Gentleman Scholar

Solo Cup

I’m trying to meet new people. Can I go to a bar by myself, or will I look like a creep?

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I moved to a new town three years ago after finishing graduate school. I’ve found myself with a good group of friends, but they’re all 15 years older than me or married with kids. I feel like it’s time to hit the bar scene and meet some new … friends. How do I go to a good bar by myself without looking sad or potentially creepy?

Troy Patterson
Troy Patterson.

Photo by Christina Paige

Thank you for your question, which is, in fact, two questions.

The first concerns the seemliness of patronizing a bar by oneself: Is it OK to drink alone? William Shrike, the newspaper editor in Miss Lonelyhearts, believes, “It’s solitary drinking that makes drunkards”—but his putative wisdom is trumped by that of Nick Adams’ friend’s dad in “The Three-Day Blow”: “He says opening bottles is what makes drunkards.” In any event, the question is irrelevant. You’re not drinking alone; you’re in a bar, drinking with all these other potentially delightful people, some of whom are drunkards.

(Further, it is not going to bars alone that makes creeps, it’s acting creepy. As long as you are not unwelcomely intruding on anyone’s leisure time or personal space, then the worst that can possibly be said is that you are benignly weird, sitting over there with your blueberry margarita and your scrimshaw project.)

If it’s interesting people you’re after, I don’t know that a good bar is the right place to look. It would be better to seek out a good bartender, and those are found even in grimy dives, variously performing charming comic monologues, delivering canny sociopolitical analyses, and snapping off witty one-liners while doing a half-assed job of washing the glasses. Wherever you find a highly agreeable bartender, you will find patrons—regulars who make a point of stopping in, as well as people unconsciously drawn into his or her orbit—of relatively high caliber, and these are likely to be people worthy of palling around with.

When should you go to a bar by yourself? Not on a weekend, please. Barring special circumstances, no one over the age of 30 should make plans to be in a bar after 7 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday, when it’s amateur hour all night long. Just don’t do it; elevate the related Yogi Berra saying to a kind of principle. Instead, go out on Thursday night or Sunday afternoon, with a good book and also the crossword puzzle tucked under your arm—a friendly flag announcing that you are game to put your head together with other active minds.

Your second question is, How do I find some new friends? It’s no trick to make a lot of friends in bars—if all you want is to hang out in bars. But surely there are other ways to discover a proper peer group in your new town. Do you think your college alumni association could put you in touch with any acceptable playmates? Do your existing friends have any friends you can leach—people unburdened by children and other such deficiencies? Do you have the temperament to fly solo at concerts and arts events where you might encounter people of similar tastes? Do you have the inclination to get hooked up with a public-service organization, perhaps one with a charity-ball component? If you do some volunteer work and all the people you meet are dorks, then at least you won’t have wasted your time. Likewise, if you turn up at a fancy-schmancy fundraiser, and all the dudes you meet are jerks, then maybe at least you can get a tax deduction or an heiress’ phone number.

Do you want to hear about the oddest press release the Gentleman Scholar has received this year? It’s from a publicist representing “the world’s first app geared towards guys making new friends”: “Whether a bro is lonely on a Saturday night, bored because his significant other left for the weekend, looking for a fourth, or just moved to a city and doesn’t know anyone, WOLFPACK is perfect.” Intuitively, I intensely doubt the perfection of this product, but my urge to speak sarcastically of it is tempered by my recognition that it is built to serve a real need. It’s tough for an adult to cultivate a friendship, especially nowadays, what with the decline of such institutions as bowling leagues and such pastimes as river rafting, and it’s possible that technology can help: Why not sign on to Meetup and found an I Love You, Man fan club?

I’ve got an upcoming trip to Disney World with my wife and daughters, and am stuck on choosing the appropriate footwear. I can’t stand flip-flops, and my wife says I can’t wear footwear that looks like I’m “buckled in” (e.g., Tevas). What kind of shoes are appropriate for a full day of walking in a hot and humid environment? Ideally something I can wear from a ride to a sit-down restaurant that doesn’t embarrass the women in my life.  

Thanks for your question!

If you simply must wear sandals, then try to find a leather pair. But it would be better to go with a pair of grown-up sneakers—canvas tennis shoes or an old-school Adidas model such as the perpetually fashionable Stan Smiths or the Rod Lavers I’m wearing right now.

But, what is more: Oh my God, you guys—what is it going to take to liberate us from the opinions of women? I mean, the letter writer’s wife is correct that Tevas are hideous, but I want to know what changes in the social and economic climate will be necessary before a majority of men independently recognize their awfulness. I want to know when the day will come that men stop rejecting awful things because they are worried about embarrassing their wives and start rejecting them because they are worried about embarrassing themselves. And so I am not sure whether to recommend, further, that the letter writer train his eye with a book like Fiona Ffoulkes’ How to Read Fashion or hone his soul by listening to Clement Greenberg’s lecture on taste. There is no room out there for undue ugliness, nor for non-independent thought. It’s a small world after all.