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This Drink Is On Me

A few weeks ago, a girlfriend and I met for drinks on a Friday after work. As my friend and I were chatting and sipping our drinks, a waitress came over with another drink for me and indicated that a guy at the other end of the bar had sent it over. I asked the waitress to return the drink to the buyer and to tell him I said, “Thank you, but the only man I allow to buy me drinks is my husband.” (Not a lie or excuse – I really am married.) I made eye-contact with the guy, gave him a small smile and a nod to show that I appreciated the gesture, and made a mental note to increase the waitress’s tip by a few bucks to thank her for the extra service of returning the drink.

When I turned back to my friend, she was staring at me with a horrified look on her face. She said, “I can’t believe you did that. That was the rudest thing I’ve ever seen. You should have accepted the drink. That poor guy. You just threw his gift back in his face like it was beneath you or something. He’ll never be brave enough to offer another woman a drink in a bar again.”

I always thought sending a drink to someone was an opening gambit to show interest in getting to know him/her, and that accepting the drink implied that you reciprocated that interest. If he had asked me if he could buy me a drink, I would have said, “No, thank you,” in a friendly manner and gone about my business. It’s not that I thought the guy was unacceptable or beneath me in any way – he looked nice enough. It’s just that I’m at the bar to catch up with my friend, not network or get to know other people.

I never meant to behave badly, but my friend has me thinking that I may have inadvertently earned myself a nice, toasty spot in Etiquette Hell….where I’ll wish someone, anyone, will offer to buy me a drink.  0824-12

It is certainly well within the parameters of good etiquette to decline to accept a gift, particularly one with implied strings attached.  I think you were very gracious in how you handled it and your friend is a tad too hysterical and presumptive about your admirer’s fragile ego.

{ 60 comments… add one }
  • Cat Whisperer August 28, 2012, 1:29 am

    OP did just fine, IMO. No one is EVER obliged to accept a gift, especially if acceptance of the gift puts an implied obligation of some kind on the recipient, or if acceptance of the gift causes ethical problems for the recipient.

    The only requirement is that the recipient of the gift has to couch their refusal in polite terms. OP did this by asking that the guy who sent her the drink be told that she was married, and she never accepted drinks from men other than her husband. Bravo OP!

    Personally, I think OP’s friend behaved like an idiot. That kind of idiocy would have me thinking of demoting this person from “friend” to “acquaintance” and avoiding her company in similar situations in the future.

    Also, Selphie Trabia makes an excellent point: it can be unsafe for a woman to accept drinks from someone she doesn’t know.

  • David August 28, 2012, 2:49 am

    OP you handled it perfectly.

  • --Lia August 28, 2012, 6:06 am

    Selphie– In this case, the drink came straight from the bartender and waitress. The man paying for it never touched it or even got near it. The drink had the same chance of being adulterated as the drinks the women bought for themselves did. Your caution makes sense if the strangers are sitting at the same table or if the stranger got the drink from the bar and then carried it to the woman he hoped to drug. Also, your caution makes sense if you’ve gone into a bar alone. In this case, the women were together. The stranger would have had to poison one of them while the other stood by.

    I’m sorry about what happened to your friend and hope the experience hasn’t soured her to meeting people in the future. The vast number of times a man meets a woman in a bar, he isn’t hoping to drug and rape her. He’s hoping to meet her by buying a drink and to start talking with her. For the true psychopaths who want to poison people, they could also put drugs in the coffee of the people they meet at church.

  • Jenny August 28, 2012, 7:11 am

    I don’t like the presumption of buying someone a drink. Unless it’s another of the thing you were drinking, they don’t know what you like. Even so, they don’t know how much you were planning on having or whether you are open for conversation.

    I agree with others who suggested the friend wanted to draw the guy over and then have him move on to her. When I was in a dating relationship, if approached (like a “hi” I don’t drink offered drinks) I would talk for a little bit, drop that I had a boyfriend, and introduce the person to a friend (only if it was the kind of situation in which that was appropriate). It worked pretty well, but that kind of thing had to be arranged and talked about in advance and it was only really in college.

  • WrenskiBaby August 28, 2012, 7:25 am

    By your friend’s thinking, if a stranger approached you and offered you a ride in his car or van and you refused, would you be rude then, too?

