Welcome back to Restaurant Confessionals, where we talk to the unheard voices of the restaurant industry from both the front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) about what really goes on behind the scenes at your favorite establishments. For this installment, we hear from a 33-year-old Dutch bartender who says that his job engendered and fueled his sex addiction.
Behind the bar, we only talk alcohol and sex. Most barkeepers are one and the same: we don't want your number because we like you. We just want sex. I'm gonna tell you why.
When I started working in bars, I was an 18-year-old virgin. Soon enough, I discovered that a cocktail bar is the ideal environment for picking up women. During a busy night, it's like an all-you-can-eat buffet: There's a constant exchange of women sitting on these barstools, and all of them are less than three feet away. Their eyes are on you. They watch the genius of you stirring, shaking, garnishing, and serving.
A chef might be able to create a beautiful dish, but he's not as visible as a bartender. We stand on a podium for people who are in search of fun, ready for a night out on the town. A bartender is not only there to make the perfect cocktail, but also has to make sure that guests are having a good time. Chitchat and entertainment is part of the job.
As a novice cocktail maker, I was quite aware that female guests loved it when I flirted with them—and I was damn good at it too. I certainly am not the most attractive guy, but I scored more and more phone numbers and went home with a wide variety of women. One night, it was a 50-year-old MILF; another time it was a Calvin Klein model. By the time I turned 23, I had slept with 100 women.
Getting the prettiest girl wasn't enough anymore. I had to have the prettiest married one, or at least one who was in a long-term relationship.
At that age, I was quite the asshole. I had sex the way a soccer player plays his sport: The game is fun, but the most important thing is to score. Whether or not the goal is beautiful is irrelevant, as long as the ball ends up in the net. I thought of women as tick marks on my conquest list, not as people. It didn't matter who I went home with. Picking up women while working became my biggest hobby, and my colleagues eagerly joined in.
It got so bad that we turned it into a competition with a point system: One point for getting a phone number, two for French kissing, three for getting physical, four for fucking, and five for anal. Most of the time I went to their place—that way I could leave when I wanted. Sometimes I did it during work hours in the office, on the couch upstairs, in the hallway of the emergency exit, or in a bathroom stall. I also kept looking for bigger challenges. Getting the prettiest girl wasn't enough anymore. I had to have the prettiest married one, or at least one who was in a long-term relationship.
I'm now 33 years old, and even though I don't devour women like a bag of M&M's after a joint, I still pursue a lot of them while I'm at work. What started as a game is now an addiction. Sometimes it's so bad that I can't approach a female guest without flirting, even when I'm not attracted to her; it's become second nature. I've even started flirting with women who are in the middle of a date. I'll bring the drinks from the man's side so that he won't be able to see the way I looked at the girl.
During that moment it's terrific, but in retrospect I feel like quite the asshole. I have destroyed so many relationships—my own as well as those of others. I can't help myself. Flirting isn't a button I can just switch on or off. It has become a big part of myself, like my humor, my fondness for sneakers, and my dick.
You feel like a freak if you don't sleep with another person every weekend. One time I didn't have sex for two months and was constantly was subjected to silly jokes about having blue balls.
I noticed that many of my younger colleagues and other barkeepers that I know are walking the same path. I recently saw a few guys sum up the numbers of their nightly escapades in our Whatsapp group. No matter how good their intentions, they're all very busy talking women into sleeping with them. It's because of their bartender jobs, I'm sure of that.
The main reason for this is the fact that the bartending profession is still largely a male culture here. Most bartenders are in their 20s and still learning to control their libidos. All that testosterone in such a small area ensures the intensified macho behavior. They make bets on who can get a phone number the fastest, give one another tips on how to chat up women, or share books like The Game with each other. Whoever gets the most women is the champ. It's fucked up, but it works.
The person who gets laid receives positive responses: a high-five or an encouraging "congrats," while the person who hasn't gotten any in a while only gets shitty remarks. You feel like a freak if you don't sleep with another person every weekend. One time I didn't have sex for two months and was constantly was subjected to silly jokes about having blue balls. If I didn't respond to a girl's flirtations, my colleagues frowned upon me as if I had thrown their bike in the canal.
Another factor is the bartender's position—the better he becomes in his profession, the more confidence he gets. His station slowly becomes a comfort zone: he can blindly grab the bottles, toss glasses behind his back, provide explanations during each shake technique, and share stellar stories about the drinks. This is his kingdom, and who doesn't want to flirt with the king? In addition to having moral-melting self-confidence, the bartender is also in charge of the liquor. It's really easy to hand out free drinks as part of the game, or to create a special off-the-menu cocktail for an attractive woman. It's elementary math: Girl feels flattered and impressed by the skills, so girl wants you to go home with her. It's usually that simple.
What kind of an asshole am I?
But the most painful reason why we're so focused on women is our limited social life. When other people are going out and meeting their future spouses in a cocktail bar, we're working. I can honestly admit that it stings when I see couples sitting at a table. I want that too, but my work just won't let me.
The biorhythm of someone who's working in a bar or restaurant is completely haywire: we come home when normal people wake up, we sleep half the day, and then work another long shift. There's hardly time to get to know someone the normal way. The day that I realized that my sex addiction was a way to fill the void was the day that I was confronted with a difficult part of myself. What kind of an asshole am I?
As told to Stefanie Staelens
This article was originally published in Dutch on MUNCHIES NL in August 2015.