DC is a relatively small city, in terms of area and social groups. I dated someone who worked in the restaurant/bar/beer industry for several years, which means I run into his friends fairly often. Although that was a little awkward immediately after our break-up, it is not necessarily a bad thing, since our break up was relatively amicable and we remain on good terms today. I met B, through my ex, probably three and a half years ago. At the time, he was working at Jose Andres’ Jaleo and lived off of 14th street so we often ran into him while out (or once when we were desperately searching for a burger while hungover during the day). After my ex and I ended things, I continued to run into B especially since he has a lot of mutual friends with my roommate (real roommate, not fake roommate). Last fall, he moved over to being the bar manager at Bar Pilar and Saint Ex. Bar Pilar is my go-to bar so in the past few months, I have seen a lot of B. He has just been the tall, incredibly nice bartender on Saturday nights who would make me laugh while I waited for friends to meet up with me, or would immediately take my drink order despite the bar packed seven people deep. I always found him relatively attractive (tall, blonde, well-groomed facial hair) but he’s also just the guy I met through my ex-boyfriend, who has seem me chug half a glass of wine to calm my nerves before a date, and who I complain to after not feeling chemistry with some Tinder dude.
A few weeks ago, I ended up at Pilar on Valentine’s Day, after bar hopping with N. Side note: it was actually the best Valentine’s Day ever, starting with dinner at Hooters (guys, the wings actually are really good there!), followed with a sherry tasting at Mockingbird Hill, and some cocktails at All Souls. I don’t know if it was the alcohol, the blah dates I’ve been on recently, the never-ending cold that just makes me want to snuggle in bed for days on end, or something else that clicked in my brain that night, but for some reason while sitting at the bar with N, I looked over at B and thought to myself, “well he is cute.” And once that door opened in my mind, I kept staring at him while sipping on my Dolin Blanc with soda water (favorite drink these days).
Now, I had absolutely no idea what B thought of me. For all I knew, I could have been friend-zoned years ago. While he’s always been extremely sweet and friendly to me, he has never outwardly flirted with me or really given me any sign that he’s attracted to me. So I was not sure how to handle this baby-sized crush that had developed. Shortly afterwards, N and I decided to head home, so we bid B good-bye after he charged us his usual fee of $5 for all of our drinks.
The following Tuesday was a federal snow day, which meant I was off, as well as the majority of my friends. After a trek through the snow to the gym, I made plans to meet up at Bar Pilar with a group of friends. Even though B does not work at Pilar on Tuesdays (clearly I spent too much time at this bar since I know the bartenders’ schedules), I ran into him as he had been called in to work next door at the neighboring bar. We chatted briefly and before our conversation ended, I noticed that he had reached out to grab the back of my arm as we talked. Well, hmmmmmm…. this is interesting. I tried not to read too much into it (and obviously failed at not overanalyzing it since I then babbled to the closest person to me, “WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS….”) and continued on with my snow day while drinking my frozen chocolate drink (highly recommend this by the way. Just ignore the resulting stomachache, it is totally worth it). That night, B sent me a text at midnight complaining about the crowd at his bar and, while trying not to sound too conceited, I started thinking maybe this baby crush was not completely one sided. I mean, I don’t go around texting my male acquaintances in the middle of the night, trying to make small talk unless I want that small talk to lead somewhere.
This definitely got to my head, because I found myself at Bar Pilar again the following weekend during a sleet/rain/snow storm. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived at Pilar with SM and N, we had been drinking for three hours. During that time, N and I consumed several bottles of 11.5% barley wine beer (mistake #1), I bought a round of pickle backs once I found out SM had never had one (mistake #2), and the bartender at American Ice convinced us to do parting shots of whiskey with him before we got into our uber (mistake #3). This made my state-of-mind just slightly fragile. And by fragile, I mean I was feeling that ridiculously unwarranted confidence that comes with inebriation. SM and N headed straight to the bathroom when we got to Pilar, so B and I started chatting while I waited for them to return. I do not even remember how or what brought this on, but after B asked me a question (I do not even know what the question was), I responded, “I am just waiting for you to ask me out.” Geez I certainly hope that was somewhat related to the question that he asked. For all I know, he could have asked me “It’s pouring out, did you bring an umbrella?” and I just yelled back “I am just waiting for you to ask me out.” He paused, stared at me, and just replied, “…………… oh. I didn’t know that was an option.” What. the. hell? What is wrong with me? I should have probably felt horrifically embarrassed at that point but instead I ordered another round of shots for us (I DON’T DO SHOTS, WHO DID I THINK I WAS THAT NIGHT?), then rounded up the two other girls and went to the basement dance floor of Saint Ex. The next morning, I woke up to several regretful texts from SM and N as we all felt the deep pain of drinking like 19 year olds despite being closer to 30 years old. It was the kind of horrific hangover where you absolutely have to order Salvadorean food from the wonderful hole-in-the-wall restaurant next door, and you need dark sunglasses on the your face as you force yourself to walk the 20 yards to pick up your pork pupusas and chicken tamales. I may or may not have crawled back into bed until 3:30pm (spoiler alert: I definitely did this). The memory of that hangover is enough to keep me from doing any shots for at least the next three seasons.