  • Ellen August 28, 2012, 9:15 am

    OP’s friend is being silly. Married people are supposed to lead people on just to avoid hurting their feelings? Buying a woman a drink is a romantic overture. How far is this supposed to go? Giving out your phone number, accepting a date? He will be far less “hurt” by a polite refusal than by wasting his time on someone who is not interested.

  • Weaver August 28, 2012, 11:03 am

    I’m with those who say it’s rude for someone to send a drink over to only one person in a group, especially when there are only two people in that group. Besides which, what did he think would happen? She’d dump her friend to talk to him, or he’d talk to both of them with all three of them knowing he was only interested in the OP? Awkward. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sending over a drink, but that’s a really strange way to go about it.

  • Cat Whisperer August 28, 2012, 2:09 pm

    Lia, on the matter of being cautious about accepting drinks: I’ve got a daughter in college now, and so the issue of drinking in social situations and safety is a hot-button issue to me.

    Yes, it may be paranoid to refuse a drink that went from bartender to waitress and there was no apparent chance for it to be tampered with. But not every situation is so clear-cut, and in the case where a guy sends a drink over to a woman, the woman who is the recipient of the drink may not have had a chance to see that the drink went from bartender to waitress to her without any chance of tampering. What I’ve dinned into my daughter’s ears until she’s sick of it is, it’s better to not take the chance.

    Someone else in this thread has cited Gavin de Becker’s excellent book “The Gift of Fear.” A point Becker makes over and over: one of the ways predators are able to overcome the innate caution people have is by playing on our fear of appearing rude, or paranoid, or unsociable. Predators use this to their advantage.

    I don’t know if you’ve read the statistics on rape and assault of young women. It’s difficult to get good statistical data, because even in this relatively “enlightened” age, many rapes– especially acquaintance rapes– go unreported. Best conservative estimates that I’ve read are that approximately 12-15% of all women will encounter a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault in their lifetime; some respected authorities place the number as high as 20 to 25%. And most of those assaults don’t involve a creepy stranger suddenly attacking someone. They involve an assailant who wasn’t an absolute stranger to the victim and are more likely to involve coercion or use of intoxicants (alcohol or drugs) than violent attack or threats involving weapons.

    Given those kinds of statistics, I believe that the knee-jerk reaction of any woman to an offer of a drink by a stranger ought to be “no thank you, I’d rather not,” even if the drink did come directly from the bartender to the waitress with no chance of tampering. Why do I believe that? Because if the socially-acceptable reaction to presentation of a drink from a stranger under any circumstances was “thanks, I’d rather not,” it closes off one avenue that predators use to overcome the innate wariness of potential victims.

    That’s what I tell my daughter. I also tell her that any reasonable man who cares about the safety of women will not be offended by a woman rejecting the offer of a drink from a man she doesn’t know. I believe that a man who is offended by a woman rejecting his offer of a drink is someone who really isn’t concerned about women’s safety issues, and that isn’t the kind of man a woman should mind offending. JMO.

  • scottish_lass August 29, 2012, 9:54 am

    Cat Whisperer, I totally agree. I’m a city gal living in a small town and most of my friends here are from tiny villages. They never understand when I tell them “safety first, even if it seems paranoid” because where they are from everybody knows everybody else. I, however, had drummed into me as a teenager that personal safety comes first – if someone in a car approaches you for directions and it is late and dark and you are alone you politely signal that you cannot talk, you do not accept a drink from a stranger no matter how nice they seem, etc. I was brought up to be polite but not if it would put me at risk. My friends are constantly accepting drinks from strangers, I don’t think they will ever listen to me on this one because it saves them money!! I’m engaged so if a man offers me a drink I say something like “Thank you so much, but my fiancé will be here soon and he is going to treat me”.
    Someone mentioned men asking women to dance and a rude friend shoving her wedding ring in their face. Is it polite to say, “Thank you for the offer but I’m engaged/ married”? Because for me it is fairly automatic, if I say “I’m engaged” the left hand automatically follows because I have been asked so often if people can see my ring! Should one not show the ring at all, just say “I’m married”?

  • erica September 9, 2012, 3:16 pm

    I am with scottish_lass.

    I too was taught never ever ever accept a gift from a stranger. Whether it be a drink, a ride, whatever.

    It does imply a relationship that may not be REAL…it can give the gift giver a feeling of entitlement…and with the wrong person that can be very very dangerous.

    Outside that…I am married and my husband told me awhile back that he takes it as a insult if another man offers a drink when clearly I am “with” him. I see his point. I think sending it back was acceptable.

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