Nothing Wrong With Livin Life Your Own Way by Allegra Vera Warsager “The people who say you are not facing reality actually mean that you are not facing their idea of reality.” — Margaret Atwood early in the morning. I could even pick up and head out of town for the week with no consequences. Bartenders were not to be tied down by modern expectations of what an adult should act like, in terms of responsibilities.
As a teenager growing up in Manhattan in the late nineties and the early years of the 21st century, I was obsessed with the idea of rebellion. I was fascinated by the street culture that I witnessed on a daily basis, and was easily captured under the influence of peers, both in my neighborhood and at school. Despite coming from a loving, close-knit family, I was drawn to those who I thought were “rebelling” against their parents, teachers and authority in general by smoking cigarettes, cutting class, and experimenting with drugs and alcohol at parties. An older girl friend took me under her wing, so to speak, and we would cause harmless havoc all over the city and throw parties at her apartment while her family was out of town. This was the beginning of what “rebellion” meant for me – doing things behind my parent’s backs.
I worked the “other” 9 to 5. When I was on the subway on my way to work, I was aware of how I existed against the timetable of much of the population. In a 24/7 city like New York, it was perhaps not felt as acutely, but was still glaringly obvious. I looked at the people who worked full time, salaried jobs and mused on how they were just finishing their day and processing it as I was beginning mine. I made money off of their stress. This was a power, which made it exciting. When I bartended for a living, it was doing everything that my parents had always frowned upon: staying up all night, living single lives (if I was not single, I often had to pretend to be). Even the act of serving booze as a life occupation could be taboo, and that was why there were such extreme opposing views on it. Either people wanted to befriend me because they thought I was the coolest person to know, or they looked down on me as someone who lacked ambition or goals. The act of bartender challenged society’s preconceived notions of how a person should be professionally, romantically, and socially. I lived in public.
There was something about the energy of going out and partying in New York City that led me to chase nocturnal social scenes. I was always searching to continue the good times that I had as an adolescent. And I found good times - I found the party - over and over again, once I entered the service industry. I started working in a restaurant as a hostess during graduate school, and fell into bartending after I finished. I was always nocturnal (from college and grad school days), and drawn to the lure of the night and what it held, the endless possibilities for a young woman in New York City.
However, it has become more and more obvious that few people of my generation (Gen Y, as we’ve been nicknamed) who are living in New York City want to commit to anything, be it a job, an apartment, a bar to spend one’s entire evening at, a significant other, much less a career. The irony of a pet adoption agency using an ad that is a poster of a puppy with text that says “He’s actually looking for a commitment” definitely is evidence that it is no longer just bartenders who are rebelling against the life we were taught to choose and aspire to.
When I landed my first bartending job, I was thrilled (because I would now make tips), but it was an immediate disappointment to my parents. No parent wants his or her child to become a bartender. And I certainly did not dream of becoming one when I was an adolescent. It was not until I started to bartend and also began to date an older bartender that I became seduced by working in nightlife and also developed a taste for alcohol. Throughout my late twenties, I saw peers begin to advance in their careers, get engaged, have children – while I continued to work nights and go out and drink till the bars closed on nights that I didn’t work. I relished the fact I did not have to wake up
Allegra Vera Warsager works as a bartender, an organizer of the Brooklyn Book Festival and contributor to Guernica Magazine.