Tag Archives: feminism

Old Blisters: Cracking More Bar Codes

MEMO0006It was a cold, dark, and icy night as Daphne made her way toward Little Twig, Montana.   The sun had set at 4:30 PM and there was hardly a sliver of moon to light the way into town. As she pulled up Main Street the sign on the bank read -2 degrees. The outfits in front of The Grand Saloon were all running with nobody in them as she pulled up beside them.  Daphne decided to turn her outfit off since she was just coming in for a quick one.  Making her way through the exhaust fumes, she entered the bar.  As usual for this type of weather she was wearing her sister Deb’s long mink coat, a trapper’s hat and knee high boots.  (There was no reason to forsake fashion in sub zero weather; none whatsoever.)

On nights like this, Daphne liked to  imagine herself in an old 1930s Klondike movie like “Call of the Wild” with Clark Gable and Loretta Young.  Her real life saloon was very much like those movie saloons that sat at the edge of the frontier.   It was also very much like that bar at the edge of the galactic frontier in “Star Wars”.  And like that outer space bar, all kinds of aliens from all kinds of different planets  would meet, rub elbows , and occasionally get into a scuffle.

She stopped and cased the joint.  As usual Ed who sticks to himself  was sitting in the corner eating an oyster poor boy special.  Jingo John sat in the rocking chair by the fire singing a old-timey tune to himself.  That’s mostly because nobody wants to talk to him as he is not endowed with much for imaginative talk and usually has his underwear showing underneath his overalls.   At the bar sat the regular happy hour duo of Cal and Carl who are just about to leave as it is a little after six and the drinks go up a buck.  Behind the bar Claudia, the sultry Mexican bartenderess, scribbled down what they owed.  Daphne sidled up next to Carl.  Just then a blast of cold air ushered in Sonny Stevens who sat down at the end of the bar. Continue reading

Bar Codes; Pt 3 – Buying Rounds and Gifting

This continues my series/obsession with bar etiquette and whether there are different rules for men and women at bars.

Having grown up in a Dutch Calvinist community of tea totalers even though my parents did go out for cocktails (shhhh!!!!), I did not have the Frank McCourt experience of dragging Da’  home from the bars, so my experience with them came as an adult.  My experience as a woman sitting at a bar by myself started when I moved from New York City to a Montana county the size of Rhode Island with a population of 3500.   The bar in these small places serves as sort of a club.  The American Legion bar is actually the American Legion Club and there is a new saloon in a space that used to be the Moose Lodge.  The B& B in town has a real chef and a renowned restaurant and award winning wine list.  It’s bar area with booths is a kind of club for the merchant class, but everybody goes there to dine because it has good food including one of the best burgers around. It also has only one TV so it is the only bar in town that isn’t a sports bar.  Rumor has it they may put in another TV.  That has caused some consternation since the tipping point into sportsbardom seems to be two TVs.  But that’s another story.

Buying rounds of drinks is a ritual in many bars in many towns, but our town is quite notorious for this ritual.  I have always watched with amusement the men buying a round of beers for each other.  One guy buys a round for the four guys with whom he is talking to at the bar.  Then the next guy buys a round.  Then the third and then the fourth.  Sometimes they come so fast that the guys have at least two beers in front of them.  So no one is buying somebody a beer since it all evens out.  If you want to leave early, you just say, “No more for me, but buy another round for me mates.  Gar. Gar. Gar.”   Nobody owes nobody nuthin’.

Made no sense to me.  It’s not a treat or a gift if it is even. And I began to notice that women don’t do  this.  Women buy their own drinks.  What they may do is order an appetizer and then ask if people next to her want to share.  If a woman is part of the group that a man is buying rounds for, she thanks him.  She does not then buy a round for everybody in the drinking circle.

What I have done is bring in a bottle of barbecue sauce that I ordered on line and received too many bottles of it and given it to John who has bought me the occasional drink.  What I did the other night was just thank Dan for the drink he bought me.  No reciprocity.  The next night was New Year’s Eve.  I bought a bottle of good champagne and gave glasses to a couple people including Dan.

