In Defense of the Barfly
When women cease to be defined by our sexual behavior and our appeal to men and can fully participate in public discourse without our gender being dismissively scrutinized, and when our experiences are considered human instead of strictly female and outside of the norm, there will be no such thing as a barfly. Until then…
Women who frequent bars by themselves do it for a number of reasons. (Just like men! Imagine that!) Sometimes it’s to get shitfaced drunk and forget about everything that stresses her out. Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting to be alone in public, or to be with those wacky bar friends who don’t judge her as harshly as everyone else does and don’t pretend to know her well enough to explain all the ways in which she’s not living up to her potential.
She does it to not be home alone. To not be home with someone she doesn’t want to be at home with. To feel attractive for the first time since the last time. She does it because dusk always reminds her of her mother and she doesn’t want to think about her mother. Or because she has a physical craving that she has to satisfy despite not really wanting to, sorta like taking a 1-minute smoke break by the dumpster in the rain with no coat on only because your body is demanding that you do so.
Imagine: Broken-hearted dude goes to the local tavern where everyone knows his name, sits at the bar for many hours chatting up the bartender, drinking whisky shots with PBR backs. Says stupid shit, accidentally cries a little, drunkenly sings along too loudly to Tiny Dancer, goes to a lady’s house late night, has stupid semi-hard drunk sex, does the 2-mile walk of shame home in the morning, passes out. Repeat. Goes on 3-year-long bender of public drunkenness and sleepovers in strange places.
You know what that is? A song with gravelly vocals and elementary guitar chords. Americana. The human experience. Crazy Heart.
Imagine: the broken-hearted is a woman who does all of those things. You think: So sad! Why isn’t she at home making dinner for someone, or painstakingly scrutinizing her appearance? Where does she get the ludicrous notion that she has the right to be in a bar by herself? Doesn’t she have ladylike things to do somewhere? Does she not know what people think of her? Why doesn’t she care what everyone thinks? For fuck’s sake!
According to Urban Dictionary, and seemingly the general public, a barfly is a woman whose purpose is debauchery and destruction. She has no motivation for being in that bar other than to manipulate and eventually destroy the men that are stupid or drunk enough to pay attention to her. She does not exist in and of herself and has no self-awareness or integrity. She’s a slut, a drunk, a terrible mother, a washed-up spinster, a ruined woman. She deserves to be treated like shit, and in fact expects and seeks it out.
The hours she spends on the bar stool would be tragic if anyone actually cared about her well-being. But they don’t, because she’s just a barfly.
The truth is, a barfly is nothing more than someone who, like everyone else, tries to create her own brand of temporary happiness in the way she knows works. She just happens to do it in a bar – which, if she were a man, would be hardly notable. Cheers was full of ‘em.
That woman that sits at the bar by herself is not who we think she is. Let’s stop being deafened by the standard-issue patriarchal white noise that makes us think we know her and get over our rickety judgments about her worthiness and tragedy level before my freaking brain explodes.
And really, feeling so sorry for that woman who sits alone because you just can’t imagine how horrible her life must be, simply because she’s there, at the bar, drinking and maybe flirting? That’s not a whole lot better than judging her according to her fuckability score and next-day-embarassment index. We don’t know shit about her life and thinking that her mere presence in that place is enough to understand her… well, that’s plain fucked up.