Obviously, the fact that such an intense hangover would result from that kind of drinking combined with my (lack of a) tolerance is not shocking. What is shocking to me, however, is the text I got that afternoon from B:
Normally the things that occur after whiskey shots do not end the way you want, but this was the one time the opposite happened. And of course, after demanding that he ask me out, I was not about to say no. We made plans to get together the following Tuesday. Now, in typical me-fashion, the night before our scheduled get-together, I started to have my pre-date freak out moment. I was, as usual, parked on SM and N’s couch (should I start paying part of their rent now…?) when I started worrying about what would happen if the date did not go well. Would I have to start avoiding Bar Pilar? As you’ve noticed, that is my go-to bar. I mean, it is perfect. It is a fifteen minute walk from my apartment which is not too close but not too far (all of a sudden I have turned into Goldilocks), has the best happy hour, good food, and an unpretentious laid-back atmosphere. I had just gotten over not being able to go to Room 11 (where my ex-bf started working right after we broke up), and currently do not want to go to the Partisan (thanks to the bearded bartender who I crushed on hardcore during NYE, made out with during our date and then who told me he couldn’t fit dating into his schedule and never contacted me after that). At this rate, will I just have to eventually avoid all decent bars in the city, resigning myself to Sign of the Whale happy hours with douchey 21 year olds?! Luckily, SM and N are used to my ridiculous pre-date tangents and shut me down by telling me to stop panicking about the consequences of a horrible date before even giving the guy a chance to make it a good date. As I write this out, I realize what an annoying friend I am. Don’t move across the street from me. You’ll just end up with an overdramatic honorary roommate.
I got a little worried when I didn’t hear from him at all the day of the date. We had agreed on an “8ish” meet up, and he said he would pick a place for drinks. During our previous conversations, B mentioned that he prefers to go to places where he does not need to worry about running in people so I figured it was best to leave the location choice up to him. Finally at 6:45pm (#men, amirite), he texted me to suggested Fainting Goat (maybe he assumed that I just naturally look good without taking 30 minutes to apply make up – sweet thought buddy but definitely not true). Fainting Goat is on my list of new-ish restaurants on U street to try, so I definitely approved of the suggestion. We grabbed two seats by the bar and ordered a round of beers. I’m never sure if a guy wants to do drinks and food, or just drinks for a first date. Some guys are strongly against dinner for a first date, while others like sharing food (dating rules are so varied) so I never know if I should be prepared to chow down, or if I should be eating beforehand to avoid a quick buzz on an empty stomach. B suggested picking some plates to snack on, and I happily agreed. We decided to go with the goat cheese fondue, grilled octopus, and steak tartare (as I have said before, I will always pick this if it is on the menu). I appreciate a guy who doesn’t have any pick food aversions, and B was totally down to try anything.
The goat cheese, served in an adorable mini cast iron skillet, was basically fancy spicy queso, which I wholeheartedly approved of. It was the perfect dish for sharing on a cold night, thanks to the heat from the minced poblano and piquillo peppers. Both the grilled octopus, which was served with black beans and smoked ham , and the steak tartare were delicious. Besides the good food, the date was also off to a good start. The last few dates I have gone on have been with Tinder guys, which means I know nothing about them. The first date consists of general questions confirming that they are not a sociopath and we have at least one thing in common. Since B and I have at least had conversations in the past, our conversation actually revolved around our pre-established interests (traveling, food, drinks, running). It was a pleasant change, and because B is just a genuinely nice guy, it was easy to keep talking without any effort. After our dinner, we headed to DC9 for another beer (I had warned him that I would turn into a pumpkin by midnight). The time passed surprisingly quickly, and before I knew it my phone alarm was ringing to remind me that it was time for me to get under my covers as quickly as possible. B was super sweet and told me that he would be walking me home, even though his apartment was in the completely direction (DC9 falls in between our two spots). He refused to take no for an answer, so we made the chilly walk home together. Since I was leaving for California at the end of the week, I did not want to assume that the interest would last and tried not to get my hopes off as he dropped me, but the following day he texted me to let me know he would be following up about eating/drink plans once I got back. So SM and N can expect to find me back on their couch soon, babbling away about what might go wrong on this second date.