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The “Hook-up”
Observations and Advice from the Other Side of the Bar

--Chad Haverfield

Bartenders have always been part of a special order that grants them access to aspects of people’s lives usually reserved for best friends, psychiatrists, psychics or the proper authorities. While some of this information is unwelcome and disturbing (for example, an eighty year-old barfly once described how he killed three men at once with his bare hands), it never ceased to amaze me how often human nature revealed itself while I schlepped drinks in the trenches with only a four foot high, three foot wide barricade between us. I had the best seat in the house from which I could closely observe the bazaar habits of the human species.

Today’s reflection and lesson will focus on the seldom pretty and but ever-present and thriving ritual of the “Bar Hook-up”.

As a struggling artist, I leaned on the bartending craft to subsidize my income for thirteen years and bore witness to a wide spectrum of mating successes. From the smoothest, most seamless of pick-ups to the clumsiest, most awkward of debacles (some of which were so horrific they made me want to take my own life for simply having been present). I’ve seen it all.

So, as a special gift to all of you who are still “in the game,” I offer these suggestions and guidelines. Do with them what you will, but remember … this advice comes not only from someone behind the bar, but from someone who spent many years getting lit and taking his licks on the other side, as well.

1.)Tone it down, Playa. Leave the gussying up for the girls. As men, we are immediately and automatically assumed guilty of being on the prowl for simply entering a drinking establishment. Use this information to your advantage. If you go out dressed to the hilt (and it’s not a super swanky place or you’re not coming from the opera) with as much detailing, shine, pomp, and subtlety as a new Hummer, you have confirmed every woman’s assumption and have immediately exposed all of your cards. You’re now boring, tired and predictable. Look nice, but not like you spent three hours completing “the look.” Be an enigma. Make women wonder. Make them curious. Make them think there might be something more to you.

2.)Red Alert!! Red Alert!! Retreat!! Here’s the scene…you and your object of desire finish your first Cabernet. Then order another. And maybe another. Conversation flows freely and playfully and you begin to feel very good about your chances. Seeds of romantic potential germinate and begin to take root. A witty comment. A smile. And just like that…it’s OVER. The death knell has rung. I don’t know what it is about red stained teeth that is so devastatingly unattractive, but I liken its effect to talking to someone who has a piece of spinach wedged in their front teeth. This sentiment has been confirmed and shared by many other people. Stained teeth and lips can be a big deal-breaker. As a big-time red wine lover, I have cultivated many techniques to insure my lips and teeth stay a controllable shade of burgundy. I suggest employing frequent bathroom breaks, discreetly wiping your mouth with a bar-nap and frequently swishing your teeth with water. These sometimes are a bit of an interruption, but, hey, it beats looking like the Joker from “Batman”.

3.)Pace yourself. I know this piece of advice comes as no surprise but the sad truth remains that drinking and meeting someone new are mutually exclusive activities. They just happen to coincide because we chose to gather socially and drink at bars. Yes, a drink or two helps to settle nerves and “break the ice” but that same delicious intoxicant has stymied and destroyed just as many opportunities as it has provided. A very old and dear friend of mine (Let’s call him…Me), used to have a very difficult time separating the two. He always started the evening out lucid and affable and, in no time flat, have the attention of a desirable young woman. Anywhere from four to eight double Stoli’s later, his right eye would go lazy, he would begin teetering to maintain balance and would begin to utter all sorts of inane and inappropriate things in a delightfully slurred adaptation of the English language. This ridiculous string of behavior culminated one night when he laid his head on the shoulder of a girl with whom he was dancing, and passed out. When she pulled away, he was quickly introduced, face first, to the floor, where he remained, unconscious, for several minutes while his friends all wet themselves laughing. When I see such dross happen from behind the bar I shake my head and wonder, but when you are on the other side, it is a very easy hole to fall into. Just ask my friend, Me. For those of us who love to drink, we must remember to keep our focus clear. If you want to make a positive impression– SLOW DOWN.

