Saturday, March 25, 2006

Girls and boys (or men and women) Part II

Last night, my roommates and friends and I went to Doll's Place, another of the class of bars sometimes referred to as "grad student bars." I think this appellation that has found its way into our discourse is reminiscent of elementary school, when there were "big kid" swingsets and math classes and "big kid" hangouts. "Grad student bars" are what we use to refer to bars whose clientele include, yes, grad students, but also undergrads like ourselves for whom a full night at Knight Club is their knightmare. "Grad student bars" often are simply Bars With Seats. Bars that play The Who end up getting placed in that revered genre--Grad Student Bars.
So, I guess the paradox I'm trying to elucidate is that, while we call them "grad student bars," like we are going to there to hang out with the very cool mature crowd, we really seek out these bars for the good music, lack of sweaty hands groping us, ability to wear weather-appropriate clothes without looking prudish, and places to sit.
"Look! At this bar, we don't have to wave our money around and yell to get served," I say.
"You pay for that, though," says our friend AW.
As if responding to AW's comment, "$13.50," says the bartender, as three drinks clunk down in front of us.  We are astonished--that is less than at our other favorite bar!
Anyway, at some point, my roommate and I got up to walk around the bar and see who and what there was to see. She looked for men while I remained occupied by the belief that a wall-sized mirror was really another room in the bar.
A man, probably in his late twenties or early thirties (I am a horrible judge of age, but so was he) approached us.
"Are you in the theater?" he asked me.
"No." But I didn't want to be rude and blow him off.  I told him that I wasn't in the theater, "But I was at a Mason Gross party!"
"No, the reason I asked, was because I saw you on the stage..."
"I'm not on the stage!"
"A person who looked like you, in the Star Ledger Arts section, wearing a costume like that."
I was wearing grey semi-dressy pants and a grey shirt with a black and white marabou feather collar.  It was a crazy shirt. But I wanted to wear that shirt, and before we left, my roommate said I looked classy and predicted I was going to attract a man with high standards and a large ego.
At this point, however, I had attracted an older man in baggy clothes who was convinced that I was an actress and wearing my costume to the bar.
My roommate and I are nice girls. We aren't going to lead someone on. But we also feel bad giving no chance to a guy just because he is not attractive and makes conversational blunders which could have been attributed to alcohol, not necessarily a lack of inner beauty. Thus, we continued the conversation.
Eventually, the man asked my roommate and I if we wanted drinks, and when a mere second passed before we answered, he snapped, "It's a simple question. Yes or no."Then a realization must have dawned on him. He inquired, did our reluctance mean we were underage? Had we snuck into the bar?
At this suggestion, we laughed laughter which the man, who was between 27 and 35, interpreted as nervous affirmation of his suspicions. He insisted upon his willingness to buy drinks for and continue to woo girls he thought were under 21.
My roommate and I are both ridiculously frugal. We like drinks we don't have to pay for. But is it fair to allow some man who already ruined his chances with us to buy us a drink?
And this is why I titled my entry "Girls and boys" again. This is another incident about the misinterpretations and confusion that arise between men and women. This is another example of questions of 21st century opposite-sex propriety.
As I drank my free "whatever-she's-having-because-no-bar-ever-has-Beck's-Dark", I felt several surges of guilt. I felt that I understood why guys say that the dating scene is the realm of sexual equality, because women are jerks as much as men are jerks. We had no interest in this guy, and why couldn't we just give him a chance? But if we weren't giving him a chance, why couldn't we just cut him off and let him go? Why did we have to drag it out? But if we'd chosen our other option, to walk away and ignore him earlier in the conversation, we'd be "not giving him a chance" and we'd therefore be frigid.
The guy switched his interest from me to my roommate, quickly, and began vigorously to chat her up. The following is one of the highlights of his speech:
"No really, you," he said to her, his gaze super-serious, "are gorgeous. You," he turned to me. And he looked while he paused. "You..."
I probably smirked.
"You're gorgeous too," he said in an oxymoronic tone--forced, mock insincerity.

Later, another roommate, AZ, approached us to see if we needed rescuing. To her, our suitor said, "I'm guessing you're into sports."
"No, I'm not."
"I thought that maybe because you're tall."
"You want to take another guess at what I'm into?"
"I'm guessing you're into women." The stress on the last word made it clear he considered this an insult.
See, the appellation "grad student bar" does not necessarily mean the clientele is mature.
As the bar was closing, the man demanded from TS, the only roommate he had not insulted, a phone number. Surprised, she hesitated.
"Yes or no!" he commanded forcefully.
"No!" she said, affronted by his tone, not his request.
As we walked to Nuebie's (where I had a perfect grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, where "The Ocean" came on the radio and some friends and I sang along with both the words and guitar parts, where we felt bliss), TS started to feel guilty.
Guilt is wasted on a man who insulted two of the roommates of the girl he was wooing. The sentiments of this post are almost wasted on him, but, since it applies to all people, not really. What is the proper behavior? How much chance should you give someone to either impress you or clearly cross the line from "was that a joke or an insult?" to unquestionably insulting? Is there really a nice way to reject someone? A polite way? Are those the same thing?

No comments: