I like spending time alone. One of my favourite things to do every once in a while is to put on a nice outfit, try out a new makeup look, and head down to a local bar for a cocktail. By myself.
I have plenty of lovely friends and family so if you ever spot me eating at a table for one or taking myself out for a drink, it's pretty much guaranteed that I want to be alone.
The trouble is that it's very hard for me to actually get an hour by myself at a bar. It doesn't matter if I go early in the evening, or in the afternoon, or if I bring a book, or spend all my time texting, someone inevitably strikes up a conversation.
Sometimes it's nice, I like people and I like making new friends, but, just once, I'd like to go to a bar by myself without having to answer questions about my relationship status.
It's nothing to do with me in particular (believe me I'm not that special). It's more to do with the fact that a woman alone in public is a magnet for single men so matter what she does to deter them.
The problem isn't really getting hit on. Most of the people I meet in bars and restaurants are nice and normal. Some I'm happy to chat to for a little bit, and most are respectful of that fact that I'm not interested.
But not all.
It was my last night in Halifax before the rest of my classmates arrived and although I'd already eaten dinner, I wasn't ready to head back to my dorm. I found a little pub downtown but as soon as I opened the door, I sighed inwardly. The only seat available was next to two guys at the bar. I hesitated for a second, but I really wanted a beer and 9pm is too early to call it a night.
I could feel them clocking me as I walked in, sat down, and ordered my pint. I played on my phone. I chatted to an older couple sitting on the other side of me who also happened to be from Toronto.
"Hi," one of the guys said.
"Hello." I deliberately tried to sound like I was ending my single word sentence with a period instead of an exclamation point.
"Are you from Halifax?"
"Where in Toronto do you live?"
"What are you studying?"
"Do you like my friend?"
"What are you drinking?"
I answered every question as briefly and politely as I could. The problem with situations like these is that if you cold-shoulder too obviously, you get called a bitch. Or stuck-up. Or arrogant. I probably shouldn't care what names strangers call me, but the obvious cold-shoulder has backfired pretty badly for me in the past. (Comment if you want to hear that story!)
I mention my boyfriend casually and make a point to leave my phone on the bar so they can see the picture of the two of us on my screensaver that I like to pull out for moments like these.
Usually the picture of the boyfriend gets me the results I want. But the questions just kept coming.
"What are you writing about?"
"Why do you want to be a writer?"
"Don't you want to make money?"
"Trust me. When you're a little older you'll wish you did something else. You'll wish you had money."
I'm too old for this shit.
The polite girl inside me finally snapped.
"Oh my God!" I said. "You're right! I totally forgot to budget for my cocaine and diamond habit! Dammit. Now I'll have to marry rich."
It may not have been my finest moment or my wittiest comeback, but I've got to admit: finally talking back felt good.
What do you think? How do you shut down the obnoxious bar conversations without slipping into bitchy territory? And what do you do when a guy just won't get the message?
Luckily the bartender took pity on me and rushed me my bill. It's also worth noting that the older couple sitting next to me offered me let me sit between them and pretend to be their daughter so I could stay and enjoy the live music. People like that help me maintain my faith in going out alone. And my faith in humanity!