An opportunity presented itself last week – an opportunity to do something that utterly terrified me. I’m all about pushing my limits these days (new city, new job, new adventures, you know the drill), so I decided to go to a bar by myself. I’ve always stigmatized solo bar dates to be demeaning and depressing, but something about this seemed liberating. A chance to prove to myself that I was capable of sitting, eating, and drinking alone – in public. I mean…I am really good at sitting. And eating. And drinking. So I am not sure why this particular evening seemed more out of my comfort zone than normal.
The Moth radio puts on a live Story Tellers session once a month at the Amsterdam in St. Paul. It’s real people (as opposed to fake), that get up and tell real, live stories. Some are pros, some are not. But it’s always a good time.
I purchased tickets for myself and my main Minneapolis guuuuurl Ashlayyy. But she decided to have a client dinner, or some bull like that, and couldn’t attend. I know approximately four people in Minneapolis, so the list of back-up dates was short. And one was going to be in El Salvador (cough cough, Matt, I hate you, cough cough).
And I wasn’t going to go alone. No way.
So I sulked my way to a coworker’s desk, to offer her and her husband the tickets. My treat. Rather see them get used than not. She was unavailable, but our mysterious, trendy, art director overheard my proposal, and all about lost her mind upon hearing that The Moth had live events.
I don’t want to stereotype or anything…but Michelle looks like she would be totally into The Moth. Michelle is so cool that she doesn’t even go by Michelle. She goes by Meesh. She has the coolest hair – bleach blonde on top, neon pink on bottom, with some carmel-brown hi-lights. Her hair looks like a Neopolitan Ice Cream Cookie sandwich – and she freaking rocks it. Like…what the hell. Who rocks that?
She has thick, black glasses. And wears bright blue ankle booties and cat sweaters. And her desk is covered in interesting art (and yes, cat gifs), – art that is probably so much cooler than my untrained eye can even comprehend. Meesh is honestly the only person in the office that I have barely interacted with, because I feel this insane pressure to say something awesome, interesting and profound to her. I am undeniably intimidated by her level of coolness, so I just choose not to approach her.
Meesh said she would love to take the tickets. She had a date that night, and it would be a perfect event. She kindly asked why I couldn’t go. I bashfully started picking at my nails and looking at the floor, and was able to mutter “Well…it’s not that I can’t go…I just…don’t have anyone to go with. I know like…4 people in the city…so…”
Bless her heart, Meesh offered to make a group affair out of it. She would bring her date, and they would meet me there, and it would be a joyous, fun event.
My first thought was to abort. Abort the mission before she realized I was a cool phony.
But then I thought about the 452 blog posts I have read titled “How To Make Friends In a New City.” I know that I am NOT ALLOWED to turn down ANY social invitations. So I awkwardly accepted her invitation to crash the party that I had initiated.
We agreed to meet there. I knew how valuable seat retail was at the Amsterdam, so I decided to go early and save seats for us. Then I thought about the traffic, and the parking, and decided I’d just go right from work. I arrived about 45 minutes before the doors were supposed to open. So there I was. At the bar. Alone. And I wanted to jump for joy and give myself a gold star for doing something that I had 100% sworn off.
I asked the bartender for a beer recommendation, since I was new to town and wanted to try something local. The couple sitting next to me overheard me, and in true Minnesota Nice fashion, began to ask me questions – about my move, my job, my favorite hobbies, my hometown, and my hopes, dreams, and future goals for happiness.
And then the man that I will forever refer to as “The Origamist” showed up. Probably in his mid-fifties. British accent. Yelling orders across the bar for a very specific drink with Bombay Sapphire and grapefruit. But of course he sounded adorable and not demanding. While he waited for his drink, my new friends and I struck up convo with him, and I too, was Minnesota Nice.
The man proceeded to tear about the 5X5 paper menu on the bar counter, and fold in every which way. By the end of our conversation, he had made a paper rose. That he handed to someone other than me.
Not Minnesota Nice.
I went through a state of black-out anxiety while at the bar alone. I don’t remember anything that was talked about or shared. I just remember being exhilarated that I was so uncomfortable.
But it wasn’t awkward. And the beer was good, and the portobello mushroom slider was even better.
I went to save us seats, and Meesh texted me to tell me she’d be late. But she had previously promised she would be late. So NBD. I’d forgive her for anything. She’s just too cool.
When she arrived, she apologized for being behind schedule. Her date was running late at his studio, because he’s on a deadline to finish the album artwork for Arcade Fire’s next album.
Really Meesh? Just. Stop. You have enough street cred.
And there we sat, on our awkward third-wheel date, listening to strangers tell us stories about heartbreak. Stories about abandoned love, abandoned children, and adolescent confusion surrounding the term “Blow Job.” And suddenly sitting alone at a bar for an hour didn’t seem like that big of a deal.