Long story short: I went by myself to a happy hour hosted by a “Meetup St. Louis” group I heard about. Membership is free. You just show up to socialize and get to know people in your area. I thought this would be a better alternative than dating websites because I wouldn’t have to go out for the sole purpose of meeting a man and suffer through an awkward blind date. Instead, I would just be putting myself in different locations and scenarios so as to break up the predictability of my daily life. I went to a social hour a few weeks ago and had fun and met some new people. I’m glad I did that because I’ve seen those people around town a few times and it’s nice to stop and say “Hi,” and feel like you’re part of your town / community. So, I assumed this meetup would be a similar gathering of like-minded individuals.
I showed up at the restaurant Sqwires in St. Louis at 7 p.m. I was left to figure out where the hell the group was. When I found them, I approached the group organizer and introduced myself. I was a little worried because the majority of the people there were in their late 40s and early 50s. I smiled, shook hands, and decided that though this might not be the group for me, I would still have fun and have a night out where I can forget about work and my responsibilities for awhile. I said a few more brief words of introduction, all the while smiling and hoping to appear genuine and charming. Those was pretty much the last words I would utter for the remaining 30 mins I stayed there. Once the organizer introduced me to everyone (about 14 other people), I sat at a table next to her and her friends. I thought that it would be a good idea to be around the leader as she would make me feel comfortable and help facilitate conversation.
I stared at my menu and tried to interject basic questions like, “Have you ordered yet? What do you recommend?” and generic comments like, “Everything looks so good I can’t decide.” My efforts to get a slight amount of attention my way were ignored for an ongoing conversation about money, work stories, and children being enrolled in private schools. I silently decided to order the salmon, and sat back and sipped my water, waiting for an opportunity to latch on to a topic I could relate to or a moment to make eye contact with someone at the table. A bottle of pinot noir got passed around the table and passed in front of me without an invitation to imbibe even a little sip. I picked up my glass of water and smiled at the geeky, pot-bellied slob of a guy sitting across from me, but he immediately laughed at another woman’s raunchy comment taking me out of the running to be the “witty one”.
Hungry (and oddly thinking about KFC’s fried chicken and mashed potatoes), I began to regret that I didn’t just stick around town and eat at home on my TV tray watching a rerun of “30 Rock” or “Modern Family”. Or even that I didn’t go to my usual haunt of the St. Louis Bread Co. At least when I’m at home or the Bread Co, I can sit with my loneliness and cover it up by sticking my nose in a book or grading my papers. Here, I didn’t even have my cell phone to distract me because in my excitement to go out and meet new people I left it on my nightstand at home. As I was scheming how I could gracefully leave the restaurant without looking like a “Pitiful Polly,” the woman to my right asked me a question. “Oh good, I’m in,” I thought and smiled at her though by now my minor headache from earlier in the day had turned into a full blown migraine from the stress of being around these rude strangers. She asked the typical question, “What do you do?” and I answered with the typical, “I’m a high school English teacher.” This prompted the typical response from another group member, “You’re not going to correct our grammar, are you? I mean, would you get mad if I ended my sentence with an adjective or the words ‘to’ or ‘of’?” Out of spite I just said, “You mean ‘Would I correct you if you ended your sentence with a preposition?’ The answer is ‘No, I wouldn’t.’ ”
After the woman sitting next to me finished listing the people I work with who are her ex-husband’s relations, she jumped right back in with the other divorcees and started talking about a whole other topic of which I had no knowledge. (Notice I did not end that sentence with a preposition.) While I waited to find an inkling of a topic I could understand, I stared at my neighbor’s hot-pink French tipped nails and wondered why she thought they looked good with her burnt orange blouse and chunky gold and bright orange jewelry. Then, the blonde-haired woman (with equally gaudy chunked costume jewelry), the one who made the raunchy comment, pulled out a tube of anti-aging serum that cost $100 for 1 fluid ounce. She began to tout the qualities of this FDA approved serum that was originally created as a balm for women who were suffering from ovarian cancer. They all got excited at how it takes away dark spots and joked that the bald man could use some on his head. He rolled his eyes and laughed and I felt sorry for him because my dad, who is bald, always gets those comments too and they’re equally as annoying as the many “English teacher” comments I receive. They passed the tube around the table, again skipping me (hooray for good DNA and SPF 30 face lotion I guess) and began rubbing a tiny speck on their hands. The three women looked at their hands and waited for some miracle to happen. My migraine now felt like a jack hammer was splitting up my skull.
I couldn’t take it any longer and I excused myself from the table. I apologized profusely telling them I was sorry that I was such a “Party Pooper” and that I would love to get together another time, but my head hurt so much that I just knew I wouldn’t be pleasant company. They smiled at me and said, “Ok. Well, take care,” and they closed ranks and began talking about another topic that had something to do with private schools, money and traveling to someplace that has a beach. I walked out of the restaurant thankful that I had escaped a night of living hell. And though I was still hungry and never found a KFC, I settled for food from a St. Louis Bread Co. drive-thru. I was never happier to see my dog and cat while I sat in my living room eating my chicken sandwich and potato soup on a TV tray while watching an episode of “Modern Family.”