The other night I went out for a drink with a friend of mine.  When the bartender asked me whether I wanted to close the tab or leave it open, I responded with the latter, thinking it would be more efficient to just have to run my credit card through the system once as opposed to twice or more if I ordered another beverage.  As the night progressed, it became clear that I would not be needing a second drink (I have what this particular friend would term a “weak constitution”), so I ended up leaving the tab open until it became time to leave; I consequently went to close it and regain my credit card.

Just the Kamikaze?” the bartender asked, in a tone that implied she was at the very least slightly perturbed.  I nodded in the affirmative, not quite sure what the problem was.  She handed me the tab without speaking or looking at me; it was here that I began to surmise that I had perhaps somehow offended her.  To make it up I tipped her 25% instead of the normal %15, but I was met only with unintelligible mumbling as she swiped the receipt back.  I was thoroughly confused.

Those readers with a bit more intel on the social drinking scene probably saw two paragraphs ago the mistake I had made but not known about until asking my friend on the way home.  The act of opening a tab apparently implies ordering more than one drink, and my single-beverage tab had betrayed me to the barkeep as uncustomary, prompting her incredulous reaction.  Unfortunately for us both, I had had no prior knowledge of this rule, serendipitously having happened to order at least two drinks every other time I had kept the tab open.  My luck was bound to run out at some point.

And this is why bar culture sucks (begin rant proper here): not only is the open tab rule completely arbitrary, not implemented for any sort of ease or efficiency (order one drink on a single tab is just as efficient as ordering two or an infinity – and more efficient than closing the first tab and having to be rung up again for the second), but nobody ever told me! As with any and all stupid societal rules, nothing is ever formally discussed or agreed upon; instead one is only made cognizant of them upon having committed a faux pas, and then the knowledge is accompanied by any number of social stigma.  It’s like playing Operation blindfolded, only instead of buzzing, Cavity Sam cusses you out each time you make a mistake.  One is left to guess at where the boundaries might be between having fun and looking like a complete idiot.

Example the second: “girly” drinks.  I don’t often drink beer or other strong-tasting beverages because I can’t typically swallow it without grimacing.  The taste is simply too strong and bitter for me.  Since my standard for alcoholic beverages is the same as for non-alcoholic beverages (Q: Is it enjoyable to consume?), and since it’s typically around five dollars a drink, I had certainly better be enjoying whatever I’m drinking.  Consequently I am drawn more toward the more sweet-tasting drinks (margaritas, the aforementioned Kamikazes, cider, etc.).  Enjoying these beverages, I was at some point made aware (without any explanation or justification, of course) that I was habitually committing the faux pas of ordering “girly” drinks.  Apparently I was not going to be taken seriously by other consumers as long as I kept it up.

In comparing these libations to others of what I can only assume are of a more “manly” nature (aforementioned beer, the darker the better, Jägermeister, etc.), I can only come to the conclusion that what constitutes the masculinity or femininity of a drink is how terrible it tastes.  Evidently those drinks are “manly” that require an immunity to taste to have been built up and/or make you instantly wish you could take back your order the second the liquid touches your now-despairing taste buds.  Ironically, alcohol content has nothing to do with “manliness” of a drink, as most mixed drinks contain more alcohol (and thus require stronger constitutions to drink the same amount of) than beer and the like.

Again, this standard seems not only arbitrary (are you telling me that only women prefer the flavor of citrus to the flavor of shoe leather?), but also vindictive.  Men who, either by lack of exposure to such beverages or by accident of taste bud sensitivity, don’t/can’t drink the strong beverages of their would-be compatriots, are either then ridiculed by their peers for their choice or forced to sit out whatever fellowship they might have hoped for entirely to avoid ostracization.  And all this to say nothing of the stupidity of the gender language used.  I have plenty of female friends who would choose a Guinness over a margarita any day, and to say their drink choice makes them more “manly” is as insulting as saying that mine makes me “girly.”

The more I come into contact with it, the more I come to believe that the social drinking bar culture scene is not about community as it seems to claim – else it would be more welcoming and instructive to those foreign to its odd mandates.  It is instead the wine-snob stereotype played out over the lowest, crassest, common denominator.  The purpose is to enjoy not the consumption and appreciation of the item itself, but the feeling of superiority conferred by adherence to an irrational set of rules and by others’ twofold failure to know and abide by them.