by Lauryn Smith
Last Friday, I ventured to Tunica with Ben in efforts to celebrate his sister Caroline’s 22nd birthday. I’m quite superstitious so I placed too many bets on “lucky” seven’s and wound up donating to the state of Mississippi. The beer definitely isn’t “free.” Too quote Ben, “Free? I’d say your Heineken’s we’re about $30 per beer.” Ben broke even. I always thought breaking even was an urban legend. Black Jack replaced our sleep (and my common sense,) so we opted to stay the following night in Memphis as this where Ben’s sister, Caroline, lives.
After napping the majority of the afternoon, Ben, Caroline, Ben C. (Caroline’s boyfriend ,) and I decided to roam Beale Street in the frigid weather. Ben C. was visiting from Europe and had never been to Beale. One cannot visit Memphis and not walk within “ten feet off of Beale.” We arrive at Silky O’Sullivan’s where Ben orders a diver. A diver is one gallon of well, everything. Remember when bars were smoky and full of drunks? Well now they’re just full of drunks. Silky’s has an outside heated bar area for those of us with the bad smoking habit. I would smoke outside in the snow, naked. It’s that addictive. I’m the only smoker in the entourage, so I head outside alone.
Smoke break #1. While it’s cold, the bar line is also non-existent, so I order a drink while outside. Seating is limited inside the bar, so I also take this moment as an opportunity to sit down. I sit on the last stool at the far left of the bar as it appears to be the seat furthest removed from the other smokers. As I light a cigarette, a guy approximately my age sits to my right. Question one, “Are you from around here?” Without making eye contact, I state, “No.” In five minutes I learn where this stranger is from, where he lived before that, who he works for, where he traveled the previous week, etc. I generally have a friend with me in a situation of this nature, so the following is very foreign to me. In other words, I do not frequent bars alone. Dude says, “Why are you alone? Surely you’re not alone? Are you with a man?” All is stated as one long, run-on question. I tell him, “I am not alone. I am with non-smokers. I am here with a man.” He says, “Nice to meet you,” and vanishes accordingly. I make no mention of this upon returning inside.
Ben, Caroline, and Ben C. in Memphis, TN
With Ben in Memphis.
Smoke break #2. I am perched on the same bar stool, this time, making small talk with the bartender. Stranger #2 sits down on my right. He is attractive, less intrusive. Then he asks, “Where are you from?” Déjà vu ensues. I learn he is attending school in Memphis though he is from Vancouver. He follows this statement with, “Canada,” with a somewhat condescending tone as though I wasn’t aware Vancouver was located in Canada (even though I wasn’t.) He then asks, “What do you do?” I am in mid-sentence response when he turns to the folks to his right. Moments later, he apologizes and then asks (note I did not answer his question,) if I am there alone. Again, I repeat my earlier spill and he bolts to talk with the woman to his right.
I don’t smoke again while at this venue.
Do women really go to bars alone? It seems men are far more comfortable (note I did not say “comfortable”) going to a bar sans a friend or date. At the very least, they are willing. Perhaps this is cause for the phony, transparent, canned questions. Perhaps the second stranger felt it necessary to address me as though I were stupid, because I’d have to be in order to be there alone, right?
Clarity awaits me as I enter the women’s restroom. While in line (another bar peeve,) one woman goes on and on of how certain she is of a man liking her. Certain despite him asking her to quit calling. Sure despite the fact he is seeing someone new. Wow. As one woman exits the restroom, the same woman of certainty begins to bash the female stranger who exited the restroom. She says, “That chick was way too happy. She has to be on something. I mean, who is thaaaaaat happy!?” Apparently, one must be “on something” in order to possess a positive attitude. I didn’t think she was particularly cheerful but then again, I am an idiot. Talk slower for me while using one syllable words.
I return to the table and state, “Well, that was eventful.” We decide to leave Beale street where we enter a low-key (smoker friendly) bar on the outskirts. One of the women was wearing a skimpy outfit. Caroline leans towards me and whispers, “Who wears that? She looks as though she is trying too hard.” I concur. Note it is twenty nine degrees outside. Caroline and I shrug and roll our eyes. In efforts to adequately quote Ben’s response, I just called him to ask of his impression. I said, “Remember the waitress in Memphis? The one Caroline and I commented on? What was your response?” He said, “The one in the plaid skirt and pink socks?” Deflated the rest of my story. Apparently, men do notice. Ha! At the time, however, he was in agreement with us. In my humble experience, I’ve had greater success in a t-shirt and jeans. Women, in general, are more approachable and in the long run, more desirable, when something is left to the imagination. Men, am I correct in this assumption?
I’ve had a few men approach me in Little Rock, with the same tired pick-up lines, but fortunately, friends surrounded me to diffuse the situation (and ditto for friends.) And sure, I’ve heard my fair share of silly bathroom banter, but I experienced more of this in one night in Memphis, Tennessee than ever before in years in Little Rock, Arkansas. Maybe, as Caroline suggested, I should quit smoking. Or maybe, since this won’t be occurring in the near future, I should always have a wingman (or wingwoman) flying beside me. We all should. Then again, people break even in Tunica, so maybe some women do frequent the bars alone... that's gotta be as common as "hitting it big" on slot machine... on a cruise ship.