At a certain point in every sad point of a man’s life, he goes to a bar alone. In movies, this is a great way to feel better. You go to a bar, you make fast friends with people who share the same issues as you, you have a few beers, you talk to the aloof, gruff, kindly bartender, and you go home feeling better.
But, as I learn over and over again whenever I take on the mantle of Judge Dredd and prow the streets, looking for trouble, but oh, you’ve already found it, movies are not real life. Going to a bar by yourself is one of the worst things you can do, especially if you’re meaning to alleviate depression. These are seven reasons why you should stay home and just try poetry for the first time instead.
The Seating Arrangements
Finding a seat in bar when you’re by yourself is a nerve-wracking process. It’s kind of like finding the right urinal: you don’t want other people to see your junk but you don’t want to scurry to the farthest corner, because you’re not afraid to pee openly with your massive genitalia that you’re in no way ashamed of. You never want to be that one guy at the end of the bar, too old to be that drunk. But, by going to the bar by yourself in the first place, you’re in the beginning steps of being that guy, someone whose friends ditched him once, so he decided “This feeling can be replaced with beer? Bartender, can I get thirty more years? Put it on my sadness tab!”
You also don’t want to get too close to the people who came to a social place with other people, especially people who seem about three seconds away from performing a live stage show version of The Descent on each other with only their tongues. I’m not trying to dissuade making out in bars. Trust me, that’s how I met my middle forty girlfriends, but if you find yourself next to them and accidentally get nudged during the festival of love, the guy isn’t going to turn toward you and say “Terribly sorry, sir. I seemed to have been slurping at my lover’s face and didn’t notice you there. Buy you a round if you buy me some patience?” If a person is that dedicated to not finding a more quiet, fitting place to drunkenly whisper things in someone else’s hair, they’re not going to give a shit that all of a sudden the back of their chair suddenly feels like sad sack.
If the bar is close to empty, great. You just have a knack for choosing bad business hours. If it’s crowded, good luck. Being seated between the morning after pill and two guys in suits, discussing how much they hate something, is going to be your perfect bar seat.
The Drink Choice
You never make a good choice of liquor when you set out to drink by yourself. And I never feel adventurous when I’m alone, and not in a “A shot wouldn’t be good for me right now” sense but in a “Yeah, I could do double whiskeys for the next four hours and nothing else” way.
Having friends at bars is good for two reasons. They ease social situations and they sometimes hold back your impulse to be a fucking moron when it comes to the amount of alcohol you’re flooding into your body and what your body decides to do with all of it. When you don’t have friends, who’s going to tell you that maybe you should get water? You’re so caught up in self defeat that taking care of yourself never comes to mind. Your survival instincts shut down and are replaced by the mindset that every “just one more” makes sense.
You never fail to drink too much when there’s no buffer. And not having any kind of buffer on the stupid shit that the human mind comes up with always leads to…
A giant mistake people make when they go to bars solo is that they check their phone compulsively, and suddenly everyone in your Contacts list becomes a part of the awkward open season of hello’s. I’m not against technology. Yes, one day my laptop will turn sentient and stab me to death with the laser swords it has hidden in its processors, but until then, bring it on, things that beep!
Starting a proper, engaging conversation is often sabotaged when you answer “drinking” and “by myself.” There’s no knee jerk sympathy like you’d get if you answered “thinking about her,” and you don’t get the I-should-help response like you’d receive if you told them that you were “feeling hurt.” If you’re by yourself at a bar, you’re setting yourself up for people suddenly becoming busy. The reason for this coincides with the point I made above. You’re going to be drinking, and 100% of drinking heavily while texting turns into a deafness to sensibility.
Say you text a woman while drinking by yourself. Every woman has experienced the innocent conversation turned into the clumsy come-on when talking to a drunk guy. They don’t want to take the chance to set themselves up for another one, because they have to ward you off amusingly that night and hope you forgot about it that next day.
All you end up with is a lot of lonely “Hey, it’s been a while. How’s it been?” And when that fails you, you usually turn to…
I have, beyond all odds, met cool people in bars when I was by myself. But I’ve been in a lot of bars by myself, so you have to measure the ratio. And I have never had a transcendental moment in a bar, much less a sudden friendship that changed the way that I felt about things entirely. What you do end up with though is asking a lot of people what their Major in college was again.
