It’s because I’ve gotten so good at pretending, at playing to the gallery in a way that makes them feel like I’m not playing at all, is why I’m scared of getting drunk.
Because, it all starts with one double tonic. With three cubes of ice and two lime wedges. This is a complete set-up. The opening is usually a funny story as to why I’m late.
Not too funny, I don’t want to come across as obnoxious, not immediately anyway but flawed enough for them to sympathise.
Cocky enough for them to not warm up to me instantly and take me for granted for the rest of the excruciating evening, but with a healthy dose of self-deprecation so that they too believe, that I am, indeed just like them.
Follow that up with a comment about the music. Irrespective of whether the music suits the ambience or not, make an observant but tongue-in-cheek comment, derived from fact but peppered with perspective, opine over the dull drone of conversation milling around you and if there’s a member of the opposite sex on the table, do intercut your previous discourse with a remark about running into an attractive older man on your way to the table. Whether you actually did run into anybody attractive is completely irrelevant. Watch his eyebrows rise till they disappear into his questionable hairline and his eyes gleam with fake civility, this is when you know you’ve made him sufficiently uncomfortable. Follow that up with comparing said man to a known politician. Now, you’ve established that the length and breadth of your knowledge doesn’t just cover pop-culture but is also deeply influenced by the political status quo of the nation.
Stir ice thoughtfully and zone out of responses to show an accentuated state of thought. Wearing white while at it also helps.
So, you can’t dress rich because you’re still hoping to create that magnum opus working at your unpaid internship but you’re still at a bar which only serves IMFL and plays incomprehensible jazz in the background because that’s taste. Jog through jazz records catalogued in your brain for opportune moments like these and you’re coolly searching for a name to slip in between maddeningly dull conversation about ‘kayaking for the first time in Rishikesh’, but you can’t be too sure of name-dropping just yet since you’re still on your first drink, so you quickly switch to discussing your last twenty-four hours.
Now, the bottom line here is nobody gives a dusty f about what you’ve done with your life at all, much less what you’ve accomplished in the past twenty-four hours but if narrated right, it could be the evening headliner, especially if all of you, like me, have grandiose plans of going back home to cold leftovers and drunken texts. Balance the funny out with pathetic, the smart out with ditzy; after all nobody likes a hero. People need to be able to relate to you if they are to like you and if you’re going to be spending your Sunday evening drowning copious amounts of alcohol with proverbial strangers then you might as well start getting used to the exercise of how to get people to like you enough.
Not too much, though. Copious amounts of alcohol also runs the risk of establishing delusions of grandeur wherein it makes all the cosmic sense in the world to want to kiss the guy whose Facebook profile you’d be cringing at the next morning. So at no point do you want to be liked too much by anybody at the table.
Mid-way, pause with the most obvious expression of surprise and mention that you would get to asking about the stranger’s day and what they do with complete sincerity but you just absolutely need to get this story of the way since you’re such a cracking storyteller.
Enunciate, use your hands to demonstrate but make sure not to get too effusive. Some more observant people easily catch on to that. It helps if you’re empathetic, but that can be forgone in most cases if you’re on the upper end of attractive.
This is around the time you’ll have to suggest moving to a cheaper bar because for you, let’s face it, it’s a necessity. But, you make it sound like as an artist it’s your veritable right not to partake in such bourgeois activities. Plus, you’re feeling smoother after that double vodka either way.
Once settled in at a dingier set-up, which visibly makes your company uncomfortable, proceed to order an old fashioned or any other pretentious drink on the menu – confusion is key.
Admittedly, David Guetta in the background is grating your already-raw nerves but switch fervently to the latest headline in discussion. Raise your voice as you try to make your point, not because the discussion warrants it, but because the music does. After a series of arguments that you win simply by circumventing and making a self-deprecating joke every time you foresee yourself not winning, your behaviour has inevitably attracted the attention of bystanders.
A larger audience, even better to ruffle some feathers before slinking into anonymity and enjoying the show. You’re in for a ride if the bystanders happen to be lawyers and journalists.
Inquire politely about what newspaper they write for, and then proceed to make an educated remark about what an advertising rag that newspaper is and how the only reason the lawyers at the firm he’s mentioned are still employed because they have no souls, effectively adding to your repertoire of politically incorrect statements of the evening. The beers would give way to whiskey doubles and as you see everybody around you getting significantly tipsier, louder and more uninhibited, switch to beers. You want to be in your senses for what conspires next.
Remember that there’s a fine between intelligent banter and heckling. A line that you’ve toed well the entire evening. The fortunate truth is that it’s easier to get away with being abrasive if you’re a woman.
The unfortunate truth is that the guy in the group I was with wasn’t aware of this and decided to get in on the action. Needless to say, that didn’t go down too well. Now’s the time to kick up the charm a notch because you can see knuckles turning white gripping beer bottles that’ve gotten warm and the slight grinding of teeth at this sudden turn of events.
This is when you shouldn’t shy away from complimenting the Punjabi rendition of ‘Lean On’ because let’s face it, who doesn’t like Punjabi renditions of truly terrible English dance tracks on the only evening they have an off from an endless cycle of work?
Congratulations. You’ve successfully deflected the situation. But, somewhere you’ve planted the seed of doubt. The thing with bringing up politics or religion, or both, during a drunken, impassioned discussion is that you’ve laid the groundwork for everybody to have an opinion.
The night has gotten darker, the bottles emptier and the opinions more raucous. Your steady sipping is finally coming home and you suddenly disconnect, as you survey the array of men who’ve surrounded you. Times when you’re actually attracted to someone, pretending goes a long way in securing what you want but you have a slight migraine sitting on your eyes like stones and a calendar reminder of a 9 am meeting.
The kitchen has closed for the night, the nearest 24×7 is out of your way and someone has just begun drunkenly quoting Harivansh Rai Bachan and you know it’s time to call it a night.
Maybe next Sunday, you’ll actually do something you want to do with people you want to do it with.
Have you ever found yourself pretending through an evening? Tell us in the comments.