This to me, felt as daring as the stand-up comedy and jumping out of plane combined.
This guy is no Brad Pitt or George Clooney – but he’s tall and twinkle and smiley and ever since he started working there at Christmas, I’ve liked him. Which, of course, means that I’ve been too embarrassed to talk/smile/interact with him in any way. Give me a guy I don’t fancy and I’ll chat away for hours. Somebody I even half like, though, and I have no choice but to totally ignore him. Obviously.
But no more – I have to get over this. I am nearly forty for God’s sake.
The bar was quiet and he came straight over. He smiled. I smiled. I looked away. My first thought: ‘I don’t want him to think I fancy him’. FFS! Seriously!
I ordered a glass of red wine and I felt myself blush. I didn’t know where to look, so I got VERY BUSY reading my newspaper. He passed over the glass and I said: ‘That looks very small.’ (Why did I say that?!) ‘Well, you asked for a small one,’ he said. I realised that I never ask for small glasses, which is why it looked so strange.
I only did it because I didn’t want him to think that I’m an alcoholic.
For the next half an hour he served customers while I sipped my (small) wine and read my paper and felt like a total loser. I didn’t know what to do. I knew I should say something but he was now down the other end of the bar talking to another customer. I texted my friend Rebecca to see if she could come rescue me. My glass got empty.
Mr Twinkly came over and asked if I wanted another one. I didn’t want him to think that I was the kind of girl that hangs out in bars on her own trying – but singularly failing – to pick up the barman, so I invented a story about how I was meant to meet my friend here but she was stuck at work.
I told him I didn’t know whether to wait and have another drink or go home. He told me to have another drink. ‘It’s cold out and it will keep you warm on your journey home,’ he said. I wondered if he wanted me to stay because he liked me – or because he’s a barman and that’s, well, his job.
I detected an accent. I asked him where he was from and he said Brazil. We talked a bit more and he told me he’d been here 6 months and that London was hard work. ‘I work, I get the tube, I sleep…’ he said. This was hopeful. At no point did he say ‘I work, I get the tube, I make love to my beautiful girlfriend and then I sleep…’
He said that he wasn’t really a city guy and that maybe he was too old to come to a new country and start again. I asked him why he came to London if he doesn’t like city and he shrugged. I won’t lie, the conversation was a bit of a downer but I still liked him. I think he liked me too but maybe he’s just twinkly to everyone. A twinkly depressive. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder, it was Rebecca.
After that I lost my nerve. He went off to serve other people and we had our drinks and left.
The next night we had friends over and I told them about barman. Again, this for me is daring. If I like someone I usually keep it to myself, so that, you know, I can stalk/ignore him in private. The decision was made that we were going to the bar.
Two of my friends were very drunk by the time we got there. ‘WHICH ONE IS HE?’ they bellowed. I wanted to die. Literally die. ‘IS IT THE SKINNY ONE? OR THE ONE WITH THE SHIRT?’ I tried to give them the kind of look that implied I would either cry, leave or kick them in the groin if they didn’t stop. This made the whole thing very funnier for them.
I found a table in the corner of the pub – as far away from the bar as I could be. I did not look at the barman. My friends/enemies came over. They teased, I drank.
My friend Al told me that I had to go up and get drinks and when he gave me my change, I had to stroke his hand, look into his eyes and say ‘Thank you,’ in my breathiest voice. FOR GOD’S SAKE. I got more useless advice involving showing more cleavage and maybe investing in a push up bra. I tried to see the funny side but I was so acutely self-conscious I was in actual pain. I have run away from situations like this for most of my life. There are 14-year-olds with more game than me.
But I did it – I went up to get more drinks. Another barman tried to serve me but I told him that I hadn’t decided yet. I waited for my guy to come over. He did. I smiled. He smiled. Yet again I panicked and looked away. My heart was beating.
‘How are you?’ I asked. ‘Good, how are you?’ he said. I asked for a bottle of wine and two pints. He asked how many glasses I needed for the wine and I said we didn’t need any. ‘You’ll just drink it straight from the bottle,’ he asked. ‘Yes, or if you have a straw, I’ll take that,’ I said.
Look, almost witty banter!! There’s hope! I am almost normal! I can talk to someone I like!
He got the drinks. I knew I had to say something. And this was what I said:
‘My friends have been teasing me because I’ve got a crush on you.’
I HAVE NEVER SAID ANYTHING LIKE THAT TO A GUY BEFORE.
There was a pause. He looked at me. I looked at him. I can only imagine what shade of puce I was. My heart felt like it was actually beating out of my chest.
Just that. ‘OH’
The ‘Oh’ hung in the air.
He looked at me blankly. Then he pushed the card machine towards me and saying: ‘That’ll be £25 please.’
My hands were shaking as I typed in my pin, I picked up the drinks and walked back to the table. I was in shock, I was embarrassed, I was angry but also, weirdly, I was euphoric.
F**K It, I had done something I would never have done before. I was SO proud of myself. I had bombed – but so what? Why the hell do we ( or rather I) make such a big deal of these things? My friend has this theory about getting through the NOs, to get to the YES – and that’s what I’d done. I’d got a NO. So what? It really numbers game and at least I’m in the game now.
I realised too that during Rejection Therapy, last April, I got so lucky with the Greek, and actually with every encounter. On the whole people did not reject me. I need to experience more rejection, to toughen up to it. It’s part of life and actually it doesn’t kill you. Whatever one person may or may not think about me, I have friends and family who love me. I am, basically, a good person.
We finished the drinks and I did not look at Mr Twinkly. I didn’t have the nerve. My friends told me that he kept looking over at me. They said that maybe he was just taken aback. Maybe he didn’t understand the word ‘crush’. Maybe. Maybe.
Whatever happens, the fact is I took a risk and it felt good… I left feeling embarrassed but proud – until I woke up the next day. Then I just felt embarrassed. I had to make a real choice not to go down the whole ‘You’re ugly, nobody likes you’ thought spiral. But I did make that choice, I didn’t go there. I got up, went out, saw friends and had a lovely day. I spent Valentine’s night on the sofa with Rebecca watching a crap film with Ashton Kutcher.
Now I need to go back…
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