Trying to integrate yourself into a group of people is hard work, especially when they all came to have fun together and never planned to associate with someone who decided that the best way to deal with problems was to turn themselves into a babbling idiot. Someone they don’t know that they’ll now probably have to take care of? No, thank you. We’ll head out while we’re “waiting” for you to get out of the bathroom if you don’t mind.
You never become “that awesome guy” when you go to a bar to deal with problems. You know the person I’m talking about: the guy you imagine yourself turning into at gatherings. The guy who wins all those arguments that you had against invisible opponents in the shower or in the car but does it in real life. The Stefan to your Urkel, the James Bond to your That Fat Sheriff in Live and Let Die. You mostly just end up in forgettable conversations about mutually terrible ex-girlfriends. But that want to suddenly become to fun, cool person leads into the worst thing on the list…
The Flirting From Hell
The first few minutes of flirting are terrible: a mess of corny lines, worse body language and a dizzying amount of stupid attempts to seem bed-worthy. You know in Crazy, Stupid Love, where Ryan Gosling could have come into the bar dressed in Steve Carell’s skin and still gotten laid? It’s never like that. Never. I’m not claiming to be Ryan Gosling. Hell, I’m not even claiming to be Steve Carell’s fleshless, screaming body. But hitting on a girl when you came to drink away your troubles is like deciding to be a MMA fighter when the only thing you know about wrestling is what playground sand tastes like when it’s mixed with your tears.
The first step is finding something to talk about in your approach, but, ironically, it’s hard to be interesting and attractive when the most obvious thing about yourself is that you’re sad and make poor decisions because of it. You usually comment on something in the surrounding area like “Hey, this bar is pretty bar, right?” because a deficiency in the human brain prevents us from just being normal and introducing ourselves.
The second step, if her first notion isn’t to say “Not now. You’re awful,” is to go into that first date shit that everyone does, where you’re asking questions and throwing darts at a board, trying to hit something that isn’t too boring or too forward. This gets tiring fast. You’re looking, primarily, for something to replace the empty time that drove you to go to this bar, and using sex as a diversion from aimless crying is the first step towards using cannibalism as a diversion from sex.
If you’re getting over a break up and are coming to a bar to country song your way out of the downward spiral, the natural reaction is to SLEEP WITH EVERYTHING. So please, think about baseball. Just don’t watch it.
The Un-Interesting Game
I’m not a big sports guy. I’m not comically illiterate when it comes to them either. If you asked me what a football is, I could tell you that once The Rock played with one, because he was a football player before he was a wrestler. But that mostly comes from the fact that I know a lot about The Rock, so my earlier point about not being comically illiterate? Disproven. And that’s science.
Unless you came with a big group, harkening back to the point I made about surrounding yourself with established friends, you end up looking pretty silly. No one in the history of being a sports fan for three hours has ever had a good time yelling out “Awwww” or muttering “No way,” at a basketball game when the only company that they brought to the bar was regret.
Getting asked if you want to change the channel is also a weird experience. The bartender will look to you, you who obviously came to this bar alone to be invested in your favorite athletic team, and will ask you if you don’t mind if they switch to hockey. It never fails to be a fumbling effort that you “Oh, okay, yeah” your way through.
You Have To Drive Home
The reason public transportation was invented was because people who drank by themselves needed safer ways to crash into their apartments. But unless you live in a place that’s progressive enough to build drunk cars for your useless ass, you’re gonna be driving home. And as the announcements before prom night have told us, that’s unsafe as hell.
I’m usually not one to advocate public safety. The way I die will probably be screaming “The alligator is awake! Don’t touch the alligators!” But I don’t want people to die, not even in an internet “go kill yourself” way. Driving drunk is one my top ten worst ways to stay alive, along with Russian roulette and everything involving horses. And since you didn’t arrive with anyone, it’s gonna be hard to convince someone who’s not your mom to come pick you up at 2 AM because you’re not getting laid, still hate sports, and are in the same place you were before you decided that gin and tonics were the magical elixir for introspective loathing.
Just stay home and drink. Have you ever been comfortable enough with yourself to be depressed, go to a bar, and watch the entire first season of the X-Men cartoon? No? It figures. But at home, you can do that all night. The only consequence is that you’ll be reminded of what a Magneto is. And that sounds pretty fucking good to me.