How do I say "No thanks, I'm taken?"
February 6, 2013 6:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm a bartender in a major city, and after having lost a few pounds, the ladies won't leave me alone. How do I handle this?

I understand that this is not normally considered a problem, but I am engaged to be married to a wonderful woman, and I have no interested in sleeping with or making out with or even heavily flirting with these ladies.

I know flirting is part of my job. I have no problem with that in a low key way. Although my job requires me to be super out-going, I'm kind of a shy person at heart, especially when dealing with come-ons. Even when single, it kind of made me nervous.

It's gotten to the point where, at least once or twice a week I'm either flat out asked to come home with someone (which I decline by stating existence of fiancée), or I'm flirted with to such a degree that I become uncomfortable. I then try to ignore the person. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. Gah.

Drunk people are not masters of reading cues either so I'm totally at a loss. What should I do in these situations? I feel weird saying "I have a girlfriend" or "I'm engaged" unless its too much like trying to make out with me or asked for sexy sex. Should I just do that? Sometimes it feels presumptuous.

So yeah. Thoughts?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (37 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Most people will casually drop mention of their SO into the conversation. Also, are you opposed to wearing a ring? Have you asked other bartenders? Good luck, and just keep in mind, there are way worse problems to have:)
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:49 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Can you start wearing a wedding band (even just at work) now?
posted by telegraph at 6:50 AM on February 6, 2013 [29 favorites]

Perhaps you can start wearing your wedding band a bit early, as a subtle but conspicuous way of pre-emptively saying you're not available.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:50 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wear a fake wedding band. If someone asks, say "Well I'm not married yet but I needed something to fend off the hordes of women" and laugh.
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:50 AM on February 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

I don't think wearing a ring will matter much. For what it's worth, I was in a similar industry and the come-ons doubled once I started wearing a wedding ring. Many other co-workers noticed it, too, so it wasn't my imagination.

I would just chalk it up to just being part of the job. Decline them politely, and move on. Unless, of course, you secretly really enjoy it, then there is another problem there that you need to admit to, first.
posted by TinWhistle at 6:52 AM on February 6, 2013

Is there a reason "Sorry, I don't date/get involved with customers." wouldn't work?
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:58 AM on February 6, 2013

I know flirting is part of my job.

Shit. I don't know what kind of place you work in but flirting is NOT part of your job. If someone told me when I was working in restaurants that flirting was part of my job, I would have punched them in the face. Maybe ask some of your female coworkers how they deal with the constant come-ons. I think friendliness is part of your job as the face of your company but if a customer starts crossing the line, you can withdraw and even act frosty as necessary. For the price of a drink and a tip, you owe your customers very little.

As someone who was super thin, then got large, then thin again -- the attention when I lost the weight felt overwhelming. I had not realized how much 20 pounds had rendered me invisible. I think you'll get more comfortable with yourself in that regard over time. And do not be afraid of being direct -- "My girlfriend wouldn't approve of us dating/sleeping together/flirting/meeting up later."

When all else fails, cut them off. Sliding over a cup of coffee and saying, "how about a little break?" will shut things down.
posted by amanda at 7:07 AM on February 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

Seconding dropping your fiancee during a conversation.

"Nice pants!" "Thanks, my fiancee picked them out for me!"
"Love your hair!" "Oh yeah? My fiancee convinced me to change it."

And so on.
posted by Diskeater at 7:12 AM on February 6, 2013 [13 favorites]

Yeah, it's very not weird to casually drop your fiancee into the conversation where needed.
posted by mermily at 7:14 AM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I knew a bartender who was in a relationship, but not married. He wore a claddagh ring with the heart turned in. I don't know if that worked or not. It definitely was a conversation starter about his girlfriend.
posted by bananafish at 7:18 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Black out a front tooth and grin wiiiiiide.
posted by mochapickle at 7:27 AM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

If someone told me when I was working in restaurants that flirting was part of my job, I would have punched them in the face.

I think you would have done nothing of the sort. If you do throw punches at every perceived offense, I recommend anger management.

To the OP, I take you at your word that flirting comes with your job. You could wear a ring, although sometimes that serves as a lure rather than as a warning. If you are a shy person, I think you may be in the wrong line of work. However, there are two issues here. The first is whether or not you will stray with one of these women. You make no indication that you will, so that is no worry. The second and more likely issue is how these women are interacting with you. Good looking guys like us have to be aware of the effect we have on women, even when we are happily taken. You have to be able to give some sort of light give-and-take even once you leave this job. However, there is a point where it crosses the line. Only you know what your line is. If someone gets overbearing, just say that you have to get back to work and see how that goes. Or, express that you are not interested - you may even use a "neg". If someone gets truly rowdy, you can have security handle the matter.