I’ve been practicing this whole “gifting” thing for years.  I had a group of friends in New York City who, like me, were struggling artists.  We loved to find some little gadget or piece of clothing that was unique or would make us laugh and give it for no reason at all.  Whether this can work on a larger scale as part of a modern gift economy, I really don’t know.  I read a forum on this topic over at libcom.org.  Seems that thinkers for many years have wondered about a different kind of social economy other than capitalism with its organization that is hierarchical and exchange oriented.  And those thinkers often talk in terms of gifting rather than the exact exchange of commodities.

Is it coincidental that women practice sharing rather than exchange as a means of communal eating and drinking?  Just askin’.

Bar Codes Pt 2

Okay, so more thoughts on whether there is an unspoken etiquette associated with sitting at bars especially if you are female.  In the previous post I speculated that if a woman sits at a bar, she is not supposed to read an I Pad even if she is reading a newspaper on the I Pad.  She can get away with perhaps perusing a paper, but not on an electronic device.  She is to be available…for….conversation.

In the previous post, I had been confronted with a guy that I did not want to talk to, so I just reached for my I Pad and began to read.  Instead of addressing me directly, he loudly exclaimed to the bartender that the laws of the universe, at least the rather small universe of this bar, were being broken by rude self absorbed women with electronic devices. (I was not the only woman that night with an I Pad).

But this week I was confronted again.  This time it was an acquaintance and a pretty nice guy.

“Don’t check your e-mail!  Put that thing away!” he yelled.

I tried to explain that I wanted to relax after work and it would help if I knew no one was trying to get a hold of me.  But, okay, he was right.  That is what “after work” should mean.

Funny thing is that as soon as his male friends came in, he turned immediately away from me and pronounced, “I was wondering when any of the regulars were showing up.”  Thus ended my usefulness.  So I could open up my I Pad and read a blog with no more scolding from my friend.

Sigh.  But then I turned to the woman sitting next to me and we started talking about the difference between grifters and hucksters.  So a rather lame start to the evening turned into a rather pleasant ending.

My small town can be a very small place, but only if you let it get to you.

Bar Codes: Pt 1 – Breaking the Code

Are there dos and donts associated with sitting at a bar?

I live in a very small town of about 1500 in a county as big as the state of Rhode Island with a population of around 3500.   It has one nice restaurant bar that also functions as the only big city type cafe.  The other bars have food, but are mostly bars with lots of big screen TVs.  I work at home all day all alone.  I’m an extrovert and that makes the aloneness tiring for me by the end of the day.  So each evening I go to the nice bar with the good wines and beers and stay for about an hour.  I like to engage in some conversations with friends and recharge my battery.  I used to bring my laptop, but now I bring the less clunky I Pad.  (THANK YOU, STEVE!).  That’s so I can have something to read if there is no one I want to talk to or to check my e-mail for last minute work. Actually the well lit I Pad is better than trying to read a newspaper when they begin dimming the lights.

So last night, I walked into the bar and saw two couples on opposite ends.  One couple I knew.  They were dressed up so they were probably on a date night and the husband has a tendency to engage me which often is more like picking a fight,  so I sat a few seats away from them and also from the couple I didn’t know.   I pulled out my I Pad and placed it in vertical position on the bar and hooked up my earphones so I could listen to Matt Taibbi who was going to be on a radio show on Sirius XM.  Until he came on I decided to read the new Adbusters Magazine I had just bought in Bozeman.

Then the guy I know to the right of me, rather loudly, insisted to the bartender that people who sat at bars or even in booths and used electronic devices like I Pads, mobile phones, and computers were engaging in self-absorbed and anti-social behavior.

“Has the crowd changed here” he said to the bartender. “I see them as more self-absorbed.  They are looking at their electronic devices and not communicating.”

