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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 }
  • Cherry August 27, 2012, 5:07 am

    I think the OP handled it just fine. The guy sent over the drink to indicate his interest, and the OP returned it to indicate she wasn’t available.

    I think it would have been far ruder to accept the drink and get the guy’s hopes up, only to reveal a wedding ring.

  • Angela August 27, 2012, 5:57 am

    It would be better to let the man buy you a drink when you have no interest in him? I think OP handled it perfectly. My experience is that men who use this technique to get acquainted are used to the occasional rebuff and would rather know up-front that the woman isn’t interested. He might however learn to look for a wedding ring before springing for a drink.

  • jena rogers August 27, 2012, 6:33 am

    OP, I agree with Admin on this one. You were gracious in the manner of your refusal of the “gift,” and perfectly within your rights. Had you accepted it, an uncomfortable and even dangerous situation could have evolved. Particularly these days, it’s important to be clear when we say “no,” and as OP has demonstrated, it doesn’t have to be impolite.

  • Carol August 27, 2012, 6:45 am

    I don’t want to cast any kind of presumption on your friend, (and it’s possible I’m projecting my own issues onto this!) but she seriously wanted to you accept an advance from a strange man because it was the ‘nice’ thing to do? Did she expect you to carry on a conversation with the man when he came over to introduce himself, as is the general next step in accepting his drink so as not to hurt HIS feelings? Women are so conditioned to override their own needs and instincts so as not to appear ‘rude’ or ‘unkind’ and it’s just ridiculous.

    If you’d accepted the drink, and then he came over and said ‘hey baby, how about a date’ or whatever his opening line would be, and you said ‘sorry, married’, that would have been rude, because you accepted his drink which is like saying ‘hey, yeah, come over and flirt with me’ when you had no intention of doing that.

    So, yeah. You totally did the right thing, and I’m sure the man in question’s psyche is not in any way damaged by the situation.

  • sv August 27, 2012, 7:18 am

    You were polite, honest and sincere. What’s wrong with that? The man likely appreciated not spending more time and money on an unavailable woman, and you declined his gift ( and invitation, because it was certainly an invitation for an introduction) with grace and kindness. No place in Ehell for you, my friend, you handled that perfectly 🙂

  • L August 27, 2012, 7:33 am

    I am of the opinion that just sending a drink over is a bit presumptuous (sp?). It assumes that a) the recipient is available for flirting/a drink, b) the recipient wants a drink and c) the recipient wants *that* drink.
    It’s politer to approach and say “hey, can I buy you a drink?” It also shows that the drink-buyer respects others’ boundaries and wishes.

    It also prevents the situation where the drink-giver is thinking “well, what the blazes am I meant to do with this Cosmopolitan? I don’t even like Cosmopolitans!”

  • ferretrick August 27, 2012, 7:46 am

    Neither of you did anything wrong in this situation, and your friend is way off base. He wasn’t wrong to send over a drink, but yes, it is definitely a request for further conversation. Which is not wrong-people have to meet somehow, but you weren’t interested, and you declined graciously. As far as him checking for a wedding ring, OP states he was at the other end of the bar. He may have been too far away to see, or she may have had her back turned to him talking to her friend. If I were the guy, I would not be offended. I would feel used if you accepted the drink and then later revealed you were married.

  • Green123 August 27, 2012, 7:52 am

    The OP handled this situation perfectly. The man concerned presumed the OP was available, and when she was not, he could have had no reason to be offended that she declined his gift. Maybe he’ll look for a wedding ring next time before making assumptions.

  • Hemi August 27, 2012, 7:57 am

    You did not behave badly. You politely declined a drink and implied offer to get introduced to man because you are married. Nothing wrong with that. It’s not like you threw the drink in his face and screamed “I’m MARRIED”. Your friend needs to chill.

    Ditto to everything @jena rogers said, particularly regarding dangerous situations.

  • Katie August 27, 2012, 8:13 am

    You handled it perfectly and graciously. You couldn’t have done it better!

