Navigating my way through a sea of girls in too-high heels and boys drowned in Axe, I make my way over to the sopping wet bar counter. In a swarm of horny undergrads, there’s one way to guarantee a quick buzz without getting drenched in my own cocktail: I settle for a tequila shot.
As I attempt to rally up a bartender, someone taps me from behind. Please be hot, please be hot, please be hot. I turn my head and am greeted by a James Dean look-a-like (lucky me). We engage in some small talk and he asks me what I’d like to drink. My mind races. What drink screams, “I’m classy but also like to have a good time?” I toss my tequila craving and decide on a cosmo. I figure it says, “I’m not a cheap date but I won’t break your bank.”
Two cosmos and three tequila shots later, I look up from the bar for the first time. In a hazy blur, I realize the once-crawling bar emptied out quickly. The only survivors include three bouncers, two bartenders, my friend and her boy-toy, James Dean look-a-like and me. My mind scrambles and all I can think about is finding my way back to my cozy college dorm, changing into my fuzzy sweatpants and passing out. As I quickly make my escape, my cocktail-chugging stud grabs me.
For 10 minutes, James Dean attempts to convince me to come back to his room. Though he’s cute, I’m not interested. He bought me a drink, but I’m not going home with him out of pity. A “thank you” should suffice, but James doesn’t seem to understand. He pressures me, trying to make me feel guilty, saying he wouldn’t have bought me a drink if he knew I wouldn’t “put out.” I stop in my tracks. If your blood is boiling right now, we’re on the same page.
We’ve all been there. Sometimes this guy actually seems charming, in which case, you’re totally down for a drink and (hopefully) some stimulating conversation; other nights, the dude just creeps you out. As 20-somethings have figured out by now, however, offering to buy a drink socially translates to a show of interest. You don’t want to be rude, but his gracious $7 gift doesn’t mean you owe him your attention. No one needs a stage-five clinger trying to convince you that you owe him something.
For a wider perspective, I spoke to a female student at the University of Wisconsin. In her eyes, a guy buys a girl a drink because he either thinks she’s cute or wants to bang. To put it mildly, a guy usually forms some premeditated intentions when buying a girl a drink, whether G-rated or XX. “If he seems super creepy, I wouldn’t accept a drink but most of the time I would,” the UW-Madison student said. “Also, it’s a free drink and I’m a broke-ass college student.” Preach.
A male student at the University of Maryland, on the other hand, felt differently. Considering himself a fun-loving guy, he usually drops a couple bills because he wants people to enjoy their time at the bar. However, he does admit that oftentimes guys will buy girls drinks to impress them. “If a girl were to turn me down, I would honestly be surprised because I don’t have bad intentions, but I would accept her decision,” he said. He doesn’t expect anything in return. Ugh. If only all guys kept such pure intentions.
So here’s the answer you waited for: If you decide to accept a free drink, you don’t owe anything to the generous gentleman who offered it to you. Be it your time, your phone number or your body. If he just spent the past 10 minutes talking about his miniature plane collection, walk away. If he got a little too hand-sy and you had enough, walk away. If he told your roommate you won’t make it home tonight, thank him for the drink and WALK AWAY.
Bottom line: You can always walk away, no consequences.
Life isn’t a T-Pain music video. Despite the rapper’s catchy lyrics, a drink does not equate to an invitation for sex. And while finding the love of your life at the bar seems more romantic than Tinder, the chances of meeting Mr. Right while in a bottom-shelf liquor haze are slim to none. Instead, the guys you meet include the ones you don’t want to talk to (or won’t remember talking to in the morning).
We can all agree: College dudes trying to fill you with alcohol hoping that you’ll get drunk and sleep with them is nothing near romantic. These falsely-labeled “free drinks” come with pretty heavy strings attached. So ladies: Cut the strings and do what you’re down for and only that.