When I started university, I decided to get a job in the service industry. I didn’t do this because I had an inflated sense of confidence in my looks, my personality, or my ability to do the job. Quite the opposite — I’d never done it before, and I really didn’t think I’d be able to cut it as a waitress. In fact, the mere idea of it terrified me, which is how I knew I had to do it.
I’d just moved to a new city where I didn’t know many people, and I wanted to push the boundaries of my sometimes crippling social anxiety and inherent shyness with people I didn’t already know.
Flash forward a decade, though the successes and falterings I had throughout my career were many, I have retired from the bar scene for now. But that’s not the story I’m telling today. I just needed to provide you with some context because most of you don’t know anything about me.
Today, I want to talk about Guy At The Bar™
With ten years of concentrated service experience in a few different styles of watering holes, I have met my fair share of Guys At The Bar. And no matter where you go, they don’t stray too far from the template.
One of Guy’s defining traits, especially when he is sitting alone, is that he likes to talk. A lot. Lucky for Guy, I’m a pretty good listener.
Unfortunately for me, this backfired hard on me when I was the lone bartender on duty and Guy walked in. Because Guy was incapable of discerning the difference between me doing my job well and me giving an actual fuck about him.
That’s not to say I didn’t like any of my customers. I met countless lovely locals and tourists over the years as a result of them sitting down at my bar, and I had a great time facilitating their boozy adventures.
But unlike the respectful clients who were agreeable if not a lot of fun to serve, Guy took blatant liberties with the fact that I couldn’t just walk away from him and never come back; that I was trapped at my post and obligated to entertain him because I needed his two dollar tip that badly; that he was feeling a little bolder than usual after a drink or four, and that there was no one around to distract (or protect) me from him.
The small talk with a Guy always started the same way. He introduced himself by name as if I should already have known who he was. Because then he told me how he comes to the bar pretty often, dropping the owner’s name for posterity (Which was always fascinating because somehow, even though I worked 60+ hours a week, I’d never seen him around before).
Or maybe it was his first time there and he was just trying to break the ice.
I’ve always looked even younger than I am and seemed to maintain the look of a bright-eyed freshman to Guy even well after I had completed my studies. He liked to use this as one his sad attempt to flirt with me, as if being 25 and confused for 18 is somehow flattering.
When I told him I was done with my studies, he would ask what my “real” job was/would be because the all-too-common misconception that we service industry folk don’t make real money with our not-real jobs still persists…
Fine. Fair. These are very common, mostly legitimate ways of striking up a conversation with a stranger.
It never takes long for Guy to veer toward his old standby:
“So, do you have a boyfriend?”
This has always been ultra-hetero Guy’s all-time favourite topic of discussion, because of course, if he deems the female bartender even remotely attractive, her sex life is his business.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking already. What’s wrong with asking? It’s just a simple question. Maybe he’s just trying to make conversation with you.
If you’re already feeling triggered by my obvious simmering annoyance regarding this topic, you should probably leave now because I’m only just getting started and I have a lot of feels to spew.
This question, though arguably innocuous if thrown out into a vacuum, is so inappropriate and—
Shut up. Let me finish.
Yes, it absolutely is.
Because what comes after this asinine question is even worse, my friends.
In my case, I chose not to use the survival mechanism of an imaginary male partner and told my truth instead, which was that I did not, in fact, have a boyfriend.
And the grossly inappropriate follow-up question was too often a resounding: “Why not?”
Yes, this has happened. No, I can’t tell you exactly how many times because the answer is: far too fucking many.
Again, you might argue that this is a simple, innocent question about a simple fact of my existence.
But it’s not.
It never is.
I can’t even begin to describe how mental it is to utter those two syllables to someone in this context, but I’ll try.
Because Guy does not give a fuck if I’m in a happy, solid relationship or how I feel about it. He is asking point blank questions about my sex life.
Because there is nothing polite or innocent about a strange man asking a woman he has never met or barely knows about who she may or may not be fucking; about why she doesn’t have a man laying claim to her.
The further commentary that follows is as cringe-worthy as you might expect — vapid compliments and sometimes even posturing claims about what he would do to/with/for me if the circumstances were different. (For it was not uncommon for Guy to be a fair bit older or in a committed, staunchly monogamous, possibly strained relationship with a woman who was not me.)
More than once, after I gave him some kind of flippant response to his “Why not?” question, Guy took it a step further with a “Well, then what do you do for sex?”
I wish I was making this up for the sake of my snarky humor. But that’s a direct quote, folks.
To the men in the room who might feel triggered by this; who might feel this behaviour could somehow be justified; who might feel this line of questioning is not inappropriate; who might feel the inexplicable need to ask this question of their female bartenders under these circumstances…
First of all — don’t.
Second, if you’re asking because you need to determine how likely it is that she would sleep with you before you even have a chance to get to know each other at all, go no further. You’ve already lost your chance.
Third, your desire for her is neither inherently flattering nor attractive. If she doesn’t already reciprocate it, you throwing it around willy-nilly at her is not going to butter her up nor will it break her down enough to make her abandon all sense and standard to suddenly pack up and shack up with you. You, a total stranger that she is being nice to because it’s HER FUCKING JOB.
Finally, if you feel like telling her how you think she deserves to have someone (to claim her), don’t do that either. Because contrary to your belief, it is not complimentary. Same goes for any of proclamations of how “if I were single/younger/[fill in any other irrelevant qualifier here], you’re the kind of girl I would pursue.”
Of course, you would have to pursue her, you fuck. Because she’d never let you catch her.
