For the first Saturday night in a long time, I’ve broken routine. I’m not staring in a mirror, pretending like I’m the sort of girl that knows how to blend eye shadow and match her accessories. I’m not scrambling to find a clean top, my voice isn’t suffocated by a thumping live band and I’m not racking up a bar tab.
Instead, it’s 11 p.m. and I’m in my pajamas, watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia reruns with, coincidentally, a friend I met at a bar a few months ago. We’re exchanging words and laughs in a quiet living room, sans any desire to impress.
It feels nice.
Lately, I’ve felt stuck in this peculiar post-college limbo, one in which the novelty of thrusting myself into this post-21 world of fledglings has granted me steady access to a potion that makes social interactions almost effortless — the never-failing social lubricant that is alcohol.
In college, establishing friendships takes little exertion: Chat up a dorm neighbor, tell a project partner in class you like her boots. Almost any socialization unassumingly manifests in the exchanging of phone numbers, coffee dates and party invites.
It’s even simpler as a child, when the bonds of best-friendship are melded as quickly as one can say, “Hey, want one of my Fruit Gushers?”
Things don’t feel so simple anymore. I’ve found myself caught in this maelstrom swirling me into adulthood, as I toil to achieve financial independence while establishing a happy troupe of relationships and a career. And suddenly, I’m finding myself at happy hours and beer tastings and late nights out, chatted up by strangers in a way I never have been before.
Social interaction with strangers has long sent my brain and body into a fracas as they bicker over how my words and movements should merge; a friend once compared my nervous tics to the movements of a poorly maneuvered marionette puppet.
It’s an idiosyncrasy people who get to know me gently tease me about — something they grow to accept, even appreciate about me. I’ve long tried to embrace this flaw of mine, but, in adulthood, have stumbled upon what feels like a magical cure for a case of the twitches and stutters: the bar atmosphere, where everyone is searching for the same thing— simple human interaction. Here is where I’ve felt safe.
I’ve accepted that until recently, when I tried to recall the last person with whom I kindled a friendship that didn’t begin at a bar, the place I’ve found solace in banishing away my signature social jitters.
Two beers trigger my morph into a more social Hannah, who is smiley and ripe with conversation; that’s just enough to banish my fidgets and, for once, let my brain and body be one. This, I’ve come to realize, is the only way I make friends anymore. It’s the only way I know how.
And when my friends and I flood bars on the weekends, I know my situation isn’t uncommon. Saturday after Saturday, I see familiar faces. This is where we, as young millennials, have grown up learning to socialize and relax.
But I’m not at ease with this newfound fear that maybe I can’t make a friend without alcohol — or, even worse, that I can’t sustain a friendship without it. Outside of a bar, Hannah is not often loud or boisterous with acquaintances. She’s friendly, but reserved. This friendship won’t implode, but it will quietly, peacefully burn out, as soon as you deduce I morph into someone else when I’m not at a bar.
It’s dangerously easy for me, as a human, to spend my Saturday nights with my best friend of 11 years, who is acutely aware and accepting of my every flaw. But I can only spend so many evenings alone with her eating hummus rolling around in laughter before I start to feel like maybe I’m on the imminent route to old, single cat lady-dom, full of days where I decide hole up in my apartment every weekend instead of wandering into society.
I want to be the Hannah that people like to get to know once I’ve let go of my puppet’s strings at a bar all the time — the kind they’d like to open up to over some of Charlie Kelly’s finest moments of illiteracy in a comfy pair of pants.