The first time I ever ventured into a lesbian bar alone, with the intent to pick up women, I was 23 years old living alone in a bleak studio apartment in West London. I was sexless, lonely, loveless and wildly depressed.
The only gay people I knew were a charismatic Irish couple, “Auntie Peter” and “Uncle David,” I called them. I had met them drinking champagne at a local pub. They checked in on me daily, had me over for dinner multiple times per week, and occasionally let me tag along with them to crazy London gay boy circuit parties. Fabulously hedonistic parties teeming with shirtless, sweaty men with abs cut from marble, grinding their steel bodies into each other on packed dance floors. I loved it.
But at 4 a.m., when the stench of sex began to permeate the air, I would slip into a taxi and go home alone.
As I watched the royal city of London fly past my tired eyes, I felt an ache in my heart. I felt empty. I was hungry. For women.
But what the hell was I supposed to do? I was a cripplingly shy, acne ridden, 23-year-old string bean who spent half her existence coaching herself through panic attacks: I was in NO shape to strut into a cool lesbian bar—alone.
But you know what I’ve learned? The body wants what the body wants, babe. And my body wanted sex. It was intoxicated with endless cravings for flirtation, hot dance-floor kisses, girl lips, girl bodies: ~lesbian-energy~.
One night as I grimly gazed into the static of my computer screen, cigarette smoke slowly oozing from my mouth, a powerful feeling washed over me. The need to go out and meet girls was so strong it felt primal. I was thirsty, and I physically needed to be around women, like a dehydrated party girl needs an ice-cold Gatorade after a weekend on Fire Island.
I threw on my leather jacket, zipped up my over-the-knee-boots and prayed to the god I didn’t believe in, that somehow my outfit would trick people into thinking I was cool (I was definitely not cool).
The next thing I knew I was standing outside of a tiny dive bar that had an alleged Thursday night “Lesbian Party.” This was confirmed as I watched two heavily tattooed women stumble outside and hungrily make out against the brick wall, lit cigarettes in their trembling hands.
I took a long, hard look at the starless London sky, nervously tugged at the sleeves of my leather jacket, as I braced myself for ~girl-world~.
I wish I could tell you the night was a success. The night was a disaster. The first girl I attempted to flirt with, wound up having a possessive supermodel girlfriend with cruel green eyes and legs up to her ears. She flashed her long pointy nails at me; they gleamed in the candlelight.
I fearfully skirted to the other end of the bar and began ordering shots.
The rest of the night is a blur of conversations gone wrong, slurred words and shameful flashes of my leather-clad body falling onto the ground.
The next morning I woke up hungover and horrified. I’m that girl, I thought to myself. I’m that creepy lesbian who goes to bars alone, that everyone thinks is some kind of serial killing freak!
I pulled my sheets over my head and spiraled the day away.
However a few days later, the shame subsided—and I felt great. Proud even. I had done it! I, Zara “Awkward-As-Hell” Barrie, had gone to a LESBIAN bar alone, and yes I made a fool out of myself, but hey, no one ever died from embarrassment (thank God).
After that, I started going to lesbian bars by myself all of the time. And after a few years, I mastered the art of picking up women solo. And today, I’m going to share with you, some no-fail tricks I picked up along the way.
1. Don’t try and act like the “cool, detached” girl. It doesn’t work.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made, especially in my messy early 20s, was trying to act cool and aloof when I was alone at the bar. I would sit in the corner of the bar, apathy sprawled across my face, and just like, expect, like, girls to come to me.
It didn’t work.
You might be able to pull off acting cool, chic and removed when you’re in a glittery group of people, but you need to get real with yourself when you’re solo: You’re at a bar. By. Yourself. You’ve officially handed in your “too cool” card; it’s time to be a sweet, lovable nerd.
Because if you try and act cold and calculated, you’re not going to look badass, you’re going to look mean. People will think you’re alone because you’re mean, not because you’re confident and independent.
So smile, sister. Radiate positive, magnetic BEAMS of approachability. Be chatty. Be kind. Introduce yourself. Charm the masses by asking all the people around you questions about themselves (everyone likes to talk about themselves).
Rest assured the girl you have your eye on will take note. The social butterfly that attains the impressive confidence to socialize sans a wing-woman feverishly intrigues everyone in her presence. Trust me.
2. Bestow her friends with your endless charm.
A few weeks ago I was at The Cubbyhole with my friend Ruba, when she caught the eye of a woman sitting at the bar alone.
“Hi, what’s your name?” the lone lesbian asked Ruba, sticking an aggressive hand in her face. “Can I get you a drink?”
