I have not had the best of weeks with unemployment hanging over me like a Damoclean sword and a severe writer’s block made me believe that Marty McFly’s hoverboards will be released before my master’s thesis will be completed.
On top of this miserable week, I was stood up not once, but twice. By the same female friend with whom I had tried to have cocktails for the last few weeks. This was a moment when I was very thankful for being part of a pub community.
I grew up in a bar and so I discovered at a very early age that the regular’s table was a man’s world. Sometimes women were tolerated but only as the newly hunted down +1 of one of the regulars. After a few weeks this stopped and the guy who would continue to bring his girlfriend got ridiculed in a way so immature that it would make the guys on Inbetweeners seem well-behaved and grown-up.
Of course this is a bit different in the big city but my highly scientific research at the pub (of course, I really only go there to observe social behaviour patterns) showed me that there were hardly girls hanging out by themselves. When I started going to my local pub, it was always in the company of friends because as my parents told me “girls shouldn’t go to the pub alone.” So, I came up with a fail proof strategy that would allow me to go to the pub and still not be alone: Make friends with the barkeeper! In my case this was fairly easy as my local pub’s barkeeper’s birthday is on the same day as mine. So it only took a few rounds of the best whisky, a lot of prost-ing, and a very generous tip to make friends… or at least to make him remember my name for now
The next step I took was to schedule my visits in a way that I could be sure that there was some interesting football match on when I went there. That way I could sit at the bar and didn’t really need someone chatting to me. I could just sip my beer and enjoy a good game of football (or respectively a bad game when Barcelona won). Surprisingly I also found out that a girl sitting at the bar of a pub, drinking beer and watching football will usually not sit there alone for a long time.
This way I slowly made my way into the pub community. The pub folks don’t only know my name now but know what I will order, automatically book my favourite table when Real Madrid is playing or when a pub quiz is on, and Facebook shows me that me and the pub owner have 17 mutual friends.
I am always a bit proud of this but at the same time I wonder why I should be. Shouldn’t it be as normal for a girl to walk into a pub as it is for a guy? For some reason it isn’t. Sometimes I wonder whether we are stuck in a kind of Victorianism 2.0. In the nineteenth century Isabella Beeton wrote a 1200-page household manual for women in which she laments that “men are now so well served out of doors, – at their clubs, well-ordered taverns, and dining-houses, that in order to compete with the attractions of these places, a mistress must be thoroughly acquainted with the theory and practice of cookery”. Sometimes I wonder where we might be now if the eminent Mrs. Beeton hadn’t advised her female readers to learn the art of cooking in order to keep their guys in the house? What if she had told them to go to the local pub for a few pints and to join their BFs and husbands in cheering on Cristiano Ronaldo (or whoever was the world’s best football player in 1861.)
It was also in the late nineteenth century that woman’s rights activists told women to go shopping in order to conquer the public sphere. Over 100 years later I demand:
“Girls, Get yourselves to the Pub!”