  • Jay August 27, 2012, 8:43 am

    You did just right, and since you’re married, I don’t see how that would really deter the guy in the future. And that wasn’t some shy wallflower finally getting up the nerve to send a woman a drink for the first time.. please.

  • Gloria Shiner August 27, 2012, 8:44 am

    I think it was a great response! It’s possible that, like me, the OP doesn’t wear a wedding ring, so looking for one won’t help guys like this. However, no woman (or man!) is obligated to accept so much as a drink from an admirer, regardless of marital status.

  • Just Laura August 27, 2012, 8:49 am

    My husband owns a pub. As a result, I get to see a lot of this sort of thing. I completely agree with the OP.
    I’ve encountered women who will accept the drink, then never speak with the guy. In fact, one woman told me that she and her friends get “all dressed up,” then go to bars with the expectation of spending little money themselves; instead, they assume interested men will buy them drinks.

    I also hear from a lot of bitter men who are tired of being taken advantage of by women who only want free stuff. One man told me that he asked a woman if he could buy her a drink, and she replied “sure! I’ll have X beer.” Then she promptly took it to another man who was probably her boyfriend.

  • Patty-O August 27, 2012, 8:58 am

    Buying someone a drink and sending it to them is taking a chance. A big chance. I personally don’t like the practice and would not accept anyway. (I’m pretty picky about bars and resturants) But, I’ve been polite if it happens. So were you. Your friend needs a tiny reality check.

  • Din August 27, 2012, 9:09 am

    If this man’s ego is so easily bruised by one woman refusing a drink, he’s going to have a very difficult time dating. The OP did exactly the right thing.

  • InNM August 27, 2012, 9:16 am

    As Carol said, did your friend expect you to accept a drink from this man to be nice? What if he wanted to sit and join your conversation; or invite you to his place for a nightcap and more? Should you accept to be nice? Of course not. Sometimes being nice is letting someone down gently, and that’s exactly what you did. Good job.
    Your friend is playing a dangerous game. There is an implied invitation when a man buys a drink for a strange woman (I learned this the hard way), and acceptance of the drink is acceptance of the invitation. Plus, has your friend given thought to the possibility that the drink may be tampered with? It still happens. Rapists go to all bars, including the nice ones.

  • Shoebox August 27, 2012, 9:24 am

    Ah yes, that peculiar subset of homo sapiens that are not only willing but anxious to throw their nearest & dearest under a bus to spare a stranger even a moment’s discomfort. OP, you did a beautiful job of handling the situation here, and I would advise developing a tolerant chuckle & subject change for the next time you two are out and you find yourself having to scar a waiter for life by, for instance, politely sending back cold food. 🙂

  • Cat August 27, 2012, 9:24 am

    I cannot think of a better way to handle the problem unless you take to wearing a tee shirt that reads, “Sorry, I’m married.” to bars.
    Unlike your friend, I question sending drinks to total strangers. It might be better to request the bartender to ask the lady if she would be willing to accept a drink from you.
    I miss the old days when a gentleman who wanted to be introduced to a ladywould request an introduction but, alas, those days are gone forever.

  • Wendy August 27, 2012, 9:36 am

    Maybe the friend was hoping he’d come over so she could get to know him after he learned OP was taken. And maybe he saw the ring and figured he’d try anyhow…some people are like that.

    I like the way you handled it, OP. And I think your husband would, too. :o)

  • Emmy August 27, 2012, 9:51 am

    I’ve had many guy friends complian about women who accept drinks or offers to buy drinks for them, but when said guy makes a move the woman in question shoots the guy down because they are unintrested/just out for a girl’s nite/married/in serious relationship/ect. They see these women as simply seeking a free drink, and using their looks/charm to get them, rather then women who are actually intreasted in them. I think the guy would much more apperciate you refusing his offer of a drink and indicating you are unaviable/unintrested, so that he may move on to other prospects.