Saying "I have a fiancee" doesn't do much for you. They don't care and in some cases, that just makes you more attractive.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:35 AM on February 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

How about "that's a beautiful [piece of jewelry/shirt/whatever], my fiancee has one just like it, I love it when she wears it.... here's your drink, enjoy!"
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:38 AM on February 6, 2013

When I tended bar 30 years ago, my husband stopped by often enough that the regulars knew (and, fortunately, liked) him, i.e., they were less inclined to hit on the wife of a guy they liked and they helped fend off those who annoyed me.
posted by she's not there at 7:43 AM on February 6, 2013

"I'm married."
posted by thatone at 7:45 AM on February 6, 2013

You said that you already mention your relationship when someone directly asks you out/asks you to go home with them. I think for flirting that's just a little over the line, the best thing to do is say "whoa there," take a step back with your hands up, and laugh good-naturedly. Possibly, "whoa there, I don't think my fiancee would like that."
posted by capricorn at 7:46 AM on February 6, 2013

I think being charming is the way to deal with this.

"Oh sweetie, if I weren't in love, you're exactly the kind of girl I'd go for."

"I'm flattered, but I've got someone waiting for me, and frankly I've only got eyes for her."

Find one that you're comfortable with, and practice saying it with a sincere smile. The response you'll get is "She's a lucky girl."

No harm, no foul, and everyone saves face.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:48 AM on February 6, 2013 [32 favorites]

Wear a ring to fend off the women who would care, and for the ones who don't and ask you anyway, just say "I'm married". That is short, simple, and leaves no wiggle room. If someone is still attacking you after that, they've got bigger issues.
posted by markblasco at 7:54 AM on February 6, 2013

You're working. Can you just smile, walk away, and look busy?
posted by chickenmagazine at 8:07 AM on February 6, 2013

"My fiancee is training for an upcoming cage fight and she wouldn't be too happy if you and I did that, so let's spare both of us the grief."
posted by Dansaman at 8:14 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

You have plenty of time to try variations on these suggestions out and find out what works best for you. Mentioning your (future) wife might work, depending on the person but it's definitely worth a shot before trying something else. I wouldn't go with "my wife wouldn't like that" or similar though as it leaves things a bit open for the optimistic drinking person hitting on you to fill in the blank they way they want to see things. "My wife wouldn't like that, so we have to be sneaky!" or "My wife wouldn't like that, so I'm not looking for a real relationship but a fling is cool." Whereas "Happily married" or dropping your status in a positive way sends a clearer message to what you would (or would not) like.
posted by mikepop at 8:26 AM on February 6, 2013

If someone told me when I was working in restaurants that flirting was part of my job, I would have punched them in the face.

My experience being a male bartender seemed opposite this. People expect to flirt with you, If you want tips you flirt back.

Is that right? Well no, but that's how it works.... pretty much everywhere. (everywhere I ever tended bar)

One thing to keep in mind is that You don't have to ever get out from behind the bar, which would be required for sexing or make outs. If ladies are getting up over the bar or learning in for unwanted kisses, flag the bouncer.

I always said there was a "no customers" policy when I had to. (I had a girlfriend) It turned people down and kept the flirting light and the tips coming.

If you are uncomfortable with the flirting now that you have something serious going on I would just not flirt at all. It will hurt your tips, but you'll likely feel better.
posted by French Fry at 8:27 AM on February 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

My experience being a male bartender seemed opposite this. People expect to flirt with you, If you want tips you flirt back.

Hm. There's status quo restaurant friendliness and there's flirting. When I was waitressing, I could be a straight up cold bitch the whole day and I'd still have guys trying to follow me out to the parking lot after my shift ended so we can agree that perhaps our perspectives are different.

I see normal day-to-day friendliness as appropriate in a restaurant or bar. Apparently, to some men that is flirting. But, whether you define flirting as part of your job, I guess that's up to you. I never saw flirting as part of my job.

And what I'm trying to do is allow to the poster that flirting is not, de facto, part of his job. He is released of his obligations to be a sexual fantasy for his customers. I don't doubt that for some people, that may garner tips. For myself and the women I am friends with, we prefer normal levels of friendliness and directness when called for. YMMV.

And tanizaki, you didn't know me when I was 23 and waitressing in shitty restaurants with shitty customers and shitty bosses for shitty pay. And "neg"? Seriously?
posted by amanda at 8:57 AM on February 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

Casually dropping your partners name and referring to them as your fiance/partner/wife in a conversation is kind of international code for I'm married. Even if you have to kind of force the mention in there, it is a polite way of signalling hey I am taken before things get too serious. You don't have to put it into every customer interaction, just any that you get the feeling are headed into too serious a flirting direction. I feel a bit of light banter is fine as it's part of the fun of going out and can help with tips but the second you feel it cross the line of what you (and your fiance) are comfortable with throw up the partner shield.
posted by wwax at 9:25 AM on February 6, 2013

There's status quo restaurant friendliness and there's flirting.

