Ask the Bartender: Accepting Free Drinks

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It's that time of week when we answer the questions you're too drunk or shy to ask...This question comes from Lori:

A girlfriend and I were arguing over whether it's OK to accept a free drink from someone at a bar. It's been a long time since I've been single, but I say not if you're not interested in him. She seems to think one or two drinks are harmless. Who's right, and what's the right thing to do?

Get a glass of wine, turn off the Sex and the City DVD and put on Nina Simone's "Laziest Girl in Town." That's better. Now, let's unpack this and address the typical scenarios. Assume we're A) talking about strangers, and B) you're not drunk already.

Scenario 1. A guy brings you a drink. Only a complete dumbass accepts. Remember, Ted Bundy was a really charming guy, and Rohypnol is odorless and tasteless. Seriously, for those older single ladies who, quite frankly, act like twice the idiots as their younger counterparts, roofies are real, and once you start to "feel kinda funny," you have mere minutes...

Scenario 2. The bartender brings you a drink on the behalf of some guy. First, the bartender is crap, full of crap, or he thinks you're, well... easy. A good bartender always asks a lady if she'll accept a free drink before pouring it because it's proper training and the right thing to do. Also, he won't want to waste a good drink. Reconsider your watering hole of choice if otherwise, or take a good look at yourself.

Scenario 3. A guy asks if he can buy you a drink. Are you interested in him? At all? Quick: Yes or no? If no, then no, you don't accept. Sorry ladies, but don't kid yourselves. A free drink comes with strings, even if that's just a quick, one-to-five-minute conversation because he's already right in front of you. If the guy's pushy, a free drink can come with at least a string and a can of worms, too. What's your time worth? I hope it's worth a hell of a lot more than a $10 cocktail, so you should buy your own. A class act does not accept a drink from a guy who does not interest her. That was college.

Scenario 4. You accept one free drink from a guy, now what? Those are your worms to put back in the can, Flirty McFlirterson. Call me old-fashioned, but I just think this is a "do the right thing" situation, and you should know the answer (again, assuming you're not otherwise impaired). I've witnessed, and facilitated, thousands of these encounters. I've seen as many guys get a girl to go home with them because she didn't know how to say "No, thank you" as I've seen guys utterly humiliated. You can bow out, sneak out, be blunt, or double down, but now you've got to do something. What kind of person are you? Just remember, you accepted the drink, ergo, you've given him some vague hope of a toe in the door. So don't be a bitch.

One drink not a big deal? One of the only times I've ever accepted a free drink, it was from someone who is now one of my best friends. On the flip side, one of the only other times I've ever accepted a drink from someone I didn't know, though he was a friend of a friend, it was laced. (I made it home OK, barely.) So all rules aside, anything can happen from one drink, and a bar is just a bar. You should behave in it as you would in life. My mama taught me never to take candy from strangers.

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