ABC’s Mixology – Denver Post
He sat next to me, prattling on about the life cycle of plane engines, dumbing it down so that I could wrap my head around the concept of the seven-year degradation process in a multimillion dollar piece of equipment. When he would pause to take a breath, notice my fingernails tapping the almost-empty pint glass, or tearing at the edges of the soggy cardboard coaster beneath it, he’d ask if I was sure I didn’t want another drink. I can see how someone might misconstrue these tiny gestures as signals that I was the type of girl who’s time at the bar was measured in imported beers, but they were merely coincidental movements enabled by my brain to keep my body from going completely numb. Unfortunately, he was one of those guys and didn’t seem to get that I wasn’t one of those girls.
He didn’t have a clue.
But I was bored and it was ten o’clock on a Saturday night, so rather than hike up to the karaoke spot my friends had fled to, I remained behind to grab one last drink at the bar across the street from my hotel. Three Monkeys. It sounded interesting and wasn’t overcrowded or ridiculously loud like the last spot we had been smothered into. I had spotted a gap just wide enough for me to squeeze into and ordered myself a Lagunitas . From the moment I walked up to the stainless steel bar, I could sense him inspecting me under the dim lighting. Before I could even grab my drink, I heard a “cheers” come from my left side, but I ignored it and signed the receipt. He waited until I slid the pen and wet paper back to the bartender and repeated himself. It would have been too rude for me to ignore him at that point, so I turned and clinked my glass against his, whipping out my phone to prevent any misunderstanding that I was there to socialize.
I’ve always felt this was the universal sign for I’m not interested or I’d rather be alone right now, but some people are either completely oblivious, or extremely persistent. Alberto, as I quickly discovered, was the latter. Observing my lack of seating, he offered his stool and grabbed another from a nearby table. I think I set a personal record for chugging my beer that night. Okay, so this may come across as just awful and self-absorbed on my part. You might be thinking, Maybe he just wanted to be nice or There’s nothing wrong with being friendly! And I agree — for the most part. If I were on the receiving end of this story, I would make the same assumptions about the narrator and think they should just get over themselves while appreciating the fact that casual conversations are typical in New York City. But you need to understand the way I process people’s vibes. Yes, I’m about to go there.
After living in New York for the majority of my adult life, I’ve become extremely sensitive to people and their intentions. Kind of like a ‘spidey sense,’ but I use it to avoid danger, not propel myself towards it. It’s most likely a result of my experience working in the service industry, or general interactions with strangers on a daily basis, but I have to give some credit to innate intuition here. If a person is trying to get something from you, you’ll know it, and Alberto was giving me a major I-might-have-found-a-potential-candidate-to-bring-home reading. This sounds a bit intense, I know, but it’s fairly easy to read someone by interpreting their body language and verbal speech. The key is just being observant. I’ll admit, if I had been anything more than tipsy, I may have missed some of his little plays (certainly not enough to even consider letting him buy me a drink) but a few could have easily slipped beneath my radar considering how many tactics he attempted to employ.
Now, before I get into this, let’s address the obvious question here: If you were that annoyed, why not reject him upfront or tell him you had a boyfriend? Excellent point! Unfortunately, I don’t really have a very exciting answer other than I wanted to conduct a semi social experiment on a relentless and slightly obnoxious pursuer where I document the overall experience and could then use the material as writing fodder*. I also don’t believe a woman should have to resort to labeling herself as “someone’s something” in order to have her space respected. Besides, you’d be surprised by the number of men who simply don’t care.
Okay, so what exactly was Alberto doing and how was it formulaic? Let’s start with the basics: First, the pursuer will attempt to glean as much information as possible from their target. Typical questions such as: Where are you from? What do you do? How long have you lived in New York? How old are you? What’s your background?, and for the bold, Do you have a boyfriend? (I find men that men usually reserve this one for at least fifteen minutes in order to gauge their interest in the woman—not a scientific fact, just my opinion). Once they’ve collected enough data, they draw on the response they can relate to most and/or build the longest conversation from. Alberto chose writing as his topic. And so began the drilling of my career choices as well as requests for examples and synopses of the pieces I’ve completed.
Next, the guy creates an opportunity to either praise the woman he is wooing, or attempt to impress her by overshadowing her accomplishments with his own. In this case, Alberto had decided to tell me about a book he’d been writing about himself for the past seven years. But get this: he had no desire to publish it. He was just documenting his life little bits at a time because, in his words, he had a very interesting life. Now, doesn’t that sound like a leading statement? Honestly, it worked. Not because I was genuinely intrigued by the craziness that is Alberto’s life, but because I truly wanted to understand how someone without a passion for writing could dedicate so much time to a craft I adored. And also because I didn’t believe him.
Once I had taken the bait, Al set off on his laundry list of tidbits he found most interesting about himself with the hopes that I, too, would find him to be the most interesting man in the world. For example, he had been arrested before (what?!) and he’d been mugged on the street a few years ago (le gasp!). Unfortunately for him, this is New York, not Oklahoma. I’ve witnessed a woman defecating on the sidewalk. It was also pertinent that I knew he was European (because his heavy accent wasn’t enough of an indication) and he had been to dozens of countries, each one providing more fantastical tales.
Throughout the conversation that leapt into way too many different directions, I began challenging myself to pick up the small breadcrumbs that Al was hoping would get me to follow him home. This led to his third step: Make sure the woman you’re hitting on knows other women find you attractive. In order to do this, he went off on a tangent about an ex girlfriend (in Europe) who attempted to set him up with a woman she knew here in the states, which led to an incredulous first date in her “ashtray of an apartment” where she promptly began stripping off her clothes and dancing for him. Things were getting awkward, so I decided to change the subject. I prodded about his real career, to which he feigned modesty (quite poorly) about his role in the plane investment industry. Step four: Mention money when possible, strongly insinuating your salary while tossing in key words such as millions, billions, and exclusive, all the while assuring the target that your job is really “boring.”
The tone with which a person carries on a conversation is a major factor in categorizing them as douche-y or charming and I’m really curious about whether or not interactions like the one I had are cultivated or inherent. Alberto could have easily been a much more engaging barstool buddy had his attempts at self-flattery not been so transparent and his condescending affectation wasn’t obvious, but whether by choice or by nature, he was just another tool** in a bar.
I chugged the last of my beer and made my way to the door, racking my brain for a way to get away from Al without letting him know that I was staying just across the street. “Well, my friend is staying at this hotel, so this is my stop,” I decided to say after realizing that I was too cold and too tired to hop in a cab and circle around the block. “Are you going to stay the night with him?” Eye roll. “Yup, goodnight!”
When you constantly ask a woman her age, you become more than just curious, you sound as if you’re attempting to determine her value on her based on her biology. When you keep offering someone a drink even after they politely decline several times, you come across as someone who thinks they can buy another person’s time and create a sense of obligation for them to stay by your side. And when you lean over her shoulder and ask if she is texting another guy, you’re not only crossing major personal boundaries, but you’re making the assumption that you have a right to pry into another stranger’s life. Everything about Alberto had rubbed me the wrong way and the experience made me so grateful that I no longer have to struggle in the dating world where men like him exist. Sure, maybe he was just trying to show interest in the best way he knew how and I’m certain his tactics have worked on women who were actually available, but for the sake of all the vulnerable women out there, I certainly hope not.
*No egos were harmed during this encounter.
**Not all men are like this (obviously).