Noticing that Sharon and the other women had moved to an area near the bar, he felt a sudden, dryness of throat. At the bar, he ordered a whisky sour. Leaning against a stool waiting for his drink to arrive, he couldn’t help but listen in on their conversation.
Sharon: So, I was like, put down your book, The Four Hour Work Week, and listen up.
Woman: Oh, my God. Did you really say that?
Sharon: I said I was like . . .
Woman #2: Ugh. God. Men.
Sharon: I know, right?
It was hard to hear his sex take such a rap. But, knowledge is power. Whatever insights he could learn about women, he thought to himself, could only be beneficial. The bartender, with some difficulty, got his attention; his drink had arrived. He was beyond relieved; he was exonerated. Standing alone at a bar, watching a group of women was one thing; standing alone at a bar, with drink-in-hand watching a group of women, thankfully, was another. Swilling his drink around his glass, he returned to his listening post:
Sharon: It’s like, even that guy over there, the one with the New Balance sneakers and cargo shorts . . .
Involuntarily, he found himself scanning the room attempting to spot the specific characters Sharon was highlighting for the benefit of the others.
Woman: Ha, ha. Yesss.
Sharon: He could probably date that really smart looking woman in the corner if he just went up to her and introduced himself. He doesn’t even know that he has a 50% chance.
Woman: And, I mean, if any guy has at least a 50-50 shot with most women, then actual good guys . . . their chances are like, sky-high.
Sharon: By “good guys,” you don’t mean “nice guys,” right?
He felt they were speaking directly to him. Obviously, they had noticed him and, in their own subtle, feminine way, they were inviting him to approach. He didn’t have a plan. He was just going to wing it. After all, the women had been talking for the last thirty minutes about how men should just “do it.”
Approaching the group of couches where Sharon and the other women were seated he asked if he could join them. But, before they could respond, his friends entered the bar from the outdoor patio and spotted him from across the room. “Grant! Get over here man! We’re doing shots!” What could he say? Oh, what the hell . . . “No!” he hollered, “I’m about to ask one of these fine young women out on a date!” He smiled at the group of women as he pulled up his chair.
But, by making such a strong move, he become suspect. Was he mocking them? Was he a player? Or, was he just a creep?
A number of awkward moments passed. He sipped his whisky and racked his brain for something to say, until . . . Yes! Perfect! The sunset. But Sharon beat him to it. She leaned forward out of her chair and, looking at everyone, awkwardly asked: “Sooo . . . did everyone enjoy the sunset this evening?”
Maintaining his cool (and desperately trying to regain whatever invisible ground he had lost), he casually removed his hand from the pocket of his jacket and gestured towards the skyline saying, “In all seriousness, I think New Yorkers have some of the most staggering vistas.” Sharon laughed and coyly responded: “Yes, platinum. Or is yours black?”
Sportively, she was asking him to fight. She wanted him to prove that he was “good” rather than just “nice.” But he didn’t understand. He didn’t see the difference.
He asked the women what they were drinking and offered to buy them a round. They accepted. As he left to find the bartender, he heard Sharon make a disparaging remark about the pattern of his jacket.
He paid for their three lemon drop shooters and left. He was tired. He was tired of trying. He was tired of trying and getting nothing in return; but mostly, he was tired of trying to pretend that he wasn’t trying. He was. He was playing the game; it was just that but nobody was winning.