Tuesday, February 14, 2012

{a helpful guide to men, according to a barista}

it's valentine's day. but you knew that already. 
i mean, you had to: 48 percent of the population is thrilled about it and 48 percent is devastated. it's like the day after the superbowl, or every time lady gaga comes out with a new cd. there's not a whole bunch of middle ground. 

don't worry. i'm not here to spill all the juicy details of my valentine's day. we're not overly valentinesy around these parts anyway. we're in that 4% of people, leaning more slightly towards thrilled, but not out to spend an arm and a leg on flowers which will inevitably rot on the counter. but, i mean, you feel free. 

however, because i know that there will be a lot of dating going on in the world this evening, and because i know that a lot of that dating will be taking place in coffee shops across the globe, i thought i'd share an essay written by my friend, carmen. it's a truly insightful piece. {it'd be better if you knew carmen in real life, because then you could picture the facial expressions she'd make while saying all of the words, but it is a good read nonetheless.}

{Subtitle: Why the First Date Should Always Be at the Coffee Shop}
By Carmen

I had the lovely privilege of working at a coffee shop this last spring and summer while I finished school.

It was lovely because I had delightful co-workers and a fabulous boss.  It was a privilege because, after school year after school year of working financially lucrative but emotionally draining part-time jobs, I was only responsible for two things: get people their coffee, and make it good.

But if you've known me for any length of time, you've already anticipated that I somehow made a simple, relatively mindless job into some sort of investigation.  Because I like investigations.  I like methods.  I like patterns and clues.  And above all else, I like thinking that I can figure people out.

So.  Without further ado, I present my deeply profound and unfalteringly accurate treatise on what a woman can tell about a man by the type of coffee he orders.


A coffee means that he is strong of character, not given to following trends, and wastes neither time, words nor money.

An americano means that he has all the characteristics of the coffee man, but with a touch of class.  He probably wears a scarf in the fall, and he keeps shoe polish on hand.

An espresso --regardless of how it's served-- points to a slightly aloof man.  Now, I'll be the first to admit that there is some grey area here.  He could be pretentious (check to see if he has a large ring on his pinky finger, is wearing only organic wool, and/or has an unbroken copy of "War and Peace" under his arm) or he could be cultured (for example, does he meet with other customers to debate and laugh together in a foreign language?).  This also applies to cappuccinos.

A tea means that he values the home.  He doesn't care what people think of him, and he talks of his mother with deep respect.  If, however, he orders a fruit or berry tea, drop him immediately; you will never measure up, in his mind, to his mother. 

A London Fog (some call it an Earl Grey latte) means --well, I don't know how to put this softly.  He's a bit childish.  He's never really gotten over the giddiness of being an adult, and he tends to assert his self-perceived maturity in ill-timed and inappropriate ways.

A basic latte man is likely just going along with the flow.  He doesn't see why some people love coffee shops and why some people love to hate the idea of four dollar drinks.  Coffee shops serve his immediate purpose and, besides, his girlfriend loves them.

If a latte man wants a flavor in his drink, the barista must consider which flavor before judging him.  Something mainstream like vanilla or hazelnut barely matters.  See "basic latte man" --he probably doesn't even know that he could request a different flavor.  If he asks for something like "toasted marshmallow" or "pumpkin spice," however, he is susceptible to advertising and easily led by popular opinion.  This sort of man believes that his coolness increases with the length of his drink's name.  The Caramel Macchiato man is resolutely in this latter category.

Most men who order mochas, in my experience, don't even know what's in it.  "That's, like, coffee with, like, milk?  ...and chocolate?  Seriously?  Huh."  See "basic latte man" but add a bit of bad money managing.

The Hot Chocolate man. This man is not the kind you want to date. No, this man is the kind you want to marry.* The Hot Chocolate man knows who he is. He likes hot chocolate and he's going to order hot chocolate, regardless of what you or his buddies think of him for doing so. Maybe he sounds a bit too set in his ways-- a bit too lone wolf? Just watch his eyes light up when the barista asks him if he wants whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Snatch him up quickly, before she does.

*The only exception to this rule is if he thinks he's cute for ordering hot chocolate and keeps mentioning the fact.

There are many more drinks, of course, but you get the idea.  What complicate the issue more [read: what makes the investigation more interesting] are any specific requests made by the man to the barista regarding the drink.  I've summarized them below for your benefit.

Black: He's straight-forward and simple; what you see is what you get.
He specifically requests whole milk:  He cares a little too much about being a man's man.  Has probably practiced his Rambo face in the mirror (bandanna optional).
He specifically requests skim milk:  He thinks a little too much about his figure.
He specifically requests sugar-free syrup:  He's prone to dramatic spurts.  Probably whines when his team loses and boast obnoxiously when they win, always forgetting that he had nothing to do with it either way.
To his coffee or tea, he adds milk: He's on the right path and has the right goals.  Cheer him on-- he'll be a great man if he has the right woman behind him.
To his coffee or tea, he adds sugar: He doesn't like conflict.

And there you have it.

Having contemplated this system for some time, and having been convinced of its accuracy, I told my boss one day, "I could never respect a man who orders a skinny London Fog."  She laughed.

The next day, a young, tough, swaggering male police officer came into the shop.  You know where this is going, don't you?

He was, no doubt, used to women's heads turning after his uniform.  His very aura demanded respect.  And he ordered a London Fog.  Remembering my conversation with my boss, and dearly hoping to laugh, I asked him, "Would you like whole milk or skim?"  He said, "Oh, skim, please!" 

With all my strength, I kept my face straight and asked mischievously, "And would you like the sugar-free syrup as well?"

He said, "Sure, that'd be great!"  Poor man.  For his sake, I hope the woman he dates doesn't read my blog.