally just spent the past 40 minutes having this same conversation with another dude, so yeah.”
He then explained to me why he’s an atheist and how that complicates his relationship with his mother.
I left very frustrated, wracking my brain for what I should have done differently, coming up with killer clap back I would never be able to use.
Then I thought, Wait… why do I feel responsible for this? I was sitting alone, minding my own business, which I have seen many dudes do on many nights at this same bar. And they are left in peace.
I have spent time developing stratagem to avoid these interactions, until it occurred to me that it actually makes very little difference how I dress or act.
I am a woman at a bar alone. There seems to be something about the space next to me that demands to be filled. I think there is an assumption that, because I am a woman, I am not complete on my own, that in spite of being at a bar clearly working and wearing the least attractive clothing I own, I must on some level want to be interrupted. It doesn’t seem fathomable that I could legitimately be there on my own by choice.
By entering into this particular cultural and secular realms, I am subject to a social contract I didn’t agree to, and for which I find myself unprepared. As a Christian, I feel compelled to engage. These dudes are, after all, image bearers. As a former missionary, I feel guilty for not taking this golden moment to evangelize.
It’s a complicated line to walk.
You might be thinking Well Marebs, you wouldn’t have gotten this blog post out of it if this hadn’t happened. What do you expect, working at a bar? It’s a social setting.
A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting and writing in front of the Van Goghs at the Met when a man decided to explain to me that the reason Trump got elected was because of video games. So there’s that.