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The Barmaid Blog™: Life for a 30-something Manhattan Barmaid

It's Like a 21st Century "Cheers." But Pinker.*

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It's Like a 21st Century "Cheers." But Pinker.*

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Corona Barmaid
*Thanks to sayceman for the slogan!

Friday night, I'm on the 8-to-close with Amy and Jessica. My friends Dara and Jill have come by the Bar to hang out. It's been gorgeous out all day, the beginning of a spectacularly beautiful weekend without absurdly oppressive heat, something we haven't had in far too long. Unfortunately the Yankees have lost their second in a row tonight, so people are looking for something else to feel good about.

I think Jill, who's also one of my roommates, has come down to the Bar on the pretense that she wants to keep Dara company because she knows I'm going to be very busy on a Friday night. But I suspect she mostly just wants to meet Vince, the new barback I've told her about - he used to roadie for some punk bands, and she's a pretty serious punk rock fan.

Dara, on the other hand, has become something of a regular here simply by virtue of having spent so much time here during the heat waves. But her air conditioning is working just fine now - plus it's turning into a cool night, so she doesn't need it anyway. For the past few days she has been by turns either quiet or mischievous, like she knows something the rest of us don't.

Jill doesn't have to wait very long for an opening to chat with Vince. He comes out from the back room wearing a Bad Religion t-shirt, and she doesn't even introduce herself before pointing at his shirt and asking, "Gurewitz or non-Gurewitz?"

I have no idea what she means (in fact I had to look it up later for this post), but apparently Vince does, because he answers, "Graffin without Gurewitz is like Lennon without McCartney."

Jill extends her hand and introduces herself, and Dara and I roll our eyes at each other.

On Dara's other side is Kelly, a woman who's been a semi-regular for as long as I've worked here. I say she's a "semi-regular" because even though she's got the longevity to be a regular, she isn't really here that often. But when she is, it's for a reason. It's because her husband is out of town.

I only know this because she told me one night when she'd had a little more to drink than usual. Prior to that, I didn't even know she was married; she certainly doesn't wear a wedding ring when she's in the Bar. But that makes sense, since as far as I can tell she only comes here for one reason, and she always gets what she wants. She's in her mid-forties, but she must take incredibly good care of herself, because she looks fantastic. And she gets noticed. I don't think I've ever seen her leave the Bar alone. And it's always with someone much younger.

My other roommate Cassie just told me that the word "cougar" is being used these days to describe an older woman who goes after younger men for sex. Anybody have any idea where that comes from?

Tonight Kelly has made the first move, zeroing in on a good-looking younger guy I've never seen before. He's here with a few friends, but they left him alone to Kelly's devices almost as soon as she moved in. He's bought her a couple of drinks, and she's run her hand through his hair once or twice. I'm starting to get the feeling that dogs all over Manhattan will pick up their scent pretty soon, when out of nowhere someone else smoothly sidles up to Kelly and says, "Dance with me." She looks up in surprise and smiles.

Will's a regular. He reminds me of Jason Giambi - not because they look alike, or because he plays baseball (and I don't have a crush on him), but because he's gorgeous and he's huge. He played football in college, and he hasn't lost the physique yet. He's a sweetheart and a gentleman to the women who work here, but if I didn't know him, I definitely wouldn't want to be alone in a dark alley with him.

The guy who's been drinking with Kelly extends his hand to Will, and says, "Hi, I'm Ben," in a tone clearly mean to convey, "You're trespassing here." I don't know the relevant section of the Guy Code by heart, but I wouldn't be surprised if Will has overstepped those bounds a little.

Will takes the offered hand, replies, "I'm Will, it's nice to meet you. I'm just going to dance with the lady for one song, and I'll have her right back." He holds a hand out for Kelly, who takes it and gets up. There doesn't seem to be much for Ben to do about it.

Now, this to me is kind of a key point: Nobody dances at the Bar. I'm not saying nobody ever dances here - the jukebox certainly has some upbeat music on it, and when people have been drinking you never know what will happen. But there's no dance floor, and on a Friday night it's simply too crowded. But as I glance from Ben's face to Will and Kelly and back, I get the feeling that's kind of the point - that maybe Will has found a way to take Kelly away from Ben that's both credible and an obvious dig at the same time. And damn if Will doesn't find a spot anyway - where they slow-dance to the Cars' "Drive."

