The meanderings of a recovering ex-expat with the occasional identity crisis
Just having returned from China, walking into a US liquor store was as close to a religious experience as I was ever going to get: I almost dropped to my proverbial popping knees and wept. It was so beautiful seeing all the shiny bottles of alcohol lined up neatly according to product category. The recovering alcoholic store clerks were my angels, the store was my heaven and the endless bottles of booze my holy water. ELO’s “Blinded by the Light” was playing in the background, and all was right with the world.
If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know that I love alcohol more than a Playboy playmate loves what a boob job has done for her career.
But I know what you’re all thinking. You’re all thinking that, because I never post my picture on here, seemingly have no life outside of work and blogging, and constantly blather on and on about how old, fat and ugly I am – that I use alcohol as a crutch; and that I probably spend my weekends at home and practice buttoning and unbuttoning my ugly tweed, double-breasted jacket – the one that makes me look like an oversized tea cozy. Well, you are all wrong…
…well…actually, you are somewhat right about buttoning my jacket – but a bitter, embattled, and sarcastic alcoholic I am not. My posts were all written when I was delightfully sober, but spot-on sarcastic. I never need alcohol to turn on the *charm*.
Unfortunately, alcohol also has the side effect of my making other people feel small and bad about themselves. But this is really a small price to pay, especially when I don’t remember or care much about those people the next day.
There are several pivotal moments in my life with regards to drinking. The first was when I was able, as a single woman, to sit at most bars by myself and not feel like a flashing neon sign for fast and easy sex. The second is when I took on mixing drinks as a hobby, set up home bars, and obtained my Bartender License – a feat which is not as impressive as you’d think – as the test falls somewhere between bending over and picking up your dropped pen and then scratching your butt with that very same pen.
But I have to admit – going to a bar in China as a single woman is daunting, because China doesn’t have the same drinking culture that the West does. Drinking alcohol in China is much more male-centric.
Sometime in early 2000 I went alone to my first bar in China, an expat bar – “Friends” – where everyone supposedly knows your name, but can’t pronounce it properly, because English is a second language.
When I go to any bar anywhere, I want to relax, people watch and hopefully have a few good drinks. I don’t go to bars to meet people, or even to dump on them.
So, I purposely dress down on these occasions, because there’s nothing worse than some overly made-up harlot of a woman sitting at a bar by her lonely self, reeking of Eau de Desperation.
On this particular evening, I was wearing some nondescript dark jeans, a shapeless top I wear to clean the toilet, my Ed Hardy knock off sneakers, which was almost two sizes too big on my left foot, so if I wasn’t careful, they might slip off while I was *seductively* dangling my foot over the bar stool. I was also wearing mismatched socks, as the sock on my left foot had to be thicker, so that the shoe wouldn’t fall off so easily.
I also didn’t wash my hair, which was starting to resemble a small satellite dish and hadn’t checked my makeup since going to work in the morning 12 hours earlier. I mean, really – a guy would have to be pretty desperate and/or drunk to be hitting on this jelly.
Normally, I like to arrive early, get a good spot at the bar, where the bartender is forced to look at, humor and converse with me, so that he can be constantly reminded of what a shithole he’s working at and how much he’s being underpaid.
After obtaining my bartending license I’ve become somewhat of an alcohol snob. Whenever I go to a new bar, I will ask for something safe, like a Gin or Vodka Tonic – something that can’t possibly be screwed up. From the way the bartender makes the Gin or Vodka Tonic I can then decide whether to get something a little more ambitious.
My bartender was way more interested in practicing his juggling and twirling skills with the booze bottles than he was to make any drinks, so I didn’t go any further than the Vodka Tonic.
Instead, in order to ingratiate myself to the bartender in the hopes that he’ll give me a bit more booze in my drinks, or give me top shelf booze, I was trying to be all excited and encouraging about his juggling skills, which was quite a chore, because he really sucked ass.
It was about this time that I noticed this Chinese guy jabbering very loudly in heavily-accented English to a pair of Caucasian women sitting across the bar from me. The women had this oh-my-God-what-are-we-going-to-do-about-this-guy frozen smile on their faces.
In making eye contact with the guy, I broke my cardinal rule of Never Make Eye Contact with a Guy in a Bar, Unless Your Eyes are Crossed – although I have found that, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter whether my eyes are crossed or not, especially if the guy’s eyes are crossed too.
Here’s a question for you, ladies: when an oily, mousy Chinese guy comes up to you in a bar and asks, Hey, ‘wok the fuk’ you doing here by yourself, pretty lady? in broken English how would you react, knowing that you’re not feeling, looking, nor smelling particularly pretty that day?
Myself, I usually look around and behind me, desperately hoping that this question is directed to somebody other than me. I’ve also toyed with the idea of feigning situational deafness or boredom-induced seizures, but a lot of guys who hit on downright ugly, homely women at a bar wouldn’t care about such details. In fact, this would probably be a turn on. The woman can’t run away as easily, if she’s on the ground writhing. And the bonus – she’s already in a prone position.
“I notice you have not come here before, so I say to myself, Wok the fuk, I go and talk to her, she looked like a nice ladies. My name is Hung, but you can call me ‘Hung Lo‘ – har, har, harrrrRRR!”
“Oh, what you dlinking there? Is ice water? Wok the fuk is that shit? You should dlink the real stuff! Girls can’t handle their alcohol, lah!” With that, Hung-not-so-Lo tipped his Sapporo Light beer in my direction, as if deigning to toast me, then took a mighty swig and even emitted an, Ah! and a small belch afterwards.
Now, this was really getting on nerves. In 3 minutes, Hung had managed to bring forth two of my biggest peeves: 1) Chinese people who insist on speaking crappy, broken English to another Chinese person while in China, when both can easily communicate much better in their native tongue. This was just blatantly showing off; and, 2) Dissing my alcohol tolerance, or alluding to the fact that women can’t drink alcohol. That’s just chauvinism.
“Well, this is a Vodka Tonic, it’s not ice water.” I said very quickly in fluent English, showing off to the show off. “And you’re drinking a beer. So, technically my drink has a higher alcohol content than yours. Wanna try some?” I magnanimously tipped my glass , took a big gulp of my Vodka Tonic and smiled.
As I watched Hung-not-so-Lo quickly wok the fuk away from me and back to the safe refuge of his man group, I realized that Mother was right – I’ll be single for the rest of my life. I just enjoy emasculating idiotic men too much to want to date them.