March 18, 2010
Are All Bartenders Perpetual Boys?
I did the unthinkable, or rather, performed the ultimate cliche, I
Essentially you are asking if male bartenders are perpetual boys. I am hesitant to make a blanket statement here, after all, some of my favorite men have been barbacks.
To begin, what are the qualities of a good bartender? What gets one hired? They need to be friendly, or at least feign friendly with stellar people skills. This is one thing to remember when you meet a man behind a bar. His amicable nature may or may not have anything to do with liking you, as much as being damn good at his job.
They need to be tough enough to handle a loud room full of drunk people. This means that, depending on whether you frequent a dive bar, a hotel bar, or a sports bar the staff will be as hard as the customers, in order to create balance. So, toughness means bigger walls means less odds of getting through to their soft side quickly.
A bartender needs to not mind being around alcohol, all the time. When I was a waitress at a bar it wore on me. I didn’t drink much and felt weakened by handling liquor, giving it to people who clearly had an unhealthy dependency: ie, the man who needed five margaritas in two hours just to write a term paper, or the couple who got drunk on a couch and nearly made a baby in the middle of the restaurant at 11am. A bartender, a good one, needs to have a callous against the addictions and poisonous behaviors of others.
This might be indicative of a troubled past that conditioned him for this environment, a smart internal self-imposed division, or a strong attachment to perpetual adolescence. Because of the variety of venues, the good pay, and the pull from all different directions, bartenders run the gammet. I’ve known PhD students, cheerleaders, photographers, punk rockers, hairdressers, architects, activists, musicians and philosophers all who tended bar.
Also, keep in mind what a bar is. It is not a temple or a silent retreat. It is a place where people go to enjoy liquor. Some enjoy it for the art of the beverage, connoisseurs of fine tastes. Others arrive, en mass, to blow off steam. Bartenders can be therapists to these people. Some people go to bars for fun, for long late hours, and others go quite specifically to get laid. This is the fast-paced money-making environment your bartender beau chose to enter for work, with rough hours and lots of people hitting on them into the wee hours of the night.
So, this idea of man as boy might just be your witnessing all of these qualities in an individual who, again depending on the bar, may live at a perpetual party. I know solid married bartenders, monogamous bartenders, and bartenders who might as well be teenaged boys attempting to screw as many people as possible before they die. Choose your bartender based on bar, clientele, his outside interests/well-roundedness, and your own basic instinct. And remember, there are no rules. After all, Miranda found the father of her child in a lovely bartender.