Yes, it is really happening – I’ve become the wingman. There I am, standing adjacent to that other girl, the one you didn’t pick, barely treading water. Christ, man, I thought we were just grabbing a beer. Now I’m chatting up the bored friend who splits her attention between shooting desperate glances to leave and expending the least possible amount of social energy on our conversation. How did this happen?
You two seem to be hitting it off, nice. I’m genuinely happy for you; I know you’ve been on a down streak lately. She seems cool. Meanwhile, I have to answer this text message, and then proceed to admire anything in my field of vision that is not this sullen, bored creature who I am unable to relate with. I’m wondering where the bathroom is, or if I could ever DJ at a place like this. I’m not a DJ. It would be pretty sweet to be a DJ.
When you saw that girl eyeing you across the bar you said we had to do something. You waved down the bartender and ordered her and her friend drinks. Beers. You got them each a beer, and when they smiled you smiled back. Then the bartender suggested, wisely, that this kind of thing usually works better when you go talk to them after. You know, follow up. He winked at us. I haven’t been winked at in some time; it’s disconcerting. This is all the bartender’s fault, really, him and that goading, insufferable wink.
So now I turn to you, strange and unrelentingly apathetic girl. It’s just me and you. Listen, we should really just get along. We should commiserate. You think you’re not into me? Well imagine how I feel. At least I’m trying. Sure, I’m not doing well by any standard, but you’re not exactly a walk in the park.
I know the odds of two strangers clicking like this are low. They generally increase when the people talking had the desire to initiate conversation in the first place. This is a blind date under coercion, where the main marker of success is not how well we get along, but how long we can create the context for other people to talk. We’re supposed to do this while keeping up the facade that we are young, dynamic people, having fun in a cool place, all just so that our friends can eventually hook up and tell us about it later.
Look, I get it. You’re not happy. You didn’t sign up for this either. Does your curt and borderline threatening tone have anything to do with some resentment toward your friend? Does she get more attention? At the very least you can just do this for her. Maybe you don’t find me attractive, cool, interesting, whatever. I’m nice though. I’m being nice to you. In this situation, that’s at least something. The bar is too loud. You’re not getting any of the subtlety in my humor. I talk fast. We’re missing beats. You nod your head, reluctantly. Everything you do is reluctant. Why the contempt? There must be something about the loud, confining reality of a bar that can amplify the smallest qualities into sources of endless frustration, and make me, on occasions like this, a fairly worthless wingman.
Can’t we just strike a deal here? You can smile at the meaningless things I say, and in return, I’ll do the same – quid pro quo. I’ll even buy you a few drinks. It’s like some kind of tax I have to pay, putting a down payment on future karma. One day, I will need a wingman, and my friend will know he owes me. And you? Tonight will become another memory of a night out that, prior to being sucked into a situation that had nothing to do with us, could have been decent.
image – atomicjeep