Bag Limits

Why do men hit on female bartenders?

They say history proves again and again how nature points out the folly of men.

In this case, "they" are Blue Oyster Cult, a band from the days of open shirts and infinite hair. We're not certain whether they are the "they" mentioned in all the other "they say" references, such as "they say it causes blindness," but they are definitely the "they" who warned us of the potential for great frustration when men step outside their league.

This week's Burning Question, you see, exposes man's fascination with the unattainable. As children, we learn that achievement comes through effort. Everyone, wrote English author Samuel Butler, "can in the end get what he wants if he only tries." But like Tom Hanks waving bye-bye to the moon or Columbus tumbling off the edge of the earth, we eventually discover--Butler's words, again--that every individual is more or less an exception to that rule. In other words, The Little Engine That Could is just a damned lie that perpetuates class...must calm down...In other words, all the striving in the world, the quest for success or glory, generally nets you only a cubicle in a room of cubicles in a building of rooms.

Be that as it may, we beat on.

Now, from the male perspective, gymnasts, strippers and female bartenders are the apogee of sexual conquest. To stumble home with one of these after an evening of heart-healthy chugging is akin to, well, we're not sure. We've never actually accomplished the feat, but we assume that a night of squelchiness with a female bartender would nudge us into a world of minor celebrity: a mention in Alan Peppard's column; a spot on the Style Council; our own show on Fox. We'd be like Kato Kaelin or Raef LaFrentz.

Yet few men will ever succeed in bedding a bartender. "In 11 years of bartending, I've taken three phone numbers," says Cindy Van Zandt of Umlaut. "Men can look, but I've never dated a guy who I met at the bar," adds Victoria Garcia, bartender at Arcodoro & Pomodoro, shaving down the odds a bit more.

Still, there's that sliver of hope--three guys over a decade--encouraging men to reach for the unreachable.

Women who work behind Dallas bars expect some flirtation every single night, ranging from marriage proposals to pathetic lines. "A guy handed me one of these," says Ashley Allen of Duke's Original Roadhouse, holding up a sugar packet. "He said, 'You dropped your name tag.' Isn't that cheesy?" Even worse, men plant themselves opposite female bartenders, either flirting or just clogging her station. "You have to control your area of the bar," says Bruce Bauman of the Green Room. But, he concedes, good female bartenders generate crowds and money, as men--pardon me--whip out their wallets to impress the woman on the other side of the bar.

"They're paying for attention, certainly," says Tiffany McMurry of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. "When they come into a bar, we greet them with a smile and a cocktail."

Despite the barrage of pickup lines, female bartenders suggest that male patrons simply crave acknowledgement. "If they think you're paying attention to them, they'll come back to you," explains Mary Higby, bartender at The Bone, and McMurry agrees. "Affection's not the right concept, because it's never a physical thing," she says. "They're getting attention." What men fall for, then, is someone skilled at hustling the crowd, someone able to tug that extra, reluctant dollar out of a patron's pocket. "Good bartenders know how to talk to people," says Dixi Lee of Open, "how to make them feel welcome."

So picture an establishment full of women and a number of men flirting with the one they will never take home, the one trained to greet them, the one being paid to listen.

Our Burning Question this week asks why?

The smile, the drinks, the attitude, and--let's face it--the breasts add up to a deadly combination. "We have all the booze and most of the answers," Van Zandt says with confidence. Also, adds Daicia, a bartender at The Men's Club (note to our editor: we were there on business and adhered to our usual strict code of behavior), "there aren't that many of us. And men are always interested in women who do a man's job."

Geez, if that were true, guys would drool all over female home security sales people.

Still, she brings up an interesting point. Our fascination with bartenders may reveal deep-seated needs for warmth, security and family. "She's the mom you always wanted," says Kurt Mosley, Dallas sage of the consuming arts. "You can talk to her, but she's younger and better looking and lets you drink." In his view, men seek out female servers for guidance and validation. On the other hand, we may ascribe to bartenders a fantasy lifestyle--"They think we're wild," says Leann Berry of Ciudad--which will become ours if we just spend enough cash or blurt the right line.

Or, perhaps, men just use the wrong approach.

"Yeah," Morrow sighs. "The lights come up; they look around, and there's nobody left but me.

"Don't hit on me at 4 a.m."

 
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