So Kevin is, as I have mentioned in the past, very very active in his community. (Actually, he’s a bonafide community organizer, which meant that there was a certain degree of frothing rage in the recent past, but that’s neither here nor there.) And his community, headed by a Lutheran pastor (a nice guy, but way too prone to volunteering other people for things without asking them) holds this annual harvest party in town on the day after Halloween, with attached singles mixer, to benefit the local food bank.
Kevin comes home a few weeks ago and says "I’ve been volunteered to bartend."
"Sucks to be you?" I hazarded.
"You have to come with me! I can’t bartend at a single’s event alone! They’ll eat me alive! Also, who will I snark with?"
I saw the wisdom of this, and agreed that yes, I would assist with the bartending.
He came home a few days later and said "There’s more."
I raised an eyebrow.
"They’re doing…something…this thing…called a lock and key party."
"Sounds pretty wild for Lutherans."
"You have no idea. Apparently the women all wear little padlocks around their necks and the men have keys and they go around checking the locks in the keys and…"
"Oh. Dear. Lord."*
"Yeah. That’s what I said."
"It’s like…like…a Disney version of a fetish ball!"
"Uh-huh. Now you HAVE to come save me."
"Did you explain to the nice priest…?"
Well, never let it be said I abandon my loved ones in times of snark overload. I threw on the leather, the boots, and the spiked dog collar–I mean, somebody oughta be dressed appropriately for the theme, right?–Kevin wore his kilt, and we went off to bartend for a bunch of very nice well-meaning people and a rather good local cover band.
It occurrs to me that if I am ever single again and in serious need of getting laid, apparently showing up to a small town singles event in a corset is the key. Also, men, if you’re ever in that strait–wear a kilt. Chicks dig kilts. You cannot adequately comprehend how much chicks dig kilts. Kevin and I made ONE foray into the single’s event side of things, to raid their food stash, (hey, bartending is hungry work, and our side hadn’t gotten the pizzas in yet) and in the course of five minutes, three guys sniffed me over for padlocks and Kevin was nearly backed against a wall by women asking "So! Are you Scottish?"
We explained that we were the help–"Are you brother and sister?" "Sorry, no, we’re together…" "Darn!"–and fled, clutching paper plates of hummus and pitas. Kevin had more white around his eyes than a bolting horse.
"Let’s not go back there."
"The restrooms are through there."
Once I got behind the bar, it was more flattering than alarming–there’s a LOT to be said for the psychological value of a home territory, and a table between You and Them, which is part of the reason I always get a table at cons. And believe me, if I ever needed my ego stroked, that woulda done it. I had both genders telling me I looked fabulous, including a fair number of women who had never seen a corset before and wanted to know if they hurt and where to get one themselves. (I think I remember asking that the first time I saw one myself.)
"What happens when you take a deep breath in that thing?"
I handed out the name of Northbound Leather quite a few times, always with caveats about NSFW and catering to very specific clientele so brace yourself, but damn, they make good corsets. Also, I learned to dispense a beer from a keg, a life skill I had somehow failed to acquire in college, thanks to our other bartenders, Sonny (who really WAS a bartender once upon a time) and one of my favorite locals, an older gentleman named Cabell who happens to be Kevin’s attorney, and who is an absolute riot.
"Soooo…" asked the guy who was transparently seeking excuses to continue a conversation with me, "are you gothic, or is that a costume for Halloween?"
Before I could come up with a reply, Cabell said "No, that’s just Ursula." I really couldn’t top that as an explanation.**
Being a bartender is odd. Shy people who feel that they are supposed to be making conversation with someone at this party will make conversation with you, because it’s not as painful to do. I don’t know if identifying that is a skill that comes from years of doing cons, or if you suddenly acquire it with laser-like clarity once they hand you a keg tap and a cooler full of ice.
The only problematic drunk we got–we had a bouncer, just in case–was a very drunk gentleman who borrowed Kevin’s pen to write "I WOULD LIKE TO CALL YOU" on his own hand, then began insisting that Kevin and I should go dance, and he would watch the bar. This happened several times. Kevin fended him off by saying that they weren’t playing our kind of music (it was mostly seventies quasi-disco and eighties pop, so this was not untrue) and nevermind that there was no way we were leaving a drunken stranger to hold the bar, just so we could go do a bad goth version of "Stayin’ Alive."***
About halfway through, the gentleman organizing the singles party came up to the bar, asked for a Coke, and then said, very meekly, "Please don’t take this the wrong way, but a lot of men were asking if you were taking part in the lock and key event, and when I said you weren’t, they were very disappointed."
The Lutheran pastor was slightly less delicate in his phrasing when he descended on Kevin and I. "Guys keep asking if the Goth babe is single. I need another beer." (Good thing this is a very progressive church.)
Despite the non-availability of the Goth bartender and the only-slightly-Scottish bartender, a good time appeared to be had by all. It was nearly midnight before we got the last dancers out, which for small-town Pittsboro is a pretty good shin-dig, and we got through a great many bottles of wine and one of the kegs.
So that concluded my first and so far only bartending experience.
*My readers–and you know who you are–who are familiar in passing with some of the symbolism in the BDSM community may also be slapping hands to your forehead at this juncture and going "Oh dear lord." Even out here at the fringe of anthropological-interest-and-I-love-the-clothes, I winced.
**I suspect that, like Kevin, I am sliding into the "Yes, she’s a weirdo, but she’s our weirdo" niche.
*** I did my bad goth version of "Stayin’ Alive" behind the bar, thank you very much.