    I’ve actually known women to excepect men to buy them drinks when they go out. Even if they aren’t intreasted in the men, they get down right offended when they have to pay for their own drinks. After all, as they’ve explained to me, they’re beautiful women and deserve free drinks. I don’t go out with these women anymore. And as far as I know, most men still aren’t buying their drinks.

  • spartiechic August 27, 2012, 9:56 am

    I agree with the Admin on this one. You did nothing wrong and were very polite in your refusal. I think friend needs to grow a polite spine and you may be the one to model it for her.

  • Bint August 27, 2012, 10:10 am

    I agree with you – it’s a sign of interest, given he hasn’t spoken to you, and since you’re neither interested nor available, you should turn it down. My husband would not appreciate my accepting drinks from strange men in bars who haven’t even said a word to me, nor vice versa.

    The fact you smiled at him and said you were married makes it even clearer. Your friend is being absolutely ridiculous.

  • AMC August 27, 2012, 10:10 am

    I think you handled it as graciously as could be expected. I’m married, and I would have sent the drink back too. I think accepting it would have given the fellow the false impression that you were available, which would have been worse, IMO.

  • Angel August 27, 2012, 10:10 am

    I think either way would have been fine, accepting the drink or not accepting it. It’s not rude to not accept it, but certainly not rude to accept it either. Just because you accept the drink doesn’t mean you have to talk to the guy. I would have said thank you very much, and been on my way.

  • June First August 27, 2012, 10:35 am

    Since there’s not a postscript about how devastated the man was by the return of his drink, I’ll assume that he was fine with it. Maybe the friend should have accepted it on OP’s behalf?? I’d be tempted to be snarky and say, “Hey, if you want it go right ahead!”

  • Library Diva August 27, 2012, 10:35 am

    I think OP did the right thing, too. I’m curious to know how OP’s friend would have suggested handling it. As admin said, it’s a gift with strings attached, an opening gambit to a flirtation. Accepting it just creates a more awkward situation later on, when he comes over to follow up. If he’s so shattered by accidentally hitting on a married woman that he never approaches anyone again, and dies single and lonely, that’s his problem, not the OP’s.

  • jeanne August 27, 2012, 10:36 am

    You were perfect – you politely declined his offer but, more importantly, you did it without ambiguity. After this, if he had tried again to get your attention, he would have been clearly in the wrong AND you would have an impartial witness (your waitress) to back up that you had clearly declined his offer.

    First of all, if that’s the rudest thing your friend has ever seen, she’s been living in Wonderland. Besides that, she should seriously throttle back her condemnation of you. It’s generations of this “you have to be NICE to men” and “let him down easy” bollocks that have left us with legions of men thinking they’re entitled to women’s attentions (and bodies) whenever they feel like it. Do your friend a favor – wave a copy of “The Gift of Fear” under her nose. She’ll see that “being nice” and not saying NO clearly are what creepy, dangerous men count on.

  • PM August 27, 2012, 10:55 am

    Soooo… it’s more appropriate for a married woman to accept the drink and make herself appear open to the advances of a stranger than to politely refuse them? If a man’s ego is really that fragile, he should probably consider some therapy before he ventures out into the dating market.

    Given your friend’s somewhat histrionic reaction, I’m betting she would have reacted this way no matter how you behaved. If you’d accepted the drink to protect the man’s feelings, she probably would have run back to your mutual acquaintances and said, “Oh, my gosh, you wouldn’t believe how OP was behaving at happy hour the other night! Accepting drinks from strange men and acting like she wasn’t even married!”

    You behaved perfectly. Consider another happy hour partner.

  • Sarah Jane August 27, 2012, 10:58 am

    I know my husband would appreciate my “returning” the drink, and to me, that’s way more important than worrying about the feelings of some random guy who buys me a drink with no solicitation whatsoever.

    Why is your friend concerned that the gentleman will “never be brave enough” to do this again? Let the guy learn the odds.

