From the onset, I identified with Rosie Schaap. In the introduction to “Drinking with Men”, she quotes from a 1936 book by Vogue editor Marjorie Hillis, “We don’t advise [going alone into a bar]. If you must have your drink, you can have it in a lounge or restaurant, where you won’t look forlorn or conspicuous.” I have a few problems with this: 1.) How is sitting alone in a restaurant less pathetic than sitting alone in a bar? and 2.) I find it sad that almost 80 years later, this same rule applies. In general, it’s acceptable for men to stop by the bar on the way home from work, but if a woman is at the bar by herself people assume something’s wrong with her or she was stood up.
“Drinking with Men” is a memoir told through Schaap’s time at 11 different bars. Schaap describes herself as a “serial monogamist” when it comes to drinking establishments, basically living at one until one day it loses its charm and she moves on to another. We follow Schaap from trading tarot readings for underage beers on a commuter train to living as a foreign exchange student in Dublin to a new life she found in New York after 9/11. While discussing the disasters that were her academic career and marriage, she somehow manages to stay superficial. But by the end of the book, I felt like I knew her. Each vignette shows a different side of her personality. In the commuter train it was freedom, in her 20s she desperately wanted to be viewed as an adult, and at The Fish Bar in New York she found comfort in her adopted family at her time of need.
“You can drink anywhere…but a good bar? It’s more than a place to have a few pints or shots or cocktails. It is much more than the sum of its bottles and bar stools, its glassware and taps and neon beer signs, It’s more like a community center, for people – men and women – who happen to drink.” (pg. 7)
Someday I hope to find a place in Fargo where I can feel like I belong. A bar that’s not too big, too noisy, or too bright – someplace I can take my book and have a drink. Cheers!