The lone lesbian looked right through me like I was a ghost. I was irritated that this woman had rudely interrupted our conversation and Ruba felt protective of me feeling ignored (I’m known for being fragile). We iced her out, quickly.
Please let this be a lesson in what NOT to do. If a girl intrigues you, and that girl is hanging out with a big, group of friends, do not alienate her friends. Repeat after me: DO NOT ALIENATE HER FRIENDS. DO NOT ALIENATE HER FRIENDS. Tattoo it across your chest if you have to.
You can sneak sexy little side-glances at the girl you’re lusting after, but be sure to engage with everyone she’s hanging out with. Otherwise, you’ll annoy her friends, and they’ll instantly detest you. And the key to getting the girl is having her friends sing your glorious praises, babe.
3. Secure a space by the bar and help her get a drink.
I know this sounds lame, but when you’re on the prowl solo, you need to head the bar early before it gets packed. It’s very important that you secure yourself a cozy little spot, front and center at the bar.
In fact, I recommend shamelessly kissing up to the bartender, too. Give them a stealth tip early in the night and engage in some sweet chitchat with them. Butter em’ up!
This way, when the bar is completely swamped at midnight, and it’s damn near impossible to catch the bartender’s attention, you can swoop in and help the girl you’re lusting after get her drink on. Cause you and the bartender have already established a deep-rooted kinship and she’ll help you out.
Personally, I’m like a displaced puppy in crowded bars, and I don’t have the kind of energy that attracts a bartender’s attention. It can take me an hour to get a goddamn vodka soda.
All I crave is a smart, connected lesbian, to fly down the Sapphic heavens and rescue me by helping me get a drink, please, thank you. Really, I’m your target market.
4. Don’t get sloppy.
I’m in no position to judge a person’s drinking habits. I got so drunk the other night in the West Village that I (apparently) ate the bartender’s entire box of gingersnap cookies. (Maybe this is why I never seem to get the bartender’s attention).
But you know what? It was OK, because I was with a group of friends. I wasn’t trying to pick up girls alone. It’s not super weird to be a little messy when you’re with your friends because numbers soften the drunken scene you’re making. It’s like throwing a pretty Instagram filter over an ugly photograph.
But a sloppy, mess, alone at the bar, isn’t sexy. It looks overexposed beneath those naked bar bulbs. It’s sad; it’s lonely looking. It makes us feel sorry for you and want to help you.
But it doesn’t make us want to jump your bones.
5. Eye sex is everything.
I guess I could be tame and say “eye contact, ” but I think “eye sex” sounds more exciting, don’t you?
Bottom line: When you’re at the bar alone you need to have eye sex (unprotected!) with the girl you think is cute.
Let’s say you spot a girl across the bar that sends a shiver down your spine; her sexual prowess is just so radiant, so strong! You must talk to her. Well, babe, it’s imperative that you eye sex her before approaching her.
PSA: Don’t be a weirdo and stare blinklessly at her for six minutes—that’s surefire serial killer behavior and will result in her leaving the premise in fear.
Shoot her some confident bedroom eyes (three to five seconds is ideal) and then abruptly look away. Leave her wanting more. Tease her with those sexy eyeballs, baby!
Keep giving her quick sexy gazes until her intrigue is so intense, it’s palpable. Then you’re free to walk over to her. And there will the added element of sexual tension, and isn’t sexual tension the best feeling in the world? Isn’t that why we put ourselves through all this crap? To feel that wonderfully frustrating heat of attraction?
But remember: Talk to her friends as much as you talk to her—which leads me seamlessly into my next point..
7. Don’t linger on the group for too long.
I come from strict British stock. “Never overstay your welcome, darling,” my mother would purr to me as a kid, taking a prim sip of steaming hot tea.
Mother-dearest was oh so right. When you’ve inserted yourself into a group of lesbians, and you’ve won them over with your winning charm and gorgeous charisma, you need to leave and mingle with other people.
I know, I know—you’re finally in with the hot girl’s friends! Why would you leave now? Because nothing is more attractive than watching someone else socialize. She’ll be melting in the barstool as she watches you make new friends, crack jokes with strangers, light up the bleak room with your positive energy!
And then, once she’s completely riveted by you, you can go back to her. And now it should be getting pretty late in the evening. You don’t need to worry about her friends anymore. You did your time. Now you can focus your attention strictly on her.
And you, babes, can take it from there.
Zara Barrie is a writer and talk-show host. She was the senior “Sex and Dating” writer for “Elite Daily” and founder of their “Queer Culture” vertical. She identifies as a “mascara lesbian” and lives beyond her means in New York. Follow her on Twitter: @factorygrrrl