A Bartender's Guide to Measuring Up in your Relationships

Titles Are Important

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     A few years back when Cirôc came on the scene, customers were ordering it most out of all the other vodkas. Ordinary vodka/crans or vodka and lemonade became Cirôc specific. My first inclination as the bartender was to grab the original Cirôc. However Cirôc has six flavors, and customers often wanted one of the others, yell out me, “Redberry” or “I meant Peach,” sometimes after I’ve poured the liquor. The lack of clarity messed both of us up. It got to the point where every time someone ordered Cirôc I had to asked, “What kind?” It shouldn’t surprise me that people rarely ever order the original, yet I was surprised how often they didn’t say specifically what they wanted, leaving it up to me to assume.

Titles are important. A title gives others an idea of what’s to be expected and draws a clear boundary for both you and the person(s) you’re involved with. That’s why we have labels.

      Much the way a Cosmo ceases to be so if it’s made with tequila instead of vodka,–(it becomes a cranberry margaritas, and even that’s a stretch)–when you change the basic formula of a thing, a main ingredient, it takes a new form. Calling it a Cosmo won’t make that anymore true than if you go on two dates with a guy then start calling him your husband. Because there are steps that have to take place, decisions to be made; and those decisions have to be expressed out loud by calling it but a proper name.
     Having a title implies that there’s a recipe to be followed. A recipe gives us structure, organization, an order with which to abide. Even when there are several ways to make the same drink, the basics remain the same–a Manhattan is still a Manhattan if u add bitters or not, forget the cherry, or put it in a rocks glass. However, a Manhattan becomes another drink entirely if made with cognac instead of bourbon.
     Relationships are structured that way as well. Like those party shooters at a nightclub, relationships have layers, that often overlap, but the entire structure is altered if one or more of the elements are missing or changed. A title defines what’s happening, for those involved and outsiders, and clarifies what can take place within those boundaries, and what cannot. Without a title,–knowing what to call what you have,– you or your significant other are left to interpret what you will and create your own boundaries, or lack thereof.
     I’ve heard many people describe their relationships by saying, “He/She knows what it is.” I usually follow that up by asking, “So you’ve talked about what you are?” I’m left dumbfounded when I hear in reply, “No, but they know.”
      It’s never a good idea to assume the person you’re seeing is on the same page that you are. Everyone comes to relationships with an agenda, but often our agendas are not the same as others. It’s not safe to think your significant other just knows if no conversation has been had.
     And then there are those times when I hear people say, “What we have doesn’t need a title; it can’t be defined.” I cringe a little inside. I’ll admit I’ve been a victim of what at first seems like a romantic statement. But honestly, that’s horseshit wrapped in a Tiffany bow. That’s that person’s way of saying, either, that they’re confused, or he/she is trying not to hurt your feelings; neither of which is a good thing. Because, as the saying goes, saying nothing speaks volumes. If someone can’t –or won’t–define what you have, it’s likely it’s nothing serious.

     Just think of it like being hired for a new job. There’s no way in the world you’d do it without knowing what your title is, what’s expected of you. You’d want to know if the title you’re getting is beneath you, or important, if there’s room for advancement or if it’s temporary at best. Remember this the next time you or someone else says titles aren’t important.

     What’s your barometer? What parameters do you use to define your relationships and are you discussing them with others?

Flair

  

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   I’ve been bartending for a decade now. I can say with confidence that I am a great bartender. However, I am not a flair bartender. I don’t do tricks, special effects, or anything extraordinary outside of the glass (or your taste buds ;)). I tried to learn once while working at this quant sports bar. But my working there didn’t last long, so neither did my flair career. Kudos to those who pull off flipping bottles in the air, and pouring seven different shots from seven shakers into seven glasses, simultaneously. That is a special skill, I must admit, that I am intimidated by.
     If I were to measure my bartending abilities against those who flair, I’d feel inadequate, like a complete failure. So, I don’t. I recognize that flair bartending is a subsection of an industry that I belong to. Everybody can’t do everything. And the fact that I can’t flair doesn’t take away from my usefulness or appeal as a bartender. So what’s my barometer? I create specialty drinks on a moments notice, have mastered layering, crowds and speed aren’t a problem for me, patient, and I’m someone others come to to learn from. In my book, that makes me valuable.
     How do u measure your worth? What’s your barometer? Most often in our lives–and especially in relationships–we tend to compare ourselves to others to gauge our desirability, our usefulness, our worth. It seems easier to notice the qualities others possess that we don’t, –their flair,— and get down on ourselves because we feel were lacking. How often have u heard or said, “I wish I had his_______,” or “I could never do _______ like she does.”? My question is, why should you? Why should you be anyone other than who you uniquely are? Someone else’s light doesn’t dim your shine, unless you let it. Just focus on what you do well and others will too.

