Don’t Bring Me Your Life Story

I’m not here for it

Alternatively subtitled: My biggest shortcoming as a bartender. And probably a person overall.

To be fair, there is no perfect bartender. I mean, maybe there is — I haven’t met all of them, I guess. But statistically speaking, I doubt it. (And if there is, and I’m wrong, I’d love to meet him or her and know what kind of fucked up shit they’re into off the clock.)

But a great bartender will hit on at least one and ideally a couple but definitely not all of the following things:

Good at cleaning. Good at stocking. Good at breaking down a bar. Good at making cocktails. Good at knowing at least one type of alcohol (beer, wine, or whiskey.) Good at staying calm under pressure.

And good at listening to life stories.

I am great at staying calm under pressure — mostly because I just tune it out and shut down, but still. We’ll be balls-buried in the weeds on Saturday nights with customers stacked 3 or 4 deep at the bar, all of them wanting cocktails and mixed shots, and I just sort of go into this blissed-out zen state with it and it’s fine. (Actually, it’s awesome. It’s what makes the job fun.)

And I am even better at breaking down a bar than I am at staying calm. If we’re slow, I routinely walk out less than 5 minutes after we close, because I pre-close like a boss.

And I am pretty good — better than the rest of the bartenders, my manager, and most of our customers — at knowing whiskey. Mostly scotch.

But I am not at all good when it comes to people telling me their life stories. When people want to launch into their sob story about how “unfair” something is, or how bad the parking around town is, or how this dude they’re dating is ghosting or they’re not sure about their girlfriend or seriously want to cheat on their wife or have a vacation home they are pretty sure I need to hear about, I just shut down. I don’t care. At best, it bores me. At worst, it makes me uncomfortable. But either way, it makes me seem “rude.”

And while I know that’s part of the job — it’s always part of the job, even when we work with “things” — I can also admit: I’m not great at it. And I don’t want to be.

I could never be a therapist

I don’t even enjoy seeing a therapist, and that’s when I’m talking about my interests. I am pretty sure I could never be paid enough to sit and listen to other peoples — all while keeping an air of professionalism and attention.

My partner and I just got done watching season 3 of Casual on hulu, a show about a totally codependent brother and sister trying to make life work in California. He’s a failed (?) startup founder. She’s a therapist. And every time they cut to her meeting with a client, I’m just like “dear god, woman, get it together!” Also, I mostly just feel that way about her character in general. Of course, you’re supposed to — that’s part of the point of her. But still. There are so many moments when I’m just like “I could never, ever do this as a job.”

I don’t even like doing it as not my job; doing it ancillary or even “for fun.”

Sometimes it’s hard time to connect with people

I struggle to find the exact words to describe how it feels to socialize, but it’s not so much social anxiety, per se, as it is rather a subtle but suffocating sadness; a tiny heartbreak; an isolation even as we talk.

For two reasons:

  • I don’t share interests with many people. If I have some other motive for investing in them, we’re fine. But without that, I don’t feel compelled to “fake it” or “learn more.” It’s not “connection” to talk about things I don’t value — that’s just not my idea of “rapport.” I want to spend exactly zero minutes of my life “sharing” about shopping, spouses, the newest restaurant, celebrities, or what “that girl over there” had the nerve to wear. I say this merely from a position of objectivity, not assessment. Neither is better or worse. Which brings me to the second issue:
  • People get grabby with each other. They push, they pry, they judge and, worse offense of all, they make it all about them. People use other people for their amusement and emotional consumption; to soothe anxieties and boredom; to fill up space. And then we’re not even considerate enough to keep this tendency subtle and under wraps, instead lunging across the table any time someone shares something different, immediately needing to be reassured, “but I’m okay, right?!” They take up too much air and then expect others to thank them for the opportunity to “share,” and for “caring.”

Here’s the real irony: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared these points with people — when I’ve been honest and open about this, with someone I kinda trust — only to have them knock it out of my hands by responding, “no, no, no — you just need to connect more!”

Which just leaves me standing there, staring and silent. Like “…what??”

This is a big part of why I’m a writer.

It’s a challenge as a writer, too

Because writing is, ultimately, about connection. Even if you only write about your personal experience, or your insights, or your thoughts, you are putting yourself out there to connect with others, and the best case scenario is that something you write resonates with them too.

The key is to leverage the connection; to lean into it; to embrace and build off of connections and stories and other people. It’s a place to learn and evolve; something outside of my comfort zone and something I can learn to do more.

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