I often wonder what it would be like to do it without the barrier. To greet people each night without the protection of my four foot tall, 20-foot long, L-shaped playpen.
I call it a playpen because it's not just a bar. It's this sacred space where I call the shots (pun intended), and have all the fun -- while you stand awkwardly, vying for my attention, just to have the privilege of asking me for a beverage. I get the toys, and if you're an asshole, I actually don't have to share. In this industry, after 9 p.m., I have an awesomely intimidating dude standing by to escort you out of my field of vision. I don't have to see you, hear you or talk to you.
I am one of the lucky ones. I bartend in one of those places in that part of New York City where every career-bartender and starving actor dreams of bartending. I am able to live my artistic dream on two or three shifts a week, and no, I'm actually not completely starving.
I have a sort of ritual I go through before going into work on a Friday or Saturday night. Wake up late. Like 2:30 p.m. late. Sip coffee. Eat a Chobani. Watch an episode or two of 19 Kids and Counting. And proceed to putting on heavier make-up than usual, a form-fitting black tank, and tight, tight, black pants. Thanks to this season's obsession with platform sneakers, and my Napoleon complex, I slip on my pair of rubber-soled, four inch wedges, and Velcro them shut. I finish off the look by shaking out my hair -- my manager insists I wear it down, despite the health code dictating otherwise. The rationale is simple; she says my hair is sexy, and sexy in general equals more tips. Given my not-so-impressive cup size, I nod at the request and let my long, wavy hair loose. For the duration of the night, my hair is exposed to the elements, lapping up splashes of Stella and spilt vodka sodas. I will never really know if my hair being down makes up for the difference I spend on hair products trying to get rid of the dried alcohol smell, but since we pool our tips, I concede to take this one for the team.
Five things I don't do for tips:
- I do not perform miracles of mixology. Want a miracle? Go to Church. Want a mixologist? Go to Williamsburg.
- My bar-dancing skills do not resemble those seen in Coyote Ugly. Don't ask. I won't twerk.
- I won't spit fire over your cocktail. I do not have an accidental, pyromaniac-style death wish.
- Sadly, I don't hold the elixir to go time traveling back to the 1920s. Do not ask me to spoon-feed you gin out of a bathtub or to pull absinth out of some secret, camouflaged storeroom. We do have a secret storeroom. It holds our coats and some wine, but no absinth. Want absinth? Go to Williamsburg.
- I don't juggle.
My bar's menu does not channel Prohibition-era specialties, and, god forbid doesn't force you to meander through alleyways and phone booths just to wait in line for another hour. It's simply a bar. In that area. Where everything is overpriced, and nobody really expects to have a nice, friendly, all-American looking, red-headed, not-too-scantily-clad, Northwestern alumni, documentary filmmaking, HuffPost writing, pretty- well-rounded human bartender make them a stiff drink.
So when that happens to be the case, it seems like everybody is pleasantly surprised. Those pleasantries often turn into conversation. I am quite the conversationalist. And frankly, I'm also a good listener. That, combined with my ass-hugging pants and apparently nice hair must trigger something in people; my endearing performance inevitably leads to an exchange of life stories. Which leads to question time. And question time somehow always leads to me telling them the most surprising fact of all. No, not that I can actually make a legit "perfect manhattan"...but that I'm a lesbian.
It is truly a remarkable thing to witness time and time again, the way men, women, locals and foreigners become obsessed with the fact that I'm a dyke. It happens at least five times a night, and sometimes more than ten. So frequent are these moments that my managers recognize my coming out conversations, and so do my fellow bartenders. At this point, it is truly comical.
And so it stands to reason, I have many incredibly true adventures to share with you. I'll end this here for now, with a promise of, "to be continued..."