Are you waiting for someone? After plopping myself down on a bar stool and shaking my head, the bartender made a moue of distaste with an offhand “k” and went to fill my order.
You look lonely here all by yourself, commented the man a few seats down from me a bit later. I almost didn’t hear him, so engrossed in the book I’d been reading. I’m not sure what part of the reading and cider drinking made me look so lonely – I suspect it had a bit more to do with my lone woman status and his intoxication levels rather than any pitiful vibes I had given off.
For some women the comments might have been enough to turn them off from having a drink at the bar by themselves. Not I. Maybe it’s my natural inclination to be contrary, but I enjoy a solo bar visit and I feel a little bad for those who don’t take part. Whether I’m reading, scrolling through my texts, or just staring mindlessly at myself in the bar’s mirror, I love having a few moments entirely to myself – alone but not alone among the other patrons.
Popular culture has long conditioned us all, particularly women, to believe being alone is bad. No Friday night date? Loser. Sitting alone at the bar? God, just adopt 15 cats and admit defeat. By accepting the idea that companionship is a need (rather than a want), women are setting themselves up to lose a lot.
It absolutely shouldn’t. So I urge all women, particularly women traveling, to reject that notion that being alone equals lonely. Let’s collectively fight against the nights spent bored at home or the nights you holed up in your hostel bunk, simply because you didn’t have a partner in crime.
OK, I hear you saying, but why should I drink alone?
Glad you asked.
At a bar, no one caresWhile the overwhelming sensation of being watched is almost inevitable, I must hasten to assure you that approximately 97% of everyone in the joint is paying absolutely no attention to you. The other 3% is a grab bag of interested men and people wishing they had ditched their annoying table mate and gone solo like you. Most people in a bar are simply happy to not be working (or heavily intoxicated), meaning your solo adventure mostly flies under everyone else’s radar.
Alcohol is great!Obvious aside, having a drink will lower your inhibitions about being alone more quickly. Even for someone like me who loves being alone, eating alone can feel a bit stilted. After fifteen minutes picking at a salad in a restaurant you’ll still feel awkward; after a few sips of [your drink of choice], you’ll already being to feel more relaxed. Whether you’re reading or zoning out, the fear of scrutiny fades away much quicker in a bar than a cafe or restaurant.
Your cup will runneth over – literally!Assuming your bar of choice isn’t too overcrowded, sitting by yourself and looking friendly often gets you into conversation with a bartender or server. Aside from serving as a break in your solo contemplation, I’ve found that often leads to a free drink or two after you’ve forged a friendly connection. Just be sure to leave a big tip!
You’ll get a free anthro lesson
One final point for weary travelers: bars or pubs are the perfect microcosm of local culture. You’ll see how friends treat each other, how men and women interact, what the local drink of choice is, etc. As an additional plus for women going it alone, a bar gives you a quick anthropology lesson with the safety net of being surrounded by other people. So whether you’re backpacking around the world or taking a business trip, a drink at the bar is guaranteed to be far more interesting than slinking back to your room defeated.
After years of experience I’ve found there’s certainly a sort of delightful zen that emerges as you’re surrounded by people but not engaging with them directly. So be brave, dear ladies: today it’s a pint or two. Maybe next you’ll be prepared to move across the world all by yourself.