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What would you like, madam? Oh, I’ll have the waiter please

2011 May 28
by Zoe Strimpel

What is it about men smilingly at your service?

I had suspected, in a shadowy way, that I have a thing for the staff.

Specifically, the catering staff. Waiters, barmen, sommeliers.

I’ve pounced on more than a few of each of the above types – in their male form, obviously. But it had been a while, and I had begun to think it was a phase, the last vestiges of an immaturity I’m moving past as I near 30. Yes, I’d had an out and out THING with one (as it turned out, cheating) sommelier, a passionate crush on another, snogged a few waiters and even, once, a canape server at the FT Christmas party. There was the champagne cocktail mixologist, too, at a financial PR party way back (pre crunch), whose understanding of what goes with what quite knocked me off my feet.

But recently I’d thought I’d moved into less, erm, obvious pastures. Ie, where the men don’t instantly appeal to me in the way that Playboy Bunnies appeal to, erm, men who frequent Playboy Clubs (of which there is one reopening in London as we speak).

Until the St Pancras Hotel opened. And now I realise: I have a thing, perhaps even a fetish, for the professionally serving man. The truth always outs in drunkenness, does it not? Well, at the opening of the hotel, there was a big bash. I had had a jeroboam (probably) of Perrier-Jouet by 11. By 1AM I thought it’s pull or bust. And despite there being swarms of suited men of all different types, who did I set my sights on but the bar supervisor. After all, there he was in his reassuring little uniform, ready to cater to my every need. Of course, he wasn’t really there to cater to my every need – just my needs relating to cocktails. My needs relating to drunken intimacy were not part of his job description. That didn’t stop me having a go. First, I talked to him for as long as I could before he had to go and serve OTHER PEOPLE. Then I hung around. By 2AM I felt that I’d been so persistent and had invested so much time, that if I didn’t get my man, as it were, I’d be rather cross. So every time he entered the room, tidying up glasses and so forth, I’d sally over to him and as good as say: “I’m waitttttiiiiiiiiiing!” He told me as clearly as his job permitted that he wasn’t going anywhere, least of all my place, so – shoving both my business cards at him (Ralph, if you’re reading this, HELLO!) – I retreated to the Spanish couple who had adopted me. Then, at 3:30, I gave up the ghost and grabbed a cab home, wishing I had someone in a suit to feed me canapes en route.

Not one to be put off, though, I realised instantly the power in my hands. He worked there, and I knew where “there” was. Not only that, his place of work is the type where the public can go – if a pervy (within reason) customer frequents a bar, what of it? If you frequent a law office with pervatious or flirtatious intent, it’s a different story. So I’ve been back three times with different friends – and, between deep and immersive conversations – I still find myself enjoying the occasional smile and wink with old Ralph more than I should. Last time I went, though, a complete hottie turned up to deliver the fourth glass of South African Chenin. His name tag said something rather interesting, so I couldn’t resist – I asked where he was from. (My two great passions are attractive men and strange origins. Combined, I have got into some degree of trouble). Then we had a good long conversation. When we left, I thought, I LIKE HIM. Another part of me thought: YOU HAVE BECOME A PERVY OLD MAN. Does fancying people who are paid to serve you drinks in a charming way amount to a pathology? I wonder. So, despite my friend suggesting I leave my number for him, I gathered myself up and left the half-hour tableside flirt where it was. After all, he could always find me if he really wanted – I paid by card, and there’s Facebook. So far, he hasn’t banged my door down, but again, that doesn’t mean I won’t be trying to bang his down again (or rather, stroll through it’s distinctly open frame).

So the question of this attraction to serving men does raise questions. Am I delusional, believing myself in need of a slave, servant or concubine (See earlier post on my desire for a male concubine figure) – like some sort of princess of the Orient, Egypt or France? Do I think I’m Cleopatra and can take who I want? Perhaps it’s more of an English thing, a Gosford Park style thing or, more poetically, a Lady Chatterley thing. Is it a sign of not feeling up to men who might want to be really super nice and charming to me…for the sake of it? (Could it, then, be a self esteem thing?!?!) Whether it’s perverse imperiousness or low self-esteem, it could also be simple attraction. Why?

-They wear snippety uniforms in the manner of tuxedos, suits and the like. Involving black and white and good trousers, this can be very attractive apparel. (Nametags are a downside if they have them but are good for starting conversation). Sommeliers looks particularly sharp and their wine knowledge is attractive. I also like their little grape brooches.

-They are the quintessence of courteous. Most men the modern woman encounters these days are not the quintessence of courteous. It is sad that such manners are now confined to paid waitstaff, but there we are.

-They form great associations. Man=drink. Nice man brings you lovely cocktail. No wonder I form an attachment.

-They tend to be good looking. The head barman at St Pancras told me last night (yep, was there again), that at Bungalow Eight, Amy Sacco only wants “bar staff I would want to have sex with”. I hear you Amy, but it’s not enough, they have to also bring you your drinks.

Wow. This list is convincing. While I’m waiting for my Bach-loving, Tolstoy reading, Economist subscribing, tax-paying homeowner future husband to roll into view, I think I might pass the time daydreaming about the men who bring me drinks with a smile thrown in.



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