Jack Nicholson once said that the only reason men leave the house is to meet women.
Maybe it was just the champagne and jazz salt talking, but he was probably on to something. The question – the oft-unspoken but eternally underlying question – is where do you go once you leave the house? Because your average guy, if injected with truth serum, would sadly and quietly admit that no ritzy location, brilliant menu or exclusive gift bag can compete with the simple, life-affirming thrill of meeting someone new and getting their phone number.
And that’s most likely to happen in the pub. Here’s why.
British people are at their best when sat in a pub. The French have cafe culture down pat, the average Japanese man has mastered the art of nursing a glass of whiskey in a dark bar and presumably the Americans do something involving diners. When it comes to talking flirtatious nonsense in a noisy, adequately lit room full of tiddly strangers however, we are champions. Maybe this is because most British people in pubs shouldn’t actually be in pubs. There’s a guilt-charged air of excitability caused by the fact that most of the men and women present have either left work early or are in the process of failing to turn up somewhere else on time. We’re bunking off. And that makes us giddy.
People are still funny about admitting they met their other half on Tinder, Guardian Soulmates or Glutenfreesingles.com. This is because we know, deep down in our DNA, that lighting the touchpaper of romance online is fraudulent – the relationship equivalent of ordering the missing stickers from your Panini album directly from the manufacturer. It’s true that the Tinder statistic may reduce over time as the stigma surrounding online dating continues to diminish. But that would surely be a lamentable backwards step for our species.
People are garrulous in pubs. Having said that, when it comes to approaching strangers in the hope of striking up a conversation there are certain no no’s. Don’t try your opening gambit once last orders have been called. Don’t – as happened to a friend of Hyde – let the person you’re about to approach hear you say to your friend “look, there’s one!” immediately beforehand. Don’t stand on your tip toes a little bit to make yourself appear taller. Don’t tell any joke that needs you to explain, both before and after the punchline, that you’re not racist. Don’t rap.
Pubs are essentially creches for adults. And what environment could be more conducive to socialising than a creche? It’s the relief. The relief that the real world, with all of its unanswered emails, unpurchased birthday gifts and unwatched Michael Haneke DVDs, has been left at the door. As you enter a pub you shrug off the debilitating mantle of responsibility and allow the carefree, happy version of yourself to run amok for a bit. And it’s that version of you that everyone likes.
Words by Joe Mackertich
Illustration by Sam Sonic
An international festival of light
Dinner in a decommissioned 1967 underground carriage
Half-price brunch and a HUGE fried chicken burger