Meanwhile, speaking of scents, Jill has left Dara alone at the bar, and is helping Vince collect glasses. No offense to Jill, but I can't even remember the last time she loaded our dishwasher at home. :-) She's managed to find out which bands he used to roadie for (7 Seconds and Cheap Sex), and now I think she's expounding on the virtues of the Ramones.

Once the song ends, Will is true to his word, and delivers Kelly back to Ben - but then he flags me down and orders a round of drinks. For all three of them. I can't react any other way but to serve him and take his money, but I have the urge to laugh at what's going on.

I can't report any of what they all talk about for the next hour and a half, because it gets horrendously busy, and after Amy leaves at midnight, Jessica and I are in the weeds. So is Vince, for that matter, so Jill patiently sits back down with Dara. But as things at the Bar finally start to calm down a little, I gather that the opposite is happening with Ben, Will, and Kelly. In fact I get the sense that all pretense has been dropped, and Ben and Will are actively debating who should get to go home with Kelly. And she's just eating it up.

"Well, Debra?"

I blink a few times, and it takes me a moment to realize that Kelly has just asked me what to do. The truth is that I have no idea. I don't pick guys up in bars to take them home the same night I meet them, and I've definitely never had two men I barely know fight over me in public. I'm tempted to throw a little judgmental "Why don't you ask your husband?" at her, but she trusted me with that as a secret, and even if she's dragged me into it this particular evening, it's still really none of my business.

I try a trick I learned in college: restating the problem sometimes helps you reach a solution. "You want to go home with one of them but you can't decide which one?"

She nods her head and laughs. Will and even Ben are pretty amused by this point, too. And my trick has failed me. "Kelly, I have no idea."

Vince taps me on the shoulder and says, "Let me give this one a try." He leans over the bar and gestures for Kelly to lean in close. Will and Ben both start to move forward, but he holds up a hand and says, "Gentlemen, please." He cups Kelly's ear and talks into it for a minute. Kelly gasps and looks at Vince in disbelief, then gestures for him to lean in, and talks into his ear. He shrugs, leans back in, and says one more thing, then walks away.

Kelly laughs, and downs the rest of her drink. Then she turns back to Will and Ben, and says, "Boys, here's the deal. I'm taking you both home with me tonight. What do you think about that?" Dara and Jill both laugh out loud. I break a glass of Hefeweizen on the tap I've just been filling it from, and Vince turns back around without missing a beat.

Ben says, "That's fine with me. Will?"

Will shakes his head. "I work alone, Kelly, and Ben is definitely not my type. You take me home alone, or you don't take me home at all."

Kelly holds out her hand, and says, "Will, thanks for the dance and the drinks." Will pauses, then shakes it - and walks down to the other end of the bar, patting Ben on the shoulder as he goes. Nice gesture, I think to myself. Ben and Kelly get up from their barstools, and after Ben leaves a nice extra tip, they head for the door.

Jill practically dives over the bar, grabbing Vince by the shirt. "What did you say to her?!"

"I said, 'Are you sure you don't want to take me home instead?'"

"You did not!"

"Okay, I didn't. I told her she should offer to take them both home. If one of them was okay with that and the other wasn't, then she'd have her choice made for her."

Dara says, "What?! Wait, what if they'd both been okay with it?"

"Yeah, that's what she asked me, too. So I said, 'Would that really be so bad?'" Vince smiles, and after Jill lets him go, he heads for the back room.

I shake my head. "That's one way to solve the problem, I guess."

Jill says, "The guy's like fucking Solomon." I try very hard not to roll my eyes again.

Meanwhile, Will has wandered his way back to this end of the bar, and has locked eyes with Dara. "Boy, that was really something, wasn't it?" he says to her, leaning in.

She smiles, looks at him for a good long while, and then says, "Would you excuse me for a minute?" She gets up, grabs the cell phone from her purse, and quickly walks out the front door of the Bar.

Jill and I look at each other, and at the same time, say, "Scott."

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