“Hush, ” said his wife and rolled her eyes.

So he repeated the question three more times each time with his wife whispering, “Stop it.”  or “Don’t go there.”

“Hmmm,” I said to myself, “Duh ya think he means me?”  (Since he had accosted me a couple weeks ago while eating with my husband and told me, pretending to be joking, to put my I Pad back in my purse, I was pretty sure he meant me.) However, when I looked at the couple down the bar from me to the left, the man was looking at the baseball game on the TV and the woman, yes, was reading her I Pad.  Then I glanced behind me and there was a couple in the booth.  The man was reading a paper and the woman was, yes, on an I Pad.

No wonder my neighbor felt that he could proclaim loudly that there was a dangerous trend afoot. He was surrounded by women synced up to their I Pads.  And in bars, no less.  Decent people were becoming absorbed into their electronic devices and not engaging in conversation.   And not just that high brow Hollywood hussy from New York City. But sprouting up all over the place.   Perhaps he was thinking that my evil anti-social behavior had encouraged other women to engage in these horrific acts.

Here I was just reading a magazine and I’m getting grief.   The woman down the way seemed to be on Face Book, so maybe she was engaging in a little conversation with some of her friends while her husband stared at the TV.  I used to see women dutifully sit staring at their food as their husbands watched a game.  Now the I Pad and smart phones at least gave them something to do.  And maybe you can call that self-absorbed behavior or maybe it is pure survival when accompanying a sports obsessed or silent mate.

Just as he was really getting worked up, my friend Mary came in and I squealed with delight.  We started talking away about belly button piercings gone wrong and then segued into a discussion of the difference between joy and happiness.  There I was engaged in animated conversation instead of my self-absorbed staring at my I Pad.  I even skipped listening to Matt Taibbi on the radio in order to talk to my friend.  A great sacrifice on my part in order to participate in the more important act of communication and art of conversation.

Now he was just annoyed.  His whole theory had been blown up.  The I Pad hussy was engaging in conversation.  Urg.  I wonder if he will put two and two together and figured out that the real words here are “communication” and  “conversation”.  I know when it is far more peaceful and communicative to blog on my I Pad than talk to someone who wants to just pick a fight.

What got this guy so riled up besides the fact that he just likes to get riled up? Is it what I was doing or was it that I was there at all? Are women sitting at bars reading stuff the latest in the attack on the male and his kingdoms?  Where and when I grew up, women did not go into bars and sit by themselves unless they were there to be picked up, or so I was told.   And when I moved to this little town, the women sat with other women if that sat at a bar at all.  Rarely did I see a career woman come in and sit alone at the bar.  I tried sitting in a booth, but I felt that I was hogging a space made for more. So, after about 8 years or so, I couldn’t stand it any longer and didn’t want to go to the trouble of meeting my husband in town or finding a friend to meet.   Besides, my psychological type doesn’t like to plan ahead. And I also wanted to talk to other people and I wanted to write.  Didn’t writers often write in cafes?  Hemingway and Tennessee Williams did.  Couldn’t a woman do that too?

So I did and the first time I marched in and sat in the bar stool,  I felt very Meryl-Streep-entering-the- all male-club in “Out  of Africa” for the first few months, but then I just ignored the stares and whispers until it just became a normal thing.  Only occasionally like this night am I reminded that some people still think I shouldn’t be there and doing what I’m doing.

So maybe that’s it.  You go to a bar looking for a fight, chewing the fat, or to pick up women.  If you sit at a bar you must be available for anybody and everybody to talk to.  You do not go to a bar to read anarchist magazines and write on blogs.

Yes, I had broken some sort of hidden code of conduct.  But then that’s what I was put on earth to do.

P.S. David Graeber in “Revolutions in Reverse” says “Women are always imagining what things look like from a male
point of view. Men almost never do the same for women.”  Perhaps I should try and get into a guy’s shoes and do this story from his point of view.  Or not.