4.)Relax. A lot has been made about confidence supposedly being the most attractive quality in a man. While I agree that confidence is indeed essential in all successful encounters, I think that, semantically speaking, comfort is the actual desired quality and the end result of an authentically confident person. Think about it. What is confidence? I’ve seen many a man approach a woman very confident in the fact that they were handsome and/or tall and/or wealthy and, in their mind, they were going to have this woman for their own (probably because these qualities had gotten them somewhere in the past.). Although these men really may be these things and believe these things, very often it would come off to a woman as forced and cliché, and her intuition would tell her that something just wasn’t lining up. Yes, they were confident, but not in touch with who they really were. What’s attractive is someone who understands and is comfortable in their own skin. This holds true for both of the sexes. I’ve watched men so physically unattractive that they aspire to be as good looking as George Costanza, meet and leave with strikingly beautiful women simply because they were strong, assured and didn’t have a game, line, or agenda. After years of observing such instances, I realized that true attraction begins in the mind. Most women gravitate toward strength, comfort, and a sense of humor. Not cocky posturing and preening.

5.) Don’t put the bartender in the middle of it. It is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful thing that we live in the age where women are now free to be the mating catalyst, should they choose. One of the best relationships I have ever had started when I was picked up lock, stock and barrel by a very cool chick who did so quite smoothly and without a trace of shame or guilt (sigh). The only problem I can see with this wonderful cultural development is that some women are stuck in the middle on how to proceed. They feel empowered to play the aggressor but aren’t sure how to go about making the first move. By the way, even though men have the same issues, I am directing this towards women because men have been dealing with this dilemma for eons and we should have come to some sort of resolution in our head by now. One trend I have noticed more and more is that women are choosing to make their intentions known by asking the bartender to send a drink over to a man who has caught their eye. BAD MOVE. In my experience, I have never seen this approach end well for anyone. By doing this you are opening yourself up for a myriad of undesirable outcomes. First, you probably know nothing of this man whom you are inviting into your immediate world. If he has no sense of class or savoir faire, which the odds are greatly in favor of, it is very likely that this gesture will be perceived as a free ticket into your pants. Now you have a dog in heat that will feel far too comfortable getting into your personal space just moments after you have met. And like a dog, they will be hot on a trail and now very determined and difficult to dispose of. Let’s say the guy doesn’t take your generosity in this manner but is completely lame, self absorbed, emotionally disturbed, a non-stop talker, etc. Now you have the pleasure of dealing with him for the duration of your evening because you opened a very large door to him. If you see someone you wish to meet, simply work up the nerve and approach him directly. This will give you perceived power in the dynamic and not only will he be impressed, you can walk away comfortably without an unwelcome side-kick, should he not be what was advertised.

Here are a few smaller points to consider.

  • Tip at least a dollar a drink. Women are very perceptive and will notice all sorts of minor details when they are first eyeing/considering you. Being a generous (or at least not stingy) tipper will tell them that you are just that – generous, giving and unafraid to throw a little money around.
  • Don’t bring up sex. Guys, even if things are progressing well and it looks like you might close the deal that night, don’t mention the fact that you think you are getting laid. You run the risk of making a woman feel cheap and she might withdraw and become very self-conscious.
  • Not all guys are out for immediate gratification. Going home with someone doesn’t have to mean sex. If you really want to continue the evening at home with a man you just met, but don’t want it to go too far, simply explain that to him. If he really likes you he will have no problem abiding by this request and he will be happy to simply continue the courtship. His reaction to this is also a great litmus test for continuing to see him in the future.
  • Have fun! Everyone likes to have fun. That sounds really lame but people are drawn to fun people. If someone sees you and your friends having a blast amongst yourselves they will want to join and/or get to know you. What better way to set the stage for a meeting? Defenses are down and you already are working from a position of advantage.

Thanks for listening to me ramble. I feel that if someone somewhere is able to take anything away from this then I have done my civic duty and that my long, drawn-out anecdotes will have proved worth you having to suffer through them.

That’s all for now. Until next time, enjoy yourself and remember to tip your bartenders and servers!


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