It was only sometime ago that a girlfriend and I ended up at the Ace Hotel for what we thought was going to be a regular girls’ night out with a couple of cocktails and the normal chatter about the tortures of tutorial here at Chatham, the joys and woes of relationships, and everything in between.
The building used to be the YMCA in East Liberty but has been renovated into a hotel with a popular bar and restaurant inside of it. The building itself is impressive with extremely high ceilings and dramatically white walls. The drinks here are super fancy, small, and expensive, but those are all sure signs that whatever you are drinking will be delicious, which they were.
So, as my friend and I sat in the lounge area of the bar, a few gentlemen approached us who seemed to know everyone in the entire building and had an obvious influence on the staff waiting on them. We soon came to learn that they were restaurateurs in the local area and had just gotten off work. They soon took it upon themselves to entertain us for the rest of the night with more fancy drinks and ridiculous stories about life in the industry.
I was so excited to be talking to people in the restaurant scene here in Pittsburgh because, obviously, that’s kind of my “thing.” I tried mentioning my own experience with writing and making videos about chefs, restaurants, and food in the area in a futile attempt to make a lasting impression on these professionals.
The scoop was deep — I learned all about new restaurants opening up, which restaurants had new menus, and all kinds of silly gossip on the local chefs. As the night began wrapping up, they insisted we come to one of their restaurants the next weekend so we could try all of the new plates on the menu and join them in some more conversation. I became so caught up listening to the inside scoop on all of the hottest restaurants in Pittsburgh and being impressed by the promises of delicious food that I didn’t even realize what was really happening…
There it was. They wined and dined me, and I insist it wasn’t consensual because I was really under the blind impression that I was networking. We were saying our goodbyes and I realized that neither of them remembered my name or even what my skills were. Should I have had a card on hand to give to them? Would it have made a difference? Probably not.
Although being wined and dined can be a pleasant experience in the right situation, it can also feel degrading and kind of weird. I love eating and drinking and being with good company, but never do I want to be a prop placed at the side of an industry person or placed in a restaurant as a tool of persuasion. I want to be at the same table as these guys literally and figuratively, in the sense that I want to be around these important people in the industry no matter what, but I also want to be respected and seen as a professional.
That’s hard, though. Being 22 and a woman doesn’t always invite the most useful attention which can be discouraging, but I also recognize there is a really nice feeling that comes out of being blown off as some young girl and then proving later that I do have skills.
Moral of the story? If they can’t help you, then you can’t help them. There would never be any follow up wining and dining in the near future between the five of us. Instead, my friend and I would go out and eat a bunch of queso cheese dip, go dancing, and finish the night off with a good sisterhood snuggle in bed while we chatted about spanking patriarchy, creating art people love (or don’t love), and fantasizing about how ridiculous and funny it would be if the tables turned and we were the ones wining and dining them.