  • --Lia August 27, 2012, 11:13 am

    Let me guess. This friend is unmarried and wishes she were? She thought the man was cute and wishes he’d made the pass at her? I realize that’s a lot of speculation on my part, but if any of my guess is true, it explains her remarks as projection. What she’d like to say is “shoot, here you are married to a great guy, and a nice interesting one wants to buy YOU a drink! Why couldn’t he ask ME? Why do you get 2 men when I get none?” Instead of noting that it’s a faux pas on his part to offer to buy one of the couple a drink instead of both, she places her criticism on the blameless one.

    Now as for the drink buyer. What he did was wrong. Let’s say the LW wasn’t married and would have liked to accept. What’s she supposed to do, go off and leave her friend hanging at the bar with no one to talk to? There’s nothing wrong with him approaching both ladies and saying “my name is J. May I join you?” Then they can either tell him that they prefer to talk amongst themselves or tell him to pull up a chair. If he prefers to let the waitress do his ice breaking for him, he should still send the offer to buy a round for both.

  • L.J. August 27, 2012, 11:36 am

    You did the right thing. If you hadn’t, he’d have been ranting to his friends about women who take free stuff when they have no intention of dating the guy.

  • Calli Arcale August 27, 2012, 11:47 am

    Agreed; this was handled appropriately. If the gentleman had more platonic intentions (which could conceivably happen), he could have sent it back a second time with an explanation. Platonic intentions with a drink are extremely rare, though, so the natural assumption would be that it was the beginning of the courtship process.

    I would be very reluctant to accept a drink purchased by any stranger, regardless of the stranger’s gender and whether or not the stranger had the opportunity to adulterate the drink. Part of this is conditioning from my employment at a government contractor; accepting a drink from a stranger can also be the first step in a recruitment process, and I don’t mean recruiting for normal employment. I mean espionage. It can also be prelude to bribery, and even the suspicion of bribery can ruin your career.

  • Shalamar August 27, 2012, 11:55 am

    I’m with Carol. In fact, Carol said everything I was about to say. I think OP’s friend has some issues if she thinks politely declining a drink from a strange man is “rude”.

    I had a friend once – well, she was more of an acquaintance, actually, I didn’t like her much. 🙂 She would often go to bars with friends, and if a guy asked her to dance, she’d shove her wedding ring in his face (it was about the size of a skating rink, too) and laugh scornfully at him until he slunk away. Now THAT was rude.

  • Fahnette August 27, 2012, 12:06 pm

    Male privilege does not trump etiquette. It is not more important than a woman’s desire to enforce the integrity of her marriage. It does not have the right to override one’s boundaries.

    I am sick to tears of the idea that women exist to assuage the male ego, to serve them, to make them feel in charge of the world.

  • Roslyn August 27, 2012, 12:07 pm

    The real question is, was the friend married? She probably wanted the guy to move on to her after finding out the OP was married.

  • Ashley August 27, 2012, 12:41 pm

    I see nothing wrong with how this was handled. It would be far worse if OP had let the man buy drinks all evening, getting the guys hopes up, and then just leaving.

  • Aje August 27, 2012, 12:49 pm

    I repeat what everyone else has said. Well done OP

  • Xtina August 27, 2012, 1:13 pm

    I don’t see any problems with your refusal of the drink. You acknowledged the giver kindly for their offer by waving/nodding, but indicated that you were not available by having the waitress communicate a polite message to the man. If I were a man, I would rather know upfront that a woman was not interested and thus I would not “waste” any money pursuing her; it would have been far ruder to find out I had been used as the funder of a woman’s evening out.

  • Goodness August 27, 2012, 2:12 pm

    OP did the accepted thing in this situation. The only thing that might have improved it could have been to waggle her ring finger for him to see, explaining why. But Angela is right — he should have checked her out a little more carefully first. Her friend, though, appears to be something of a nitwit.

  • Mabel August 27, 2012, 2:27 pm

    The OP did well. To accept would have been just leading the guy on. Pay no attention to your friend, my dear.

