Myths about the bar scene Getting real
-- and realistic -- is key
by Janet Jacobsen
Many people assume the bar scene is THE scene for singles. After all,
arent they called singles bars? (I used to think that
this meant that somewhere there were bars especially for single people;
I was wrong.) So when a person is newly single or available,
they check out the bar scene once or twice, find it very stressful
or unpleasant, and spend the next couple of years staying home watching
tv and complaining about how they cant meet people.
Im not saying here that the bar scene is for everyone; in fact,
its probably not for a lot of people. But well manage our
social lives more effectively if we have a more realistic idea of what
the bar scene is all about. So over the next couple of issues
well share some popular myths about the bar scene.
1. THE BAR SCENE IS THE BEST PLACE TO MEET PEOPLE. Wrong - particularly
in terms of skill levels. Thinking that you should learn your meeting
people skills in the bar scene is equivalent to thinking you should book
your first piano lesson in Carnegie Hall, with an audience of thousands.
You arent ready for that yet.
The easiest place to meet people is at organized singles events where
people are doing something you genuinely enjoy: hiking, discussing, playing
tennis. You know everyone is single, you know everyone shares your interest,
you know everyone is there to meet people, you know the expectation is
that you will mingle. It removes a lot of the stresses.
To meet interesting singles effectively in the bar scene, on the other
hand, you need to know how to weed out the marrieds from the singles,
the available singles from the unavailable singles, the drunks from the
non-drinkers, and how to handle both rejection and rejecting, plus somehow
start conversations with the folks who look promising.
Just about every terrific person I know has been in a bar at one time
or another, so you could have met them there, IF you knew how to spot
them and how to approach them. But this calls for very advanced communication
skills and is no place for beginners.
2. EVERYBODY IN BARS IS A DRUNK. Wrong. People who like to dance
have few alternatives to the bar scene. And serious dancing
is like a serious athletic event; the real dancers are rarely drinkers.
Also, many people are in bars simply because they dont know where
else to go to meet people (see item #1), and not because they drink.
So how do you know whos who? Observation, and patience. If a persons
drinking orange juice or ginger ale early in the evening, theyre
probably never going to get around to liquor, but a drink or two of liquor
early on doesnt mean much. Watch out, though, for those on their
fourth beer or cocktail, for those whove been drinking even before
they got there, and for those who continue drinking right up until they
leave. Also, anyone who gives you a hard time because youre not
drinking is probably bad news.
3. YOU NEED A COUPLE DRINKS BEFORE YOU ASK ANYONE TO DANCE. Maybe
you think you do, but keep in mind that it ups your rejection rate, both
on first contact and in the long run.
4. YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD DANCER. Wrong. Almost no ones a
good dancer, if we use Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as the
criteria. What people tend to do is notice the very best dancers on the
floor, and think, Oh, I cant dance like that.
Instead, concentrate on the worst dancers. If you cant do better
than they do, take lessons. Otherwise, dance!
5. YOU CANT MEET ANYBODY IN BARS. Wrong. But when most people
say anybody, they mean somebody-particularly somebody
special. This gets trickier, and, like we said earlier, takes greater
skills. And adjustments are required on two fronts: how you behave yourself,
and how you select the people you want to meet. (And Im assuming
here that what you want is quality friendships and potential relationships.)
In terms of your own behavior, in the bar scene, its better to err
on the side of acting too conservative than too rowdy. If youre
a dancer, then approach those people who most look like they want to dance.
If youre a talker, then be extra observant about whats going
on in the place, whos dancing, whos talking. Noticing the
little things will give you something to comment about to just about anyone;
if theyre interested, theyll comment back.
6. YOU GET REJECTED MORE OFTEN IN BARS. True, the bar scene is
very competitive in that sense. People tend to be much more
defensive than they would be at a church social, for instance. My rejection
rate asking men to dance at singles dances is about one in twenty; in
the bar scene its one in three. Like I said, the bar scene is the
toughest environment to handle, and fear of rejection is one of the reasons.
So keep in mind that everyones rejection rate is higher in the bars,
and dont let that stop you, if this is a place you really want to
be. And keep working to improve your skills in selecting people to meet.
7. YOU GET STUCK WITH PEOPLE YOU ARENT REALLY INTERESTED IN.
Skills again. If you know how to mingle, you wont get stuck
with anyone, any-where. If you dont know how to mingle, you can
get stuck anywhere.
The key problem here (bar scene and other places too) is the idea that
you have to have a chair, and its your chair, and youre going
to sit there no matter what. Then you get stuck with whoever
sits in the chair next to you. The other person isnt the problem;
the chair is the problem. Liberate yourself; move around. Key liberating
phrase: Its been nice talking to you; but its time for
me to mingle. Then mingle.
8. ITS ALL IN CROWD; THEYRE NOT INTERESTED
IN NEW PEOPLE. Depends, on the bar, the night, and the crowd. Many
places do develop a certain core group that shows up regularly certain
nights of the week. You have a couple of alternatives: break in
to the group, or develop your own group.
You break in by being there regularly, approaching these people in a friendly
but distant way (no party crashers please), and giving things time to
develop. Also, in any in crowd there will be some folks who
nevertheless mingle. Approach those people first.
You start your own crowd by ignoring the in crowd and getting
to know everyone else thats there.
9. MEN HAVE IT EASIEST IN THE BAR SCENE. Thats what women
think (or at least, traditional women), because they figure that men can
and do approach anyone theyre interested in. Well, the social custom
is that they can, and the reality is that they dont.
In my observation, the average boy-next-door nice guy gets rejected about
75% of the time in the bar scene; that slows a lot of them down. The risk
seems so great then, that they get very cautious about who they approach,
and many times are least likely to meet the women they find the most interesting.
On the other hand, some guys have pointed out to me that since they are
as likely to get rejected by unattractive women as they are by attractive
women, when they do ask, they only approach the spectacular ones so that
they feel the risk is worth it. Ive noticed that these
follows rarely ask more than one or two women to dance in an evenings,
and consequently (with a 75% rejection rate) may never get to dance at
Men dont think they have it easy.
10. WOMEN HAVE IT EASIEST IN THE BAR SCENE. Men think so. They
think all that the average woman has to do is sit there, and men flock
over, and she selects who shes interested in and discards the others.
Maybe thats true for the stunningly beautiful woman. Maybe not.
But for the average woman, it aint so. We sit there
(if were being traditional) and wait. And wait. And try to look
like were having a good time, sitting. And waiting.
The reason I started asking men to dance, more than fifteen years ago,
is because the waiting is God awful. Fellas, you dont know what
rejection is like until youve been out for an entire evening, waiting,
and no one, absolutely no one, has asked you to dance. Its like
being rejected by the whole world.
If it was easier, Id still be doing
it. Im not.