“When life gives you lemons, take them with tequila.”
Funny enough, during a formative period of my life, I may have taken that piece of advice way too literally. I was at a point where being able to perfect a wing-eyeliner look was already a life-changing experience, and my biggest problem was trying to decide which filter to use on my 285th selfie of the day.
And within the whirlpool of ‘unbecoming’ life choices I was making at the time, I made the ultimate double-whammy (or at least it was, at the time) when I dated a bartender. The entire three-month experience was a roller coaster (for lack of a better analogy). It was paradise most of the time, but the rest… a broken plate away from absolute destruction. The whole affair was unruly, like swimming in the deep end of a pool—fun, rebellious, but every now and then a struggle to keep my head above water.
But take it all with a pinch of salt: after all, bartenders can make mean margaritas out of the lemons life throws at you… and that’s when they’re not showing off.
But the bitter harvest bore good fruit. I learned that modern dating is complete bullshit, and I realized I was stuck in a bubble where people gave too many fucks about all the wrong things. Dating a bartender was a short-lived adventure, but it taught me a few solid lessons in life that I will probably take with me forever.
1. Life is about being comfortable in your own skin.
It takes thick skin and a lot of growing up to get used to the life of dating a bartender. Bartenders have to flirt with their customers—it’s part of being good at their job. It’s a road paved with misunderstandings and casualties, but you learn to roll with the punches. It’s not about learning how to trust, it’s about doing it wisely. I learned to find ease in an uneasy scenario, and I’m extremely grateful for that.
2. You can’t judge someone by the work that they do.
No matter how brilliant, how skilled, how knowledgeable your bartender partner can be, nobody is going to take you seriously. Bartending is not a “real job”. Whatever. Take shit from no one: bartending is a very active job and they work harder than anyone else you know. They have to. Bartenders are masters of dealing with problems, and they are incredibly resourceful. Those skills can’t be bought or taught.
3. Community can be found anywhere.
You will know all their co-workers and friends. You just will. (I can attest to this strongly.) And they’ll treat you with nothing but respect. They’re not the same type of friends you’d make anywhere else. And you watch from the sidelines how they live up to the bond of their brotherhood (not gender-specific). I’m sure to some extent bartending is a cut-throat industry, but I guess they have some sort of unspoken understanding with each other that we non-bartenders will never understand.
4. Sometimes the most sensitive, understanding people are the ones you least expect.
Bartenders have a way of looking at things that surprisingly does not reflect being immersed into different levels of shallow, sin-inhibiting, intoxicating circumstances. Maybe it’s the amount of time they spend tending to desperate drunks and bad decisions. Whatever it is, bartenders make for some pretty insightful people, and dating them comes with a lot of perks.
Being a good bartender takes a lot of heart, wits, and guts to master the expertise that goes into being everything a bartender has to be, both inside and outside of the bar—an art that goes underappreciated by those of us who take so much pride in passively toiling in front of a computer screen from 9-5. The next chance you get, tip better.