Is this seat taken?

I cannot count on my own two hands how many times I have been asked “Is this seat taken?” or “Is anyone sitting here?” while the other bar patrons look at the empty seats on either side of me.

Apparently, there is something perplexing about a young female sitting alone at a bar. How could I possibly have the courage to sit by myself and enjoy a meal without company? The notion is simply preposterous.

I won’t lie either; it wasn’t always this way for me. I used to be petrified of walking into a bar or restaurant alone. The mere thought of pulling out a barstool for a party of one made me wince—what would people say? What would the bartender think of me? Would I just stare at my phone the entire length of my drink or meal as if my vocal chords were a treasure that could only mutter 7 sentences per day?

Let me rewind and provide you with some context. My wonderful boyfriend works at a popular restaurant here on Cape Cod, at which I frequently visit him while he is tending the bar. Going to visit him got me more comfortable with sitting alone, which has lead to me feeling just fine being alone anywhere I may go. I realized that I was immature for thinking that sitting by myself would make me appear lonely or odd. Unfortunately, many people do not share my epiphany and still are astonished at what I might be doing reading a book at the bar by myself.

Not long after I settle into a leather stool does someone approach me to ask whether or not the single or two seats next to me are occupied. That is, if at first they do not already assume they are because how could a female in her young twenties ever own her independence. Once they have taken a seat next to me, it could play out in a few different ways.

If it is a group of women, they will usually try to hide their side glances toward me, then half whispering about whether or not I was actually sitting alone or was being stood up by a date. If it is a group of men, they will wonder the same thing, but will not even try to hide their wonderment—they’ll begin asking questions. Lastly, the scenario that happens most frequently, is if a single male sits down next to me,

The first emotion I can detect is confusion. They are confused that I would choose to sit by myself at the bar rather than be surrounded by a group of loud, gaggling girls. When I tell them I am by myself, that the seat next to me is not occupied by a male suitor, many will determine hat I am an easy target.

In the worst cases, after I tell bar patron number 27 that I have a boyfriend, they look at me up and down, mutter, “Oh,” and look puzzled, frustrated and annoyed. She has a boyfriend, but is sitting here by herself? What a strange girl, She obviously is much too confident in herself. I actually feel bad for her. What a pity.

They then proceed to try to hit on me one last time around, which does not get very far. Lines I have heard include the following:

“Are you a musician? You look like a musician.”

“What’re you doing here sitting by yourself? You’re too pretty to be sitting here by yourself.”

“I like your sweater, its crazy.”

“You look artsy. I like that.”

“You look like a young Madonna.”

“You look like Kate Winslet.”

“I only drink Patron. Let me buy you a shot.”

“Have you ever modeled?” (Tall girls can agree with me on this one).

There are many more, but I have pushed them out of my mind for the better.

I am not flattered that you have chosen me to hit on, male questioner. You are not doing me any favors by telling me that you’ll keep me company.

Let me tell you this, questioner: I am in no way in need of your comfort, your small talk or your pity. Of course, If you’re talking to me in order to engage in an intelligent conversation or to simply ask for a menu recommendation, I am happy to please you. However, more often than not, you simply feel like you have to talk to me because I am alone. I promise you, I am more comfortable being an independent bar patron than having to hear someone tell me for the seventh time that you can’t believe a girl like me—gasp—could be here by herself, and that I am so brave.

Brave? The last time I checked, I used the word brave for women who came forward about their experiences with sexual assault, people who risk their lives to protect others, and skydiving instructors (I’m terribly afraid of heights.) Please do not use the word brave to describe me sitting at the bar and snacking on chips by myself.

The next time you see a female sitting at the bar or a table by herself, do not commend her for her courage or her act of defiance. Simply leave her alone, and she will be more than thrilled with your acceptance of her independence.

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