We now resume our regular programming.
I haven’t been subject to this specific behaviour for a while now. This came up recently because I was sitting at a bar as a customer and overheard a Guy asking the pretty lady bartender if she had a boyfriend. This went down before he was even halfway through his first beer. It was pretty clear they had no prior relationship and that it made her uncomfortable, but in true Guy fashion, he took it as part of the game that only he was playing.
When I tried to tweet about how this scene made me feel, years of pent-up vitriol came spilling out from me instead. And when I asked you if you’d be interested in my snarky thoughts on the matter, I got an enthusiastic yes.
So, in true riled-up writer fashion, I have compiled a list.
A list of my top 20 responses to Guy’s question of why I don’t have a boyfriend
Note: Over the decade I spent behind the bar, my confidence grew exponentially (and conversely, the amount of fucks I had to give depleted drastically). I also fluctuated a lot with how tipsy I might have been on any given shift, so some of these responses are what I wish I would have said, while others are nearly verbatim. I’ll let you decide which are which.
1. Excuse me?
2. You know, I think I have to go clean something.
3. Well, I discovered back massagers when I was 4, so…
4. The person I’m seeing right now doesn’t identify as a boy so it would be weird to call her/them that.
5. *REALLY AGGRESSIVE EYE ROLL* Really, Guy?
6. It’s summertime. The girls are wearing cute dresses. CUTE DRESSES. WITH POCKETS EVEN.
7. I decided I’d rather not shave* anything ever again instead.
*not that there is anything wrong with body hair, but you know that Guy finds female body hair icky.
8. Why does it matter to you?
9. Who says I need to have a boyfriend to be sexually satisfied?
10. You just spent the last 3 beers vilifying your current girlfriend to me — a complete stranger. Nothing about that is a turn-on. If there was ever even a remote possibility of me being attracted to you when you walked in, I’m definitely not interested now. Kindly fuck off.
11. *loooooooooooong blank stare*
12. No need to worry about that. I do just fine.
Variation 1: I’m a slut. I don’t have time for just one.
Variation 2: The members of my harem prefer the moniker “Slaveboy”.
13. Why, do you want to be the one to fulfill my needs? Because let me stop you right there— ain’t never gonna happen.
14. My girlfriend and I haven’t been all that tempted to bring a boy into our folds.
*throws bar rag on the floor and storms off when the epic pun doesn’t land on this troglodyte”
15. Because I’m still not over the last one.
Variation 1: Because I’m still cleaning the last one out of my bathtub.
Variation 2: Because I’m still waiting for the cement to set around the last one.
Variation 3: Because I haven’t replaced my tarp since I wrapped the last one up.
Variation 4: Because I forgot about the leftovers of the last one and my fridge is super rank now.
Variation 5: *in silence, slowly cuts up a cucumber in the most inconceivably thin slices without taking my eyes off him*
16. Holy SHIT! I never thought about it before… Why DON’T I have a boyfriend? Oh, my GOD! Do I need one? How has this NEVER come up in conversation before RIGHT NOW? I’m SO GLAD you came in and shed the light on my situation! WOWWEE! Let me buy you a shot, Guy.
17. I’m waiting for the new model to come out.
18. Well, y’see—Oh, wait. Is that the phone? That might be the phone. I’ll be *right* back.
*Hides out around the corner in the kitchen to shit-talk my harasser to my back-of-house coworkers and generally avoid the discomfort that has been building all afternoon until Guy needs another beer or finally leaves*
19. Guys my own age are even more intimidated by me than you are.
20. *Snatches the beer right out of Guy’s hands, downs the contents in a couple of big gulps, slams the glass on the counter, points at the door* Get the fuck out of my bar.
I really don’t know what to tell you, Guy. Why am I single?
Maybe I’m just a big ol’ angry man-hating feminist who doesn’t want anything to do with you.
Maybe I’m content in my independence.
Maybe I’m focusing on loving myself before I invite someone else in.
Maybe I’m not limited to monogamous sexual relationships with only men.
Maybe I’ve never felt that I needed someone to claim me in order to feel fulfilled, protected, or loved.
Maybe I’m still recovering from some very real sexual trauma.
Maybe I’m already bursting at the seams from the love I have in my relationships, sexual and otherwise, and I’ll never be able to make you understand how much that nourishes my soul because I’m not going to be the one to teach you that love and sex, though they can certainly overlap, are totally separate things.
Maybe I am dating someone but that person doesn’t identify as a man.
Maybe I haven’t encountered anyone who would be a solid partner for who I am right now.
Maybe because any number of other reasons that are none of your fucking business, bruh.
Look. I get it.
Bartenders are sexy creatures. The way we lean into the bar while we wipe that wet spot off the counter in front of you… The way we look you right in the eye when we recommend a drink to you… The way we flash you *that* look from across the room as we shake up your martini… The way we remember your name and offer you a shot on the sly to keep you coming back for more?
It’s no wonder we’re a sexy trope and you can’t help but fall for us.
Because yeah, it’s all hot as fuck. And all a very intentional, calculated part of the game. We’re playing you hard.
Because that’s the job.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with flirting with anyone. If you want to try and flirt with the bartender, give it a shot. And if you have success, that’s fucking awesome, dude. I’ll be the first to sing your praises. (P.S. I write great wedding speeches, so hmu.) But as my sister in smut, Oleander Plume, so aptly put it, “If you lack the barometer to determine whether your behavior is flirting or abuse, just don’t.”
Asking the female bartender why she doesn’t have a boyfriend is not flirtation, it’s harassment.
Full stop; mic drop.