It’s the time old place to find where we congregate to drink, socialize, and maybe if we’re lucky, meet someone who you like and actually reciprocates. It’s the bar. Any bar. It seems both novel and clichéd, both full of hope and despair. It makes no sense to meet someone out as such an establishment, but I suppose it makes all the sense.
So what do you do? What do you do when you are at a bar and want to get to know someone? It’s a tricky thing; there is lot of things that you can do wrong and only a few that you can do right, everything being equal.
For the purposes of this tip sheet of sorts, we aren’t talking about some club where the music is blasting and everyone communicates with looks and gestures and ‘what’s your name?’ No, let’s pick a standard bar, where you are out with a friend or group and you’re interested maybe in chatting with someone there who catches your eye.
Here we go.
Be Ready to Fail
Okay, sorry to start off negative. I don’t want you to be cynical, and don’t take things too personally, but as I mentioned, it is sort of a strange concept today to meet someone at a bar randomly and end up with future dates. It’s a variety of reasons, much of what has to do with other opportunities for people to meet and get along. We can connect online and know more about each other before going out. Social media also expands friend’s circles, and of course relationships are already bred from the convenience of work or school.
What’s more, chances are often that when someone is out at a bar, they are specifically there for friends—that is, women (who do this way better than men) decide they aren’t looking to be social outside of their plans tonight. It makes sense, and you have to accept it, so don’t get frustrated and take it out on someone else, especially the person who turns you down.
Don’t be Possessive
One of the biggest systematic problems with the way men and women interact comes from something so simply that happens at bars. It’s the notion of propriety or ownership. More often than not, too often, when a man is interested in a woman, the one line that puts the man at bay isn’t “No thank you”. It’s “I have a boyfriend”. And that’s awful. The same thing happens when a single interested man apologizes to the boyfriend who being interested in the woman.
It may not necessarily be a conscious thing, but as men we need to be aware this is happening. Conversely, if you’re the boyfriend, don’t be defensive, possessive, or aggravated if a curious man has started talking to your girlfriend. No one owns anyone else, and no one is entitled to anyone when you find someone attractive.
Let the (Cute) Bartender Be
It’s no coincidence that your bartender is a social, attractive, and friendly young woman. You noticed that, yes? Well, so did everyone else. She is going to be asked out a lot, she is going to be bought shots, and she is going to be given a variety of maybe funny, maybe creepy lines across the night as her patrons get more inebriated. You know what she will notice? She’ll notice a friendly guy who isn’t trying to get into her pants, a gentleman who tips well, and someone who has something to say that isn’t about what she is wearing or doing at the moment. Oh, she also is by no means impressed if you flash around a lot of money, or tell her how big the tip is.
No One-Liners, No Random Drinks, and No Touching
Yes, it is indeed rather tricky because there are many more things that will shut the door than open it. Or rather, things that will keep the door shut, and maybe even get it dead-bolted. So let’s get those out of the way in no particularly order, because these are the biggies: no touching, no one-liners and no surprising her with a drink. What have long been the cornerstones of interested men everywhere don’t work, even if we still think they do—and getting a smile doesn’t mean they work, it just means me (surprise!), you’re not the first to do that and that’s the only way to get you to go away.
There are better and more appropriate ways to make a woman know you are interested, and all of these here simply serve to create an unfair balance of power by making assumptions on the woman. You can ask to buy a drink yes, but you don’t surprise her with one; the bartender hands her a drink, not you. Physical contact is a good way to show interest, but you don’t touch unless she offers consent, and she isn’t consented when you first say hi. You’re not the first to touch the small of her back or her elbow—don’t do it.
It’s Easy to Show Interest
You do have to say something interesting, and the only advice, the best advice, is to be genuine and be timely. The music, the atmosphere, your familiarity with the bar, the people – whatever. It will become clear you are interested when you approach her and start talking and you smile and make eye contact.
Then what? If the person is alone, maybe invite her back with your friends perhaps. More likely though is that she is also with friends. Don’t be afraid to say hello, but don’t invade her evening. Express interest, then withdraw, and allow for her to decide what to do—trust me, she gets it. If she shows a bit of interest or wasn’t completely averse, you say hi every half drink or so (that’s how we measure time in bars). The likely, perhaps hopeful, outcome at the end of the night is there is an exchanging of information, or dare I say, even an impromptu drink.
The important thing to remember is that you’re not fooling anyone and there is no need to. The groundwork has been laid by those who are unseemly and inappropriate, so not doing the standard (which is also the inappropriate) is a good way to set oneself apart. Show that you can be chatty, that you’re not possessive, and you’re interested, and then see what happens.
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. You can follow him on Twitter @MrAnthonyWrites.
Photo courtesy of flickr.