Going out is expensive. Covers, tabs, and taxis – these things add up. I’ve long been jealous that women can surpass most of these costs. Many bars let women in with no covers, and then it’s always a lurking possibility that they’ll get free drinks once inside.
Meanwhile, ain’t no one gonna buy me a drink. *sips water*
I’ve never dwelled much on the phenomenon of free drinks because 1.) I’ve never bought someone a drink because I’m cheap and 2.) What is there to dwell on? Until it happens to you.
A few weekends ago I accompanied several friends to Babes of Carytown, a lesbian bar. (My lesbian friend explains that this just means Babe’s is a gay bar with a more equal ratio of women to men.) Babes has a cover (because they believe in equality), so everyone had to pay it. Once inside, we got drinks and went to the dance floor.
Of course, half our party decided they needed to use the bathroom five minutes later, so then it was just my (female) friend and me alone in the crowd. I saw a guy looking at us, so I looked away and tried to make conversation with my friend over Fetty Wap. I was not trying to be coy.
Next thing I know, that guy had beelined it to us. He put his arm around my shoulder, but probably removed it at the stiffness of my spine because I hate being touched in general.
Guy: “Are you from here?”
Me: “From Richmond? Yeah.”
Guy: “How long have you been here? I haven’t seen you before.”
Me: “About two years.”
Guy: “I moved here last year.”
A pause where we stared at each other. Well, I stared at my drink. I’m no idiot. I was being hit on. Which doesn’t bother me at all. I was a dude at a gay bar. However, at this point in my life I don’t swing that way, so I wasn’t interested, but it seemed heavy-handed to reply, “That's cool. I'm straight in case you were wondering."
Besides being touched, I also hate silence. It awkwards me out to no end. So I asked, “What do you do?” He told me he did something international – I couldn’t hear over Fetty – and asked what I did.
Me: “I study math at VCU.” Not a total lie, but he wasn’t gonna find me on LinkedIn with that info.
Guy: “What are you drinking?”
This is when we collectively shake our heads at me because I did not choose my drink. My friend bought two Dirty Shirleys and two Sex on the Beaches and just handed them off to us. So, of course, I’m drinking a Sex on the Beach. I tell this guy as much and add, “It’s too sweet.”
Guy: “Or does it need more vodka?”
Me: “That, too.”
I had nothing else to say at this point so we stood bobbing (at least my knees were bobbing with Fetty), and then my friends returned, and I angled my body away from this guy.
Fast forward ten minutes. I’ve gone to the restroom. I’m standing in line – and there is a line – and I hear/see this guy jostling his way through the line to the front. I think nothing of it until he thrusts a drink out at me. “Have a good night,” he says. And he walked away.
My friend: “Did he buy you a drink?”
And yes, it was a Sex on the Beach. And still too sweet. I didn’t want this. But he was gone and whatever. I returned to the dance floor, drink in hand.
Except the guy was now dancing right beside my friends.
What is this? He said, “Have a good night”? Doesn’t that mean he was on his way out the door?
Insert a monologue on my conflict, a balance between being flattered and feeling guilt. What is the expectation here? We had talked. Do I have to talk to him more? But I’m not interested. I also don’t want this diabetes in a cup. What if it’s roofied?
I took another sip and handed it off to my friends.
For real, if that drink had been roofied, I would have roofied my entire group of friends, too. Where is my awareness? And it turns out, this guy originally told my friends to give me the drink, but they refused in case it had been roofied and I would have blamed them. Like I would have remembered! Meanwhile, when he handed me the drink outside the restroom stall, I was just like, “Oh, thanks!”
I ask my friend for advice. “Just flirt back,” he says.
Me: “I’m gonna go with avoiding eye contact. Do you want more of this drink?”
The whole rest of the night this guy danced on the periphery of our group and I peddled my free drink on to friends as if to displace the guilt in my soul. Which why should I have felt guilty? But I did. Or at least that I owed something to this stranger because he spent $6 on me. Was this normal? Is this how women feel?
It hadn't escaped me that this was a traditionally female quandary. What do women do when offered free drinks? I polled three friends (n=3) and found they’re all smarter than me.
Friend A: “I decline because drinks come with obligations.”
Friend B: “I say no.”
Friend C: “It depends on a lot of factors, but I try not to [accept]. But if I’m drunk and it’s a good drink, I take it.”
My other friend disagreed on there being obligations, but admitted there are perceptions. She suggested if offered a free drink, one should accept and then staunchly reply, "You offered to get me a drink, and it's your fault for assuming I'd put out. Specify your requirements next time. I brought pen and paper in case we need to draw up a contract."
Me: "I think I'd prefer to say I'm going home to my girlfriend after this."
At the night's end, it was a lesson learned. Nothing is free in this world. Except maybe roofies.*
*I didn't get roofied because I remembered this whole predicament the next morning.