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     Some of my favorite bars to work at have a lot in common with my most favorite relationships. The way time flies when you’re having fun, great bonds formed, I learned a lot, I felt energized and motivated, and a genuine desire to please. Bartending teaches you how to be diplomatic, how to listen, how to put others needs first, and how rewarding that can be. You also learn to not put up with crap, when you’re in way over your head, and when to move on to the next one.
    Being in a relationship can be similar to having a job. There are different levels of commitment, probationary periods, time spent earning trust, benefits, promotions, mistakes are made, and, when necessary, termination of the agreement altogether. Both can be rewarding if handled correctly. 

     Approach your relationship, whatever stage it’s in, the way you would your job. Make it a priority. Work at it, stay focused, and don’t focus on being “fired.”

     While some relationships are more like a long-term career, others are similar to an “At Will” Employer. You’re called when needed but free to explore other options, and they owe you no explanation if they decide to terminate, and can do so at any time, and vice versa because there is no expressed commitment.
     A lot of times in the beginning, you don’t know how it’s going to go. However, not knowing how it will go when you’re hired for a job doesn’t make you walk around at work with the constant fear of being fired. Instead, you do your job to the best of your ability, having some fun along the way, hoping your efforts will be recognized, appreciated, and rewarded. This thinking can be very useful for a relationship as well, particularly a new one.
    One of the best ways to keep your mind off of what might happen is to make sure you’re getting what you want from the relationship as well, and not simply going along with what the other person wants just to have him/her. Because, like your job, if you don’t have a genuine passion for what you’re doing, you won’t give it your all. Instead it’ll become a burden to you. You’ll start showing up late, or calling off plans all together. And your partner will notice your lack of enthusiasm the way a boss would, and respond accordingly, either with a warning to do better or ending your situation altogether.

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     If your relationship comes to a point where you feel you need to move on, give it the kind of ending that respects what was had. Most jobs require two-weeks notice. It’s mature and gives your boss enough time to prepare for your absence, whether that means finding a replacement or adjusting their schedule accordingly.  Even people who are fired are told what went wrong. Likewise with a significant other. A proper break-up prepares him/her for your absence. If not face-to-face, at least put your thoughts in writing.
     I guarantee you a reason–any reason–is better than no information at all. This provides closure. Nobody should ever be left to wonder what happened. That blocks the healing process and takes a bit of that person’s soul away. That’s one of the reasons there are so many broken men and women out here dating today. Because someone they once loved and claimed to love them back, didn’t see fit to give the ending a proper burial. Work your relationship like you’d work your job. It’s a good barometer on how to treat people in general.

**Excerpts from The Barometer: A Bartender’s Guide To Measuring Up In Your Relationships

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     I went out to dinner with a couple friends. After being seated, it took a while for our server to make it to the table. When she came, she started with the drink orders, taking my two friends orders then walked away in a hurry before I could even give her mine.
She only had two other tables, but I watched as she did laps around her section, tending to those two other tables and continuously walking past ours. By her third lap, when I saw her pick up a water pitcher to refill the other tables but we were still minus drinks and my drink order, I got fed up.
     Being a bartender for several years I know how good customer service works and this wasn’t it. I didn’t know what her problem was with my table but I wasn’t going to stand for it. With service industry arrogance dripping off of me, I walked over to the server station and asked another server if she could take our table.
     Julia came over promptly. She took down our beverages, and food–because by now we had been sitting there long enough to have decided–and was back in a flash to quench our thirst. The first server did finally come back with a few drinks–their two and a wayward coke no one ordered–but by then I resolved that we’d stick with Julia instead.
     The rest of the meal went off without a hitch. I thanked Julia for her lively service, adding in my praise for her how I didn’t know what the other girl’s problem was with us and the regaling tale of woe about my experience before her, to which Julia replied, “She’s new.”

Now I feel like a bitch. 😟

     Those two little words  pierced through me, stinging like heartburn. I wished she had told me. I walked out of the restaurant feeling ashamed because I remember those first days in the industry, when every little thing was new. You’re juggling learning the system along with learning people and learning about the things you’re serving. Just two tables can feel like having the whole restaurant to yourself. In those early days, I blurted out to every person, “Hi, I’m new,” like it was my name.
     I wished that I had known she was just starting out. Better yet, I wish that I had had the patience to observe a little longer and I would have figured it out like I have so many times before. I pride myself on being that compassionate and cool industry customer who knows how it is. I usually talk new servers through the experience and give words of wisdom and tricks to the trade. My know-it-all got the best of me.

     We do something similar in our personal relationships, particularly the seasoned ones.

    We think we know how our partner operates so we stop observing them the way we did when things were new. And our expectations become super high because we think they should have this relationship thing down by now. We stop asking questions to check-in and instead assume our significant other should know how to give us what we want.
The minute things aren’t going according to our plan, we bail to someone new who might be able to meet our needs better, instead of finding out what’s going on with the one we claim to care about.
     We’re quite a self-centered society, and in a hurry at that. We always think the grass is greener on the other side failing to realize we could have green grass too if we only took the time to water it.
     Patience is a virtue, and at the root of it is the lesson that to be patient is to consider there’s something happening with someone else besides ourselves. Patience is about empathy.
     I wish I had been more patient with my first server. Let her bring us the wrong drinks and talked her down from her nervousness. I wish I could’ve been a cool memory for her and not the one she likely went home and cried about.
    
