A Chattanooga bartender’s guide to romance and attraction
Before the invention of Match.com, FarmersOnly.com and Tinder, singles used to frequent bars and nightclubs to blindly meet people to find their significant other. If you have ever tried some of those online dating sites, you know you’re able to get much of the personal details you need to make an informed decision before ever meeting someone face-to-face.
While the initial connection may very well begin online, many of these singles still choose to meet their romantic interest in bars and restaurants. So we thought what better way to get a pulse (no pun intended) on the local dating scene than to talk to some local bartenders who’ve witnessed some of these romantic rendezvouses first hand.
Most watering holes around town have a consistent cast of regulars who frequent the establishment. If a bartender has worked there for any amount of time, they have heard stories of regulars’ personal lives and might be able to give advice to help them avoid embarrassment or give them tips to get a date.
“There is a regular, who flirts with any attractive woman at the bar,” says Z (names changed to protect the innocent), a manager at a local sports tavern. “I knew the woman he was flirting with was married but didn’t say anything. I ended up helping her escape his advances but it wasn’t a big deal because he takes rejection well.”
Want to buy a drink for the cute girl at the end of the bar? Whether she’s alone or with friends, you’ll want to make a game out of your offer, says Z—who has seen plenty of flirting fails.
Do this: Ask the bartender for a wine glass and a straw, and tell the woman and her friends you’ll buy them all a round if they can figure out two different ways to pick up the wineglass using only the straw.
“You’re offering them a challenge, and at the same time focusing their attention on the game—not on whether or not to shoot you down,” Z explains.
If your girl is alone, write a riddle on a napkin and have the bartender deliver it with the promise that you’ll buy her a drink if she can solve it. “Just be sure you buy her and her friends the drinks you offered either way,” Z recommends. “But get ready for rejection. I don’t always know everyone who is at my bar and you better have a thick skin if you’re trying to meet people this way.”
Of course, trying to figure out someone’s sexuality can be part of the challenge. Ashley, a former bartender at a local pizza joint, remembers constantly trying to figure out the sexual preference of a regular.
“He came in often, but you could say he was ambiguously gay because after all this time we still couldn’t figure it out,” says Ashley. “I remember it was wine night and very busy and after a few rounds I returned to the bar to find him making out with an older gentleman. Mystery solved!”
Ashley also remembers a regular female who would pay with prepaid credit cards, then try to tip when she knew she was over her balance. “At that point, she was pretty drunk and would try to hit on guys by talking their ear off,” she says. “She was never successful and ended up scaring them all away.”
In this exciting world of smart phones and apps for everything, there is no way to escape the dating app Tinder. If you’ve never heard of it, Tinder is a free, location-based mobile dating app that simplifies the process most dating websites require. You simply download the app to your smart phone, link to your Facebook account, choose up to six photos of yourself, and write a brief bio.
The app shows you photos of singles based on your preferences. You swipe left if you don’t like them and swipe right if you do. If someone you like also swiped right on your photo, the app immediately informs you, “It’s a Match!” and urges you to begin chatting.
Tinder has been characterized as a “hookup” app but many of the bartenders I talked to say exactly the opposite.
“I have regular female customers who have used Tinder, and most of them are not looking for casual hookups and even say that in their profile,” says Rae, a bartender who just moved here from Florida. “I even went on a couple of Tinder dates when I first moved here, then I just deleted my profile. A lot of girls I went to college with called it ‘the free dinner app’, but it gets old going on hopeless dates just to get a free meal.”
“I can always tell when some is on a Tinder date,” says Katrina, a downtown bartender. “Someone will come in and pull this thing like, ‘Oh…I’m…waiting for someone.’ Usually, if you’re waiting for a friend or someone you know well, you’ll get a drink and relax. But when it’s obvious that you’re ‘waiting for someone’ in that way, you stiffen up and kind of get robotic.
“And then the dude—or woman—will walk in the door, and they’ll always walk past who they’re supposed to meet. But when they notice the person at the bar first, before the approach, you can often see their face being like, ‘Oh no am I really going to go through with this?’,” she says.
Some bartenders have even gone as far as setting up regulars at their bar. “I had a girl come in and she was all dolled up,” says Kitty, a longtime bartender at a hotel downtown. “I asked her, ‘Do you think you’re special?’ And she answered, ‘Well, yes I think I am.’ So I set her up with guy I knew and it was like a volcano meeting a tornado. They hit it off and are still together today.”
But Kitty says they are exceptions to the rule. “I’ve also been to Voodoo Valentine’s Day Parties, where people bring a picture of their exes and burn it.” I tell her about the story I’m writing, a sort of “body language of love as witnessed by a bartender” piece and she kind of seethes, then starts to remember other services she offers her customers.
She says her regulars ask her for sex advice. “I am typically a libation consultant but a have also sold Pure Romance,” which for those of you who don’t know is the world’s largest in-home party company specializing in relationship-enhancing products.
Kitty also dishes out good ole’ relationship advice to her regulars. So I take the opportunity to tell her about my recent romantic woes.
“The mother of my child got abruptly engaged over Christmas” I say. “I texted my baby mama a picture of a girl I was talking to and was met with an angry challenge to have a photo contest between her fiancé and my quote unquote girl friend.”
Kitty had one piece of advice. “She may want to reconsider that engagement. If she didn’t care, she wouldn’t have reacted at all.”
Kitty has the exact qualities you want in a bartender. She is outgoing, flirty, vivacious, and listens to her customers about their problems while dishing out advice and cautionary tales of her own. “Another thing I’ve learned over the years is, girls don’t realize most guys are intimidated by them,” she says.
More often than not, most of the bartenders I talked to are women and all have stories of customers trying to pick them up.
“Some of these guys are more flaky than the guys on Tinder,” says Katrina. “Just because you give me your number doesn’t mean I’m going to call you. That never works.”
Kitty remembers one such loser trying to pick her up who was a particular glutton for punishment. “He kept saying, ‘Do you know what a burden it is to have so much money?’ Except he didn’t have any front teeth. Money can’t buy love or happiness. Some of these guys get drunk and think the bartender wants to have sex with them. I don’t date the people I serve as a general rule.”
“You have regulars who are always making innuendos, some not so subtle,” says Katrina. “You just learn to ignore them.”
But some bartenders have met their significant others while they were working. “I met the father of my child while serving him in a smoky bar,” says Taylor, a former bartender from Soddy Daisy. “I know. It’s the ultimate cliché, right?
But Taylor also remembers a particularly touching story from her bartending days. “A divorced couple came into town because their daughter was involved in a car accident. Both of them had remarried but while taking care of their daughter they reconnected. Day by day, you could see them rekindling a relationship they both thought was gone. By the time their daughter left the hospital, both people went back to their respective spouses but I have a feeling they made a return trip to the altar.”
So if you are comfortable with dating websites and apps, by all means enjoy them. But if you ever want some real—and interesting—relationship and dating advice, our suggestion is to ask your friendly neighborhood bartender.
Just remember to tip them.