For those who dare to downtown

in Cherimie Crane/Contributors by

By Cherimie Crane Weatherford
After a most unusual day of cow chasing, key dropping, contract confusion and acceptance that all is not well with the world, I chose to venture out of my cave.  A night out with my girlfriends was not only long overdue but an obvious solution to a defeated attitude. I couldn’t help but remember the days of singlehood and desperately trying to navigate the choppy waters of social Beaufort. As I began my journey into getting ready, I couldn’t help but be thankful I survived.
Like all females, I enjoy the ceremonial going out grooming routine. I whirl through my closet with