No, I Don’t Do Bars (An Autistic/Social Anxiety Rant)

So I might have just lost my one and only friend from my high school days over an incident tonight and it’s one of those “sorry/not sorry” kind of things.

So I was out on the town this afternoon/evening checking out a new local microbrewery. I’m a beer lover so I’m always sure to check those places out and I asked said friend what she was up to today. She had a birthday party to go to but afterward she and a few of them were going to a winery. OK cool, I love wineries too and the one they picked out also has a selection of humidified, ready-to-smoke cigars and I’m like “oh fun, I’ll chill, chat, have a glass of wine and a cigar and life will be good.”

Well, as it turns out the winery closed early tonight for whatever reason (their website says open until midnight but they shut down at like 9 tonight I guess). Well damn, that’s out of the question; so the alternative plan was to go to this tequila bar on the other side of town. Well, I politely declined because I just don’t do bars and it led to some back-and-forth between us and ouch; some damage might have been done (her last text to me was simply “OK, no pressure” – yeah, what am I supposed to make of that?).

I have to be honest, though: I don’t like bars. I don’t like the bar atmosphere. Yeah, I like to go out and have drinks but not in a bar. If I’m going to go have a few drinks it’s going to be some place like a brewery, a winery or a pub type thing that doesn’t have that rough-and-tumble bar atmosphere. I haven’t been in a bar in years and probably won’t ever again.

The reality is that bars make me highly uncomfortable. My social anxiety goes off the charts. Actually the last time I was in a bar was about three years ago and I got kicked out. I wouldn’t have normally gone to this bar but it was a craft beer bar so I figured I’d check it out. Well, the owner was offended because I was wearing my short shorts and told me I had to leave (his exact words were “you can’t wear panties in [insert name of bar here].”). Well, it was totally a blatant incident of gender discrimination because there were women in there wearing less clothing than me but I didn’t put up a fight, finished my beer, cashed out and left never to return. That incident might have been what put me over the top but all I know is the idea of going to a bar just freaks me out now.

If it’s one thing you have to understand to be my friend it’s that there are certain places and settings that make me totally uncomfortable and I have to avoid for my own mental well-being. I’ve set that boundary and I stick firmly to it. When I decline your invitation to a bar it’s nothing against you as a person, it’s just I have to respect my own limitations.

No, I don’t expect you (as a neurotypical) to understand. That would be totally unreasonable. That would be like asking a cisgender person to understand what it’s like to be transgender or a heterosexual person to understand what it’s like to be attracted to the same sex. It’s something beyond comprehension for the people who don’t live in that reality. That’s fine. What I ask for instead is respect and tolerance and to realize that some situations are just unsuitable for me.

I understand my own needs can’t always be accommodated and that’s when I say “thanks but no thanks, catch you some other time.” I have no desire to rain on anyone’s parade. That’s not the kind of person I am. I don’t expect you to bend over backwards for me. I just ask that if you’re going some place I don’t particularly feel comfortable in or if I’m really not feeling social at a given time and just want to stay home that my wishes be respected. As mentioned, it’s nothing against you, it’s just one of the joys (joys? hah, who the fuck am I kidding?) of being me.

Please don’t be mad at me. I know at times I can seem like a terrible friend but I promise you I’m not and I mean nothing bad when I say “sorry, I can’t do this.” Please forgive me and I’ll meet up with you in a more “friendly” venue soon.

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