While the excitement of being back in my native Mexico City has not yet worn off, I must admit that there are a few things I miss about life in the US.
Most recently, I have been surprised and annoyed at the many difficulties of going out on my own for a glass of wine, especially as a woman.
Mexico City, a city of twenty million, has enough bars, cafés, cantinas, and other such watering holes, so quantity of establishments is not the problem. The problem is this city (and much of Latin America) has few “ideal” places for one to sit down alone to enjoy a glass of wine, read a book, or simply doomscroll one’s phone. The operative word here is alone.
There are plenty of restaurants, but you must order food to consume an alcoholic beverage.
There are classically boisterous cantinas everywhere, but good luck finding a decent glass of wine, or actually getting some reading done while a mariachi band blasts the Jarabe Tapatío or “El Son de la Negra” right in your ear.
And don’t get me started on the toqueros walking around the tables clinking two metal handles together, offering you the thrill of a 120-volt electric shock for a dollar. No, gracias, I just want to scroll on Instagram.
My solution was to try one of the ridiculously expensive but cozy hipster bars that abound here. But these tend to lack an actual barra to sit at, so you’re forced to sit at a table and wait forever until a server asks if you’re expecting someone. If you’re a woman, like me, the server likely means if you’re expecting a man.
So, in addition to being attacked by “buen provechos” at every table I sit at, I am now also subject to the awkward looks of pity I get once the staff realizes—finally— that I’m here on my own. Pobrecita.
WARNING: Before you ask this writer to ditch the wine for horchata and to just find a man to escort her when she goes to a bar, please remember this column was conceived to be handled with a serious dose of humor.
Call it repatriate problems, but it keeps happening.
The other day after work, all I wanted was to sit down and grab a glass of wine before heading home to “unwind,” as we say in the US.
After trying a couple of restaurants and cantinas with no luck, I ventured into a chic bar near my apartment. The place was quiet (yay!) but it didn’t have an actual bar where I could just sit, order my drink, and then make small talk with the bartender before minding my business (i.e., reading my book).
Nope, I had to sit at an actual table (a table for four, to be precise) because Mexicans love to be served when they are out on the town, even if it’s just for drinks. My people love the bells and whistles of being out and engaging with the server’s slew of pleasantries and niceties before ordering.
So, I sat at my family-sized table and quickly realized everyone but me was being served.
“Excuse me… EXCUSE ME!” I yelled, annoyed by the lack of attention.
When a server finally came, he asked, “¿Estamos esperando a alguien más?”
Translation: “Are we waiting for someone else?”
What did he mean by “we?”
“No, señor. We are not waiting for anyone else. I’m here on my own and I want to have a glass of wine, pronto, thank you very much,” I said.
Again, he gave me an awkward look. But I get it, he was gazing upon a mythical creature he had only heard of in stories: the woman (probably a gringa) who drinks alone.
Moments later, my much-anticipated glass of wine finally arrived but, instead of unwinding, I started to write this column and texting my Mexican girl friends to verify that I wasn’t just being a paranoid New Yorker.
“Going out alone? For coffee, yeah; to drink alcohol, nah,” one of my friends said. “Unless, of course, you’re trying to pick up someone.”
¡Híjole! My partner would likely not approve of that.
So, a word of caution for any women visiting Mexico City for business or pleasure. Although my city is now hailed as one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, when it comes to drinking alone as a woman, it’s a lot more like a small provincial town. At times, you might stick out for wanting to enjoy your own company so, if you want to spend a relaxing evening out, make sure to order food, wear shock-repelling clothing, and, ideally, bring a man.
Alternatively, you can do what I did that night and simply go home.
Stay tuned for Laura Martinez’s next Hisplaining column, which will tackle other key biz terms and jargon and help leaders everywhere smoothly navigate the multicultural business world. In the meantime, send us tips and ideas for other terms and jargon that you’d like to see us feature. And remember: don’t panic . . . it’s just his-PANIC!