I have a confession to make: I’ve never gone to a bar alone. I have no problem going to restaurants or movies alone. In fact, I love bringing a book to a restaurant and sitting by myself. But there’s something about going to a bar alone that feels different. Sure, I’ve sat alone at bars for a little while, waiting for a friend to show up, but I’ve never actually set out to spend an evening in a bar alone.
It takes a certain ballsiness to go to a bar alone if you’re a woman. Also, you’ve got to have a certain personality type, a one-of-the-guys openness to all types of people, like Rosie Schaap, the author of Drinking With Men.
Or maybe it’s because I read Looking for Mr. Goodbar when I was a teenager, about a teacher who goes to bars alone, meets a guy one night, and gets murdered. I remember my sister telling me about going to Atlantic City by herself after her divorce, and how she sat at a bar alone, and met a guy. They had a great time, talking for hours, and then he wanted to go back to her room with her. She wasn’t ready for that, and managed to leave the bar alone without any problems. I was incredulous: how could you do something so risky? What if he was a rapist? What if he followed you? She seemed pretty relaxed about the whole thing. She had a great time, and that was that. You can’t live your life looking for danger.
I’ve never felt comfortable going to a bar by myself, mostly because I’m an introvert and the thought of inviting conversation with strangers isn’t that appealing to me. When I’m with a friend, though, and I’ve had a few drinks, it’s a different story. Some of my best nights have been spent sitting at a bar with a friend or two, chatting with the bartender and meeting all the people around us.
Sitting at a bar alone seems like something you’d do when you’re down and out, like a friend of mine who became a regular at a bar after her mom died young and in reaction, she went through a reckless phase.
But that’s not so for everyone: see, again, Rosie Schaap. And there are many more unguarded souls who aren’t suspicious, or guarded, and have no problem inviting the world in.
In a recent article by M. Carrie Allan in The Washington Post, “When Women Drink Alone,” Ms. Allan laments a missed opportunity when she was traveling alone in Europe. Some Spanish guys asked her to join them for absinthe at a local bar in Seville, and she declined after she saw one of them wink at the other.
She interpreted the wink as a sign of possible danger. “That wink was all it took to transform my envisioned scenario from a chummy drink above the river to being dragged from it, possibly with some rare species of moth hidden in my throat. I headed back to the hostel alone.”
She writes of her worry about going to a bar alone as a single woman: “Although a man alone at a bar is not presumed to be looking for anything more than a drink, even now, a woman is often perceived as out for romantic company, possibly actual sex, possibly right there on the bar stool. It’s little wonder many women tipple in packs and stick to familiar venues, familiar drinks. Women don’t go to unfamiliar bars solo for the same reason baby wildebeests don’t go down to the river alone. We want a drink; we just don’t want the crocodile that might come with it.”
What’s your feeling about going to a bar alone? Have you done it or not? Why or why not?