A Letter to 20-Year-Old Me – A Guide to Your New Life As a Bar Wench

You got a casual job in Canberra! Congratulations little me. It only took you seven months.

Unfortunately, this job will be a little harder than you expect, you naïve, first-year hospo ingénue. So, I made a helpful guide to prepare you for some of the things you will experience over the next year.

  1. You will be called a slut for not serving a customer quickly enough.
  2. You will be told to smile by the chefs every time you carry a plate of food into the restaurant. You will be ridiculed for trying to express that this is an inappropriate demand that is not made of the male staff.
  3. You will be informed you are the “token plain girl” and are valuable because some of the older regulars don’t like their female bartenders looking too sexual. But luckily (!) you will be deemed “girl next door” enough for 75-year-old alcoholic men.
  4. A new bartender will arrive and tell you the story of his father dying when he was a child while running his hand up and down your thigh to your crotch. But you will freeze and not say anything because he’s telling you a deeply sad, personal story and you are a nice girl.
  5. You will be asked to serve espresso martinis in schooner glasses because it would be embarrassing for men to drink out of cocktail glasses (obviously).
  6. One day you will notice that behind the bar there are pornographic images of women stuck where customers cannot see. You will ask about this and will be enlightened to the idea of the hospitality boys club. You will develop imposter syndrome.
  7. Your work friends will say “fuck we got absolutely raped today” when you have a busy shift. Sometimes the other women will say it too. You will privately attribute this to internalised misogyny and the patriarchal bargain.
  8. Your boss, who is obese, will loudly and unashamedly fat-shame female customers.
  9. Male customers will be visibly confused and irritated if you serve them their drinks with a straw – because straws are for chicks (obviously).
  10. The owner’s father will come in every day to drink but will not learn your name, even after a year. He will know the names of the male staff members, but that’s probably just a coincidence.
  11. That guy who tried to roofie you once in Civic will come in every day and pretend like he doesn’t know you while you pour his pint.
  12. You will watch as a drunk man becomes violently angry and homophobic after another man touches him on the shoulder. You will watch as many drunk men become violent for many different reasons.
  13. You will mostly be referred to by customers as “oi”, “sweetheart” or “the girl”.
  14. The exhaustion of constantly being indignant will creep up on you until you realise that maybe you should find a job where you are treated the same as your male colleagues.
  15. You will realise this job probably does not exist and will stay a bar wench for the time being.

Be patient little me – this job will make you a strong woman and a strident feminist.

Best of luck,

21-year-old me.