The Cabana Bar
Singles' bars are for losers and users. The people who go there are either ugly as sin with a matching personality or good looking manipulators who have learned to exploit the uglies. They are the last hope for the pathetic; places they turn to when their advert in the newspaper for a partner produces two weirdoes and a pervert. Singles' bars cut out the middle-man. Forget the advert (what can you really say about yourself in 100 words?), go to the Cabana bar and meet the weirdoes and perverts in person.
A single's bar is definitely not the place to initiate a lasting, loving relationship. If it's a one night stand you are looking for then this is the headquarters; the head office of One-Night Stands Inc. You'll have to pay for your night of not very casual sex by having to sit listening for hours to the depressing ramblings of a neurotic woman as she lists the bad relationships she has endured. If you weren't desparate you wouldn't listen to this bilge for more than a few minutes. You may enter the bar with honourable intentions but twenty minutes in the charged atmosphere of need and desire will turn you into a One-thought Charlie. Your nostrils will dilate and the room will be filled with the most beautiful women you have ever seen.
Pete had persuaded me to to go to the Cabana bar but at the last moment he called off sick so I went alone. I don't need to go to singles' bars. I am only in my thirties and I get my share of the action but I was interested in seeing what goes on in such places. I walked up and down the street outside the bar for twenty minutes before I went in. I spent the time convincing myself that I was neither loser or user. By the time I walked in the door I was Mr. Cool.
I didn't rule out meeting somebody but I wasn't prepared to sell my soul to the devil just for the sake of company. I exuded indifference and sipped a scotch on the rocks with just a touch of soda. I usually drink beer but I didn't want to give the wrong impression. I sat on a stool and surveyed the room. It looked just like a regular bar to me. People sat at tables or leaned against the wall. There was a lot of talking and some laughter.
I was on my third whisky when she came in the door, alone. She was about my age or a little older, neatly dress with clean hair that sparkled in the neon lighting. There were other women there, on their own, but they were uglies. I wasn't attracted to any of them. The new one walked up to the bar and sat down two stools away from me. The bartender was busy. I heard myself say,
"Can I buy you a drink?"
I have never, in my life, offered to buy a drink for a complete stranger and it felt like I was acting a part in a movie. According to the script she was supposed to blink her long eye-lashes, look at me for a moment and say,
"Make mine a martini."
What she said was,
"I can buy my own drinks, thanks."
Time changed shape and seconds grew large. I wracked my brain for something to say that would not embarrass me later when I thought about it.
"Do you come here often?" I clicheed.
She looked at me as though I had asked her to take off her top and show me her stretch marks.
"I've never been here before." I volunteered so that she wouldn't get the idea that I spent my evenings in such places.
"Me neither." She said and called the bartender by his first name. She ordered a gin and tonic.
"I was just passing," I lied, "and thought I would take a look at what goes on in bars like these and use the toilet at the same time."
Now she was looking at me like I had just confessed to biting my infant son to death. When she had got her drink I ordered another whisky. I would rather have had a beer but I was a 'shorts' man for the evening.
"Do you want to sit down at a table?" I asked her.
"Alright." She said.
We took our drinks and I pulled out a chair for her. We sat down. She was definitely attractive, for a thirty-something year old. The bloom of youth had faded but not completely disappeared. I fancied my chances with her. As I often do with women, I tried to imagine what she would look like when she got old. A face that is cute on a younger girl can be grotesque on a sixty-year old but she looked like she would age well. Suddenly she said,
"My name's Margie." and held out her hand. I shook it and said,
We drank our drinks quickly and I ordered two more. She didn't mind me paying now that she knew my first name. We talked about the weather, hot-air ballooning, burglary (we had both, recently, been burgled), cars and restaurants. After a couple more drinks, (I paid), she started to talk about her emotions. What did I tell you? Now, don't get me wrong. I've got no problems with emotions but I think they are to be experienced, not talked about and analysed. She told me about somebody called Keith who was unable to express himself. So? What was she looking for, Keats? This Keith, apparently, was perfect in every way except that he didn't readily bare his soul and shed tears. Seems to me she was looking for a woman in a man's body.
I humoured her and said that a person should not be afraid to speak about his feelings. Sensitivity, I told her, was not a sign of weakness but the foundation of a great strength. To admit to emotional reactions was to accept their existence and to incorperate them into the balance of life. I talked a lot of nonsense but she seemed very interested.
She'd had five gins and I was on my seventh whisky when I suggested we go back to my place. She looked at me as though I was the father, who had abused her as a child, that she was meeting for the first time in fifteen years.
"It's been very nice talking to you." She said and downed the last of her drink, picked up her coat and left.
It was completely by accident that I read the Margie Albright column in the newspaper. Somebody had left it behind on the bus and when I saw the name Margie I thought of my recent encounter in the Cabana bar and started to read. Margie Albright has created a fictional character called Stephanie who is 30-something, single and desparate to become involved in a long-term relationship. It is written in diary form and Stephanie recounts her failed attempts to find Mr. Right. On this particular day Stephanie visited a single's bar. I read on, avidly, wondering what her experience had been and how it compared with my own.
It was the first time for Stephanie as well and it had been a nightmare. The only person to speak to her had been a drunk who slurred his speech and spoke in cliches. At one point he started to get all emotional, which she put down to the drink and, if there was one thing Stephanie could not stand, it was a mummy's boy who needed to get drunk in order to be honest. When he wasn't blabbering into his umpteenth scotch he bored her to tears with tales of hot-air ballooning and burglaries. He plied her with drinks and seemed to be trying to get her drunk with, obviously, only one thing on his mind. This was confirmed when, out of the blue, he asked her if she would sleep with him. They hadn't held hands or kissed yet but he wanted to know if she would go back to his place and let him work off his animal frenzy on her naked body.
That's when she got afraid and I understand very well. He sounded like a psychopath to me but it was interesting to read that she didn't have any better luck than I did. It confirms what I have always said about singles' bars. They're for losers and users.
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