She walks in and perches herself on a stool, retrieves her phone from her handbag then leans over and hooks her purse under the counter.
She smiles at the barman and they have a brief conversation. When she smiles you see a little crease at the corner of her eye. Which means she is not a day under 34. Plus her elbows tell a story.
They can hide their age with their lips and with their makeup, but their elbows will always tell the truth. She, very flittingly, looks around then settles on the TV above.
She’s bedecked in a crisp white top with a greenish skirt that she might insist on calling lime. She has hips, you can tell, by the way they spread out on that stool. At the end of her endless legs are these sexy dark-red high heels –the colour of an ox’s heart.
Her drink is set before her; a frosty glass of white wine. She mouths a “thank you” to the barman and sends him away with a gracious smile.
She holds the stem of her glass but doesn’t sip it immediately; she just holds it there, staring at it, as if she is saying a small prayer for God to bless the hearts of all the men who grow grapes in the vast vineyards of Stellenbosch.
That ritual looks like how we treat our first double of whisky, or cold beer; with reverence, with occasion, with expectation.
Finally she brings the glass to her glistening lip-glossed lips and takes a small, delicate and almost cautious, sip.
Then there is that moment when her throat moves as she swallows. And the whole room swallows with her.
She isn’t drop-dead gorgeous, this girl. I suspect most drop-dead gorgeous women can’t bear to sit alone in bars, not because they will be hit on, but because that kind of beauty brings with it loneliness.
This lady is average-looking, with an interesting face; a sort of angular face with a nicely curved jawline, flawless skin and eyes that sparkle with knowledge.
The kind of lady who you won’t have to explain to what Charlie Hebdo is.
Even though her beauty doesn’t jump right at you immediately, you can feel her confidence and charisma occupy the empty seat next to her.
You can tell that she has a terrific personality by the way she sits with her back straight. The way her chin remains upward.
The way she wears that look that is aloof but without being aggressively unfriendly at the same time.
She could be married or divorced, in a relationship or single, she could be a lesbian or a mother, or both, but what we know for a fact is what we can see; that she isn’t wearing a wedding band. But even that could mean anything.
You can tell she has been around the block. That all the innocence of her 20’s has been replaced with a hard-won cynicism in her 30s.
You can tell she has fought many fights, some small, others big. She has fought men and she has fought women and she has lost some and won a few, but that all the wins didn’t give her as much pleasure as she imagined they would because they were about making a statement, not derivatives of pleasure.
You can tell that at that age her circle of friends has grown smaller and smaller over time because she has continually appraised them and weeded out those who have become baggage.
And she finds herself here, at this point of her life where she can come to a bar like this alone and order a drink because she doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone, least of all, herself.
You know she is alone, and isn’t waiting for anyone because she isn’t looking at the door, or her watch. She isn’t on her phone to go on Facebook or Twitter because she is trying to kill time, to look engaged or distracted.
She is just happy to be alone. With her thoughts. With her drink. With her time.
We are about five men on this particular bar counter and she is the only lady. We have recognised her presence, all right, even though she doesn’t seem to have recognised ours.
But I’m sure she might have because she is a woman, and they are subtle and alert. I can bet if we asked her, she will tell us what colour of socks all of us are wearing at that counter. Including the barman.
That’s how women are with minutiae. Because the bar we are in is those bars where we don’t assume a lone woman needs company, we don’t bother her.
Nobody sends her a drink. Nobody ogles at her. At this point we don’t even see her as a lady. We don’t see her as a man either. She is just one of us without being like us.
She’s the lone lady at the bar. I’m forever fascinated by this type.
I always sit and wonder who they are, what they do, where they come from, the struggles they face, what they are thinking and I always play this game in my head where I profile them.
Show of poise
The lone lady at the bar is the type who manages to sit alone without looking lonely.
The type who you know doesn’t want your company, or your business card, or your lame opening lines. And it’s sexy because it’s not even a show of independence; it’s a show of poise.
However, there is a difference between this girl and a high-class hooker. While you might attempt to catch this girl’s eye, the hooker will attempt to catch yours.
She will hold your gaze ever so briefly, then look away as if she is just too shy to look you in the eye. Well, she isn’t shy at all. She is a long-tailed fox.
But the lone lady at the bar decides how many glasses of whatever she is drinking she is going to consume and then she will run her card and get off her stool. We will all watch her go, with a mixture of feelings: regret, thin-veiled admiration, fascination, wonder, lust…
It takes quite a woman to sit alone at a bar, amongst men, and not feel like she’s over her head. To sit in the lair of men and command respect.
To buy her own drink and own her own space in that bar without drawing too much attention to her sex. For that we raise our glass to you, because it’s sexy.
And just to be clear, sexiness is not a dress you wear. Sexiness is how your presence wears a room.
By JACKSON BIKO