I went to the Bar that Shall Not Be Named last night after work in order to down a couple of Miller Lite drafts and promptly fall into my bed. It's tricky, though, going to the Bar that Shall Not Be Named by myself, namely because I tend to attract lonely, well-meaning old-timers.
I had a beer all on my own, in blissful silence, and then a well-dressed, silver-haired man carrying a glass of Chardonnay stepped into the bar from the patio, stumbling, drunk, into the doorjamb as he crossed the threshold.
I immediately said to myself, "This is going to be my drinking buddy for the night." And, sure enough, he sat down right next to me, and before I knew it, we were deep into a discussion about 20th-century novelists. I like to think that under my neuroses, there's something calm about me that makes older men gravitate to barstools near me. Or, you know, maybe they just aren't that picky and are attracted to my shiny blond hair. But I prefer the former explanation.
His name was Tom. He said he was 55, but I would have pegged him for 62. It felt very Mad Men
, our smooth cameraderie and talk about work and careers and goals. (If this were the show, and not a dive bar in Midtown, I would have been Joan, easy.) Our conversation veered toward relationships, because all conversations had at a bar past 11 p.m. veer toward relationships. He filed for divorce from his wife after 29 years together, he said. They had a happy 11 years, and then they had kids. Eighteen years later, they looked at each other and said, "Who the hell are you?" (His words.)
Maybe I looked like a deer in headlights, frightened of this thing that could easily happen to any couple, or maybe I just nodded at him to go on, but this is the next thing he said to me: "Here's my advice for keeping a marriage together: Have sex all the time. Fuck the kids." It was a poor choice of words on his part, but I got the point. He continued. "Not just sex, but movies, walks. You forget those things when you're raising kids."
We talked more, but that was the salient part of the conversation: the urgency he felt in telling me -- telling anyone -- how to avoid what had happened to him.
He then told me about his German girlfriend, 15 years his junior. He told me he buys her things -- jewelry, clothes, dinners, whatever she wants. I was suspicious of that -- his watch didn't look expensive enough. But he said the one thing she won't do is have sex in their car, in the parking garage, after he buys her jewelry. Should I have been offended? Maybe. But I got the sense that this genuinely bothered him. And, after all, it was sort of a quid pro quo: I buy you a $12,000 necklace, and you give me...what? So I took him seriously. Maybe I shouldn't have. But here's what I told him:
If you want a woman to do something for you, make her think she's working for it. Over dinner, tell her, "There's something I've been wanting to do and -- no, I'm sorry. I can't tell you." She'll then try and pry it out of you. Resist as long as possible. Use the bread basket as distraction. Refuse to tell her, and act embarrassed if she presses. Then, finally, after a good half-hour, hour, or half-day, relent. After you tell her your fantasy, say, "And the strange part is, I've only thought about doing this with you. The thought didn't cross my mind until we were together." Sold. Close the deal. She's yours. Aaaaand you're welcome.
Tom paid for all of my drinks, even the ones I had had before he got there; he also made a drunken yet valiant attempt to pick up the cute 23-year-old British bartender for me (no thanks, Tom -- been there and done that at the Bar that Shall Not Be Named); and then, before I left, he slurred, "So, do you want to fuck?" Again, I know that most women would have been offended. Maybe I should have been. But part of me knew that for this guy, it was most likely something he felt he should do -- something old-school that's required of you when you buy dames drinks. I declined. Of course I did. He knew I would, and he seemed relieved when I laughed and said no. We hugged goodbye.
After I left, I thought, "This is what bars can be in New York. Two strangers from opposite ends of the social/financial spectrum, sharing drinks and good -- if not slightly racy -- conversation instead of sitting in their apartments alone."
Labels: drinking, mad men, the bar that shall not be named