     What’s your barometer on patience? Are you being the best customer you can to the person in your life who may get flustered sometimes but is trying hard to serve you joy?

   

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     “Drinking games are stupid; at least the competitive ones are. The ones where the purpose is to take shots or chug beer to see who can handle the most liquor the best. The one who drinks the most wins. The reward is usually puking, a hangover, or worse, alcohol poisoning. What a prize.
     Most often, the purpose of the game is to get completely wasted and see who can hold their liquor the best. Pride keeps participants from saying ‘when‘ long after they’re past drunk.
     Drinking games are kind of like the childhood game ‘Say Uncle:‘ where one kid twists another one’s arm with increasing intensity until the one being pinned can’t take anymore and screams ‘Uncle!’
     The people that were the best at it were the ones who held out the longest or never gave in. However, while they appear to be the winners, really they were the ones in the most pain–and the pain lasted longer than that of their peers–because they wouldn’t just surrender to the feeling when it was safe to do so. Some people are so proud that they would rather risk guaranteed pain to avoid appearing weak to–and possibly being hurt by–someone else.
     When you love someone, there is no room for pride. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing out on love. You have to decide which is more important to you, a relationship or your pride, but you can’t have both. And, contrary to what some may believe, love is stronger than pride, because even if you let pride win, the love doesn’t just go away. Only now, instead of a chance at happiness, you’re left with that unsettling feeling that asks, ‘What if I’m really missing out on something?’
     When you’re afraid to let down your guard it’s because you are afraid of looking weak. But you have to be a little vulnerable for love to work. You don’t decide to fall in love with someone, it just happens; so you can’t decide to only if they love you back. When you love someone, it’s not supposed to be because you’re trying to get something back. It’s about what you can give. And though you may want to win their heart, it’s not a competition.” So what’s your barometer? At what point will you decide it’s safe to let down your guard?

Except from The Barometer: A Bartender’s Guide To Measuring Up In Your Relationships

Cocktail Therapy

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     My favorite nights bartending were those when I got to flex my counseling muscles for couples in crisis visiting my bar.
     This adorable pair came in one night at last call for a nightcap to the first date of their second chance. Looking at them, you’d never guess there had ever been enough friction for them to break up. However, midway through their drinks, their lovey-dovey vibe turned into a debate, and they called me over (as many couples have) to be the mediator.
     Having almost been married before, they broke up because Cass* thought Riley* was too frugal and Riley thought Cass was too lavish. This disagreement was now coming up again, so they wanted an unbiased opinion.
     Riley believed you take care of home first: bills paid, full fridge, savings accounts. Riley also loved to cook and couldn’t fathom spending large amounts of money on fancy meals, saying, “It’s only food. You can’t even keep it.” Riley was a simple homebody and had no need for expensive material things.
     Cass on the other hand believed you only live once; you work hard, you play hard. Cass had an appetite for the extravagant, and loved going to fancy restaurants with friends and splurging on big ticket items like designer shoes or jewelry. But Cass also had a well-paying job and could therefore comfortably afford that lifestyle.
     The source of contention was that Cass was an outgoing person who couldn’t stand being cooped up in the house. Cass liked to socialized; get out and go dancing, to a concert, or to the movies instead of renting a dvd to watch at home. Riley never wanted to go out with Cass. Riley much preferred quiet dinners at home and snuggling up on the couch.
     It was obvious they loved each and loved being around each other; they just needed a happy medium between their personalities.
     To me the solution was simple: I helped Cass understand that Riley shows love by protecting loved ones, not with expensive gifts, and to be more appreciative of the “gift” of security. Cass needed to understand that Riley wasn’t going to get in the habit of buying lavish material things.  However, since those expensive gifts weren’t hurting the family budget, Riley should no longer give Cass grief for buying them. Feeling judged would only make Cass resort to hiding and lying about purchases, which wouldn’t be healthy for Cass or the relationship. The relationship would be much happier when Riley stopped counting every penny Cass spends and making Cass feel bad for wanting luxury items.
     And though Riley was a homebody, I suggested for the sake of bonding in the relationship, go out sometimes with Cass. But to Cass I added pick places that are modest. Since Cass had friends who enjoyed fine dining, reserve those fancier meals for hanging with them.
     The couple happily agreed to take my advice. They finished their drinks and left finally having an understanding of how they could blend their two worlds, and I closed down the bar feeling certain they we’re going to make it this time.

*Names have been changed to protect their identities

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     As far as relationships go, dating a bartender is pretty much the cream of the crop. We’re expert listeners, great at anticipating needs, very diplomatic, skilled at multitasking, work well under pressure, and bartenders make you look good in front of your friends (because we’re usually attractive, entertaining people persons).
As if my saying so weren’t enough, the experts agree with me. The good folks over at eHarmony.com, the number one dating site, compiled a list of the 15 best reasons to date a bartender Here. What can I say, we’re a special breed of human. 😉