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Girlfriends

On a hot summer evening, my friend Jon and I go out on the town. We hit up Level 5, a gorgeous rooftop bar that overlooks the Cape Fear River by Wilmington, North Carolina’s southern coast.

It’s a clear night and warm string lights criss-cross over the bar and onto the dance floor. It’s only 10pm but it’s already bumping, Usher and Lady Gaga over whiskey and fireflies (a true southern bar drink, made with sweet tea).

Sometimes it just takes a shot.

We take seats at the bar and order drinks while Jon begins to tutor me on the art of being a female wingman: our chairs must be at least 1.5 feet apart, we can’t talk with each other for too long or make too much eye contact, and [absolutely] no touching. This will effectively communicate to all parties that we are not together (in a strange twist of fate, later that night I was approached by two young men who were not afraid of flirting shamelessly with me right in front of Jon, as they had noticed Jon’s “safe code,” which they were later able to effectively identify, point by point. And men think we’re anal).

Yet contrary to popular belief, female wingmen can actually be quite successful at wrangling cowgirls. Since we are women ourselves, we can effectively show whatever beauty our friend has his eye on that our friend is 1) not creepy or a stalker, 2) cool with being friends with women and 3) at least moderately sensitive (building off of point #2). As long as you can get past the inevitable “no, I swear, we’re not dating” conversation starter, you’re good to go.

So that puts me and Jon at a bar in Wilmington, and while I’m playing his interesting and funny wingman I also take advantage of the opportunity to talk to local girls about things we have in common, like, for example, Jon, the weather, the Wilmington area, or how cool Level 5 is (among other deep, thought-provoking topics). Because tonight, I’m picking up women, too.

Look, I'm fun to be with!

I’m not bisexual, or a lesbian. But I am an hour away from civilization in an isolated beach town of 955 residents (ie, perfect dream escape, not-so-perfect living situation), and I’m lonely. Making new friends post-college is surprisingly difficult, and the bar scene has become an opportunity for me to meet cool women my age (not to mention the grocery store, the Family Dollar, the library, the veterinarian and pretty much any place where you might find people).

Tonight, I meet two cute girls at the bar and talk them up about what they do. Turns out they work at the theatre just next door and I marvel at their cool jobs. One is a brunette, her hair long and straight over her shoulders. The other’s locks are red and curly. Jon bought them drinks, I talked to them, we bonded and I left room for Jon to join in on the conversation, if he so chose. We were a team, and we we ready.

I didn’t make any everlasting friendships that night, but it was still fun. There was a time when I used the club scene for something totally different. It consisted of hours in front of the mirror getting ready for that special someone, should I chance to meet him (I did actually meet him too, at a bar called Nolan’s in DC, but that’s another story). The preparation is similar now, but the motivation much different. I get to be the cool girl at the bar who is there to have a good time.

But if you’re another cool girl looking like you’re having a good time too, watch out: I’ve got my eyes on you, and I might even try to be your friend.

Beth Santos
Founder and CEO of Wanderful, creator of the Women in Travel Summit, enthusiastic lover of ice cream, picnics and art.

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