I suspect that, in the end, this is a meaningless quibble over the definition of a pretty elastic word.
posted by yoink at 10:50 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Flirting implies a sexual component where friendliness does not.
posted by TheRedArmy at 11:31 AM on February 6, 2013

If you are going to use the fiancee/wife/SO in the conversation, just choose whichever one feels easiest or whichever one you think would work best. There is no obligation to explain the exact status of your private relationship to bar patrons, especially non-regulars. If saying "wife" or "married" works better than "fiancee" (there's still a chance to break them up!!!) then just use it and don't worry about how "true" it really is. The internet gives you permission for a white lie in this case.
posted by CathyG at 1:07 PM on February 6, 2013

I just flash a coy smile and walk away, laughing all the way to the bank. (Seriously though, it's like being on stage, just don't engage in any banter that makes you uncomfortable .if I want to shut a customer down hard, I look expectantly at the door and say, "I'm so excited! My husband's coming to sit with me a while tonight!" Works, but yeah, the flirting helps tremendously with the cash flow so I don't pull that card unless I need too.)
posted by stormygrey at 1:22 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tell them you're gay.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:26 PM on February 6, 2013

I think there is a lot of confusion here. Whether or not flirting is standard practice in the food/beverage industry depends on your position and the type of establishment you work for. For bartenders, except in a few usually very upscale or downscale establishments, flirting is normal. I have a lot of friends who work in this industry and it can be a challenge if you are not single, but all of them make sure to talk about their significant other regularly and often their significant other is a regular fixture of the bar/restaurant anyway.

Sadly I do not work in an industry where I people flirt and I still have managed to become a pro at the flirting deflection techniques because my industry is so male-dominated that people act weird. I realized I could avoid it when I had a boyfriend I talked about a lot and people stopped bothering me. Now I do it even when I don't have a boyfriend. If people start small-talking me, which is usually when it startsI make sure to mention my significant other somehow.
posted by melissam at 1:31 PM on February 6, 2013

I liked to pretend that everyone is joking and laugh it off. I also liked to say I was married/gay/engaged/only sexually attracted to pie.. occasionally told people I was really into some really weird specific kink? (maybe, but only if you're willing to dress like an elm tree!)

you know, whatever worked and was light and cute and didn't make anyone feel too rejected but also made it clear I wasn't interested.

I did kind of consider flirting to be part of my job, but not sexual harassment, so when it crossed the line I was pretty quick to shut it down very seriously.

I think part of working in service and being reasonably cute is dealing with being flirted with and learning to give and take well without reading too much into it and getting too flustered. maintaining a bulletproof shield of sarcasm and sense of humour is my advice.

in my experience most people trying to take home staff at a bar aren't too invested in it, just joke and then if you need to get serious, just say you're taken. and say it in a serious way, no smile and stuff. the contrast from someone happily shooting the shit and smiling to the second when their face gets all cold and they're like "I'm not interested." is serious business.
posted by euphoria066 at 3:20 PM on February 6, 2013

The distinction between flirting and acting friendly disappears, in practice, when you are cute and working in a service position. If you're not spitting in someone's eye, there's a good chance they are going to think you're flirting. You've already decided what to do if they flat-out ask you home. Otherwise, yeah, bring up your partner. Just don't do it in a way that sounds like you are heading off a proposition, which you don't know for sure, anyway. You can say it in response to something they said ("Florida? My wife and I are going there.").
posted by BibiRose at 4:12 PM on February 6, 2013

There's a line from the Simpsons where Homer says "Flattered, but spoken for". I always thought that was relatively polite, concise and smooth.
posted by Cygnet at 5:18 PM on February 6, 2013

Where a badge that says, "Taken, not stirred."
posted by Ignorance at 5:56 PM on February 6, 2013

"Ha, that's a nice offer, but my fiancée wouldn't like it".
posted by Kololo at 7:26 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a shy single woman living in a big city, where the vast majority of dudes I'd be interested are already spoken for, my vote is for just wearing the ring. There's nothing I hate more than that awkward moment when he casually slips the girlfriend/ fiancee into conversation and I feel like an embarrassed idiot. Because no one ever mentions her right off the bat, because that'd be presumptuous and weird, right? It's always like . . . ten or fifteen minutes, or two hours, or a fucking week in. And then I've wasted all that time and feel foolish.

If a guy's wearing a ring, I can just avoid all that, and will. The girls who see you wearing a ring and hit on you anyway, I'm guessing, are less sensitive to rejection than the girls who'd avoid you for it are. So if you're on the fence, consider doing it for the benefit of the women who'd be most likely to care about getting rejected by you.

Besides, your fiancee will probably think it's sweet that you want to wear your ring early just to fend off the ladies who aren't her.
posted by Argyle_Sock_Puppet at 7:33 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've been bartending a pretty long time and I get hit on often. I think the thing you are failing to see here is that you have the control, they don't. If someone is really crossing a line after you've already given clear cues, then walk away. You don't have to be rude, but you don't have to stand there and take it. And then only interact with them when they need another drink or they need to cash out. I know there's always that fear that someone will get pissed off and not tip you, but you know what, your sanity is worth way more than a few dollars. And if management is going to get mad at you for walking away from an unacceptable situation, then find a new job.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:44 PM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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