Where Nobody Knows Your Name

It was a Saturday night, and after watching the Lakers defeat the Warriors, I had no plans. I tossed out the encrusted remains of a Lean Cuisine lasagna and sat back in my sweats, surfing the channels in search of some juicy biography I hadn’t seen before.

It wasn’t so much that I was feeling sorry for myself or lonely, but that I couldn’t help but hear the sounds of Saturday night outside my window. Cars honking and heels clacking and my neighbor’s obligatory weekend salsa music blaring created this sort of moody soundtrack music that seemed to say, “Girl, you’ve got to get out more.”

I had nothing to do. Many of my friends are coupled and understandably prefer to spend their weekends with their significant others. But, to be honest, I was so busy working, I hadn’t even bothered trying to muster any weekend plans for myself beyond yoga and laundry.

As I listened to the goings-on outside my window, I remembered something a girlfriend had said earlier that week, “Sometimes, you just have to take yourself out for a drink.”

So I did.

I slapped on some perfume and lip gloss and headed out to a nearby bar. Alone.

On my way to the Formosa, a busy Hollywood bar, I developed a back story to explain, in case the need arose, why I was out by myself. My fictional plan was that I was “waiting for friends.”

Walking toward the bar, I was overcome with nerves. I told myself that I’d just have one vanilla martini and than go home if the experience was miserable. Jostling through the crowd, I had no idea which direction to face or where to sit or stand. I panicked. Then I heard a group of guys discussing the Lakers game, and I insinuated myself into the conversation. I was in.

For the rest of the night, I hung out with this group of strangers, excusing myself every now and again to look for my “friends.” I had a great time, thanked them for letting me into their circle and went home, my thirst for social interaction quenched.

Exhilarated from the success of my first solo bar foray, I did it again the following week. This time, I ventured into Jones, a slightly more upscale bar across the street from the Formosa. It was rocky at first, when I found myself attempting to make conversation with a couple of insipid schoolteachers from Oakland.

Before long, though, I was rescued by a trio of guys. They were smart, funny, good conversationalists. Last call came too soon. One of them offered to walk me to my car and asked for my phone number.

As it turns out, while he was polite, intelligent and charming, he was also “separated” from his wife, moving, “between projects” and generally had too much baggage to fit under the seat in front of him. He wasn’t Mr. Right, but neither was he “Mr. Goodbar,” the fictional bogeyman of the famous 1977 film about a woman’s desperate search for a meaningful relationship in sleazy pick-up joints.

I wasn’t necessarily looking for a meaningful relationship; I just wanted to get out on a Saturday night. If a guy can sit at a bar and drink a beer and just hang out, why can’t I? Because “good girls” don’t venture alone into drinking establishments?

When I told a couple of male friends that I had gone to a bar alone, they looked at me as if all of a sudden I was sucking down seven bourbons with Mickey Rourke and spiraling into the sexually dangerous and depraved lifestyle of a “barfly.” None of this is true. I’ve never had a one-night stand and don’t intend to, and I’m a nurse-one-drink-all-night kind of bar patron.

The fact is, when you’re alone, you’re more likely to interact with people you might never have met, and they are far more likely to talk to you, without a wall of friends to scare them away. Like traveling alone, it’s an adventure.

Is it dangerous? No more so than going to the grocery store, really. Is it scary? A little, just like a party or any other social situation can be nerve-wracking.

My point wasn’t necessarily to meet a man, but to enjoy the simple human pleasure of being among people, of being part of the pack. I wasn’t a woman on the prowl; I was just taking myself out for a drink. And while I wouldn’t make it a career and I know it makes some people uncomfortable, it beats sitting home and only imagining the good times going on outside my window.

Teresa Strasser is a twentysomething contributing writer for The Jewish Journal.