On Feeling Uncomfortable Alone at a Bar
Last week, I rashly talked myself into going to a women in craft beer event because it seemed like a way to meet some neato people, and because every once in a while I forget how fervently I do not want to talk to a lot of strangers in a crowd spontaneously. I convinced myself it’d be good to “build my character” and “expand my horizons” and other things that sounded much healthier than “reacquaint myself with deep prepubescent suffering.”
My first mistake was showing up about ten minutes into the event. No one who has ever gone to a public event (everyone but me, apparently) would be surprised to hear that the place was nearly empty. Well, "sparsely populated" is probably more accurate, which for a bar sure seems empty.
I got a beer and had my pick of the stools lined against the wall. Luckily, I had brought my trusty notebook to document my awkwardness.
Here I share with you a smattering of the very real things I wrote down:
Feelings right now: regret. Discomfort. Mistake. (Editorial note: yes, “mistake” is most definitely a legitimate feeling.)
I could be at home in stretchy pants. What was I thinking?
You can do this. You are cool and confident and rad. You acknowledge that you just affirmed that you are “rad” in your notebook…which you are scribbling in…while alone at a bar.
Stop thinking of your jammies and fridge full of beer that’s already paid for (and the chocolate cake that’s in there, too) and Netflix and the really amazing alternative date with yourself you could have had on your futon with all of those things.
Who journals at a bar? Am I a pariah?
Nope, smiling at everyone you perceive as female-bodied who comes through the door definitely does not make you a creep. Chuckling to yourself as you write this as you realize how creepy you must appear does not make you a creep. Someone else in this room is feeling awkward and doesn’t have a journal to live-document this social trauma.
This might be easier if I didn’t have a journal to live-document my social trauma.
A little after 7, the bar was slightly more than sparsely populated and I gave myself a pep talk. It went something like, "Okay, self. Gotta be brave. Gotta screw my courage to the fermenting place." Pretty sure that’s what Lady Macbeth would have said if she’d lived in a less patriarchal time and had a more appropriate channel for her ambition.
And then I went up and talked to some folks, and...it was totally fine! In fact, it was amazing! I mean, what was all that angsting for?! I met some fun and fascinating people, and am excited about you getting to meet them here in the weeks ahead.
The point of all this, besides continuing my seemingly relentless quest to humble myself on the internet, is that in my heart of hearts I know it's important to be uncomfortable, especially if you are someone like me who has some social anxieties and is inclined to never get off the Doing Fine By Myself futon at home. It's cool to do things on your own and I practice that all the time (read: I am an expert). It's also cool to remind yourself that there is a bigger world out there than the one inside of your head, and that most people are happy to tell you more about themselves if only you'd work up the courage to ask.
So sometimes it's enough that we go to the bar. Sometimes it's enough that we put on real pants, have a beer, drink silently among strangers, and journal about feeling like a weirdo. Sometimes it’s enough to know that striving for connection means we have to be vulnerable, and uncomfortable, and forgo the beer in the fridge that we already paid for for a glass straight from the draft line and a seat among strangers.
And sometimes, if we stick it out long enough, we build our character, expand our horizons, talk to some really neato people, and leave feeling like everything was worth putting on real pants after all.