  • Willynilly August 27, 2012, 2:38 pm

    As a former bartender and waitress I am appalled at the waitress! When a man offers to buy a strange woman a drink, or really when anyone offers to buy a stranger a drink, the best course of action is for the server to turn to the intended recipient and say “[whomever] would like to buy you your next drink”. In a very casual place you might just get a marker of some sort and be told “you’re backed up by [whomever].” This way the recipient can accept or decline the offer before the beverage is poured (saving money if its rejected) or change it to a non-alcoholic beverage if they’d like to accept but are at their liquor limit already (or would like to remain more sober because they plan to now chat with a stranger).

  • Anonymous August 27, 2012, 2:44 pm

    I agree with Admin too. 🙂

  • Justin August 27, 2012, 3:12 pm

    The sending of a drink is a polite way of asking to start a conversation with someone, if it is refused politely it is just saying ‘no thank you’. There are plenty of not so polite ways of sending back a drink and the OP did none of these. While some guys have an expectation that buying a drink will lead to more at the minimum is is usually seen as a conversation starter.

    Attempting to meet people in a bar has plenty of challenges, as a guy I would rather be politely turned down on an attempt than find out several drinks and a long conversation in someone is taken.

  • Ellen CA August 27, 2012, 3:26 pm

    It’s been many years since I’ve sat in a bar and had drinks sent to me, but I have an etiquette question pertaining to that… since the OP was sitting and drinking with another woman, wasn’t it kinda rude for the gentleman to send only one drink? Obviously he sent it to show interest in one particular woman, but to me that seems like he’s purposely cutting out her friend. Am I completely off-base?

  • mojo August 27, 2012, 3:32 pm

    You were quite right. You picked up on the social implication of his gesture; accepting it would have sent the wrong signal back to him.

    Well done you and thank you for thinking of the waitress!

  • Angela August 27, 2012, 7:55 pm

    Now that I think about, I suspect your friend was a little jealous.

  • chechina August 27, 2012, 8:09 pm

    I heartily agree with the chorus, particularly Carol. You don’t owe a stranger anything just because s/he finds you attractive. OP’s firm, “No, thank you” was great.

  • Emmy August 27, 2012, 8:16 pm

    The practice of men buying drinks for women they have never met doesn’t sit well with me. While I know some guys do it to simply break the ice, others do it with strings attached. When a bartender shows up with a drink in hand, it really puts the woman on the spot. It would be better if a guy would offer to buy a drink (or have the bartender offer) so the woman doesn’t have to refuse an already prepared drink and the guy isn’t out any money for uninterested or unavailable women.

    The OP did the right thing by kindly refusing the drink. Even if she had accepted the gift, I don’t feel she would owe the man who bought it anything more than a ‘thank you’. If a man chooses to send a drink to a woman he has never even met, he takes a chance that she may not accept it or that she isn’t interested in him romantically if she does accept it. (Of course it is rude and awful for women to act interested with the intention of getting free drinks). All a guy has to do is ask if he could buy a woman a drink (or have the bartender ask). The OP’s friend doesn’t sound like a good friend. I can understand her feeling a bit bad for the guy, but I can’t understand her criticism of the OP for not doing something that made her uncomfortable.

  • yankeegal77 August 27, 2012, 8:39 pm

    You handled this very well, OP. Don’t doubt yourself for even a moment, as you have no obligation to accept a drink, or even a hello, from anyone–especially in what amounts to a strange man in a bar. He wasn’t out of line for asking and you offered a gracious refusal.

    Your friend, however, is way out of line and I truly wonder at her motives. Have to agree with other posters (and I know this is an assumption) but she sounds either jealous or clueless. Possibly both.

    I would have done the exact same thing if I were married. No E-Hell for you. 🙂

  • Selphie Trabia August 27, 2012, 9:54 pm

    I never trust drinks bought for me by random strangers. It might have some sort of substance in it.

    Happened to a friend once.

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