If you've ever worked in a bar or a restaurant, you already know: the service industry follows its own set of rules.
Especially when it comes to sex.
If you work in an office and a co-worker snaps your bra strap as you walk by, it's sexual harassment. But if you work in a bar, it can just mean the two of you are tight -- or that you want to do it standing up in one of the stockrooms during your shift.
Why is there so much sex in the service industry? It's a combination of factors. We work weird hours, usually around a lot of alcohol, in close quarters. (If you work from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., most of your dating pool are co-workers and customers.) There's always a lot of drama and a lot of tension, so a huge part of being a server or bartender is the ability to have a sense of humor and have a thick skin about everything from your manager's tantrums to drunk patrons ham-fisted flirting.
All I know is that being a server means a whole different set of sexual politics than any other job.Dipping Your Chip in the Office Artichoke Dip
I can't explain what makes us so laid back about seeking sex in our workplace, except to say that us we're a very insular crowd who tend to party with our co-workers. When normal people are at happy hour or yoga or the grocery store -- where most people find friends and partners for sex and social activities -- we're waiting tables. So what happens? We get incestuous. We do the sexxin' and socializing where and when we can: at work.
But we're professionals (usually). Most of the server canoodling goes on post-shift, after we all go out drinking together at that service-industry-friendly bar we all frequent, or stay late and do shots. What you're witnessing is the pre-PDA sexual tension. A little eye-sex when two servers pass each other a drink order, the quick snuggle when a server grabs another's waist from behind when we're typing in orders. Anything hardcore that simply can't wait goes on where you can't see it: in the dishwashing area, the parking lot, or next to the to-go boxes.
It's Only Sexual Harrassment When It's Unwanted
I'm not saying there's no sexual harassment that goes on. Flirting and sex between two bartenders who are into one another is all well and good, but when it's someone you're not into, or you have a boyfriend, then things get sticky. To stop the unwanted attention, we really, really want to say to the creepy cook, "Dude, quit making jokes about sleeping with me or I'll tell the manager and/or sue you," except ... we can't.
Why? Well, because five seconds ago, we were giggling at the guy we liked for telling the same jokes. Because the creepy cook might just get a slap on the wrist, and we actually rely on him when we need that order of fries NOW. Because we may have already made out with the manager. Because on the day we showed up to our shift hung over, the creepy cook winked and made us a cup of coffee. Everyone has bent or broken the rules at some point, and everybody relies on one another -- so it's nearly impossible to start pointing fingers and burning bridges.
How We Sleep Together and Stay Sane (and Marginally Professional)
In this situation, it's best to deal with the creepy cook as you would any guy you don't want to sleep with: make a "joke" about how if he doesn't watch his mouth, you're going to stop tipping him out at the end of the night. Trust me, he'll get the point real
Do all servers and bartenders carry on this way? Obviously not. A lot of us are career restaurant people with long-term boyfriends or wives or kids in college. But do a lot
of us engage in this kind of behavior? Yeah. I'm not necessarily proud of the weird set of sexual politics in the industry, but they're as commonplace as drink specials and a soup of the day. We won't tell you if you ask, but the restaurant community thrives on being a tight, dysfunctional family. And like any family, you can't really understand unless you're a part of it. Don't judge me, and you may just get that red velvet cake for free.
Beth Brennan -- madonna, whore, waitress -- is the pseudonym used by Lemondrop bloggers and contributors when we want to write naughty stuff but keep our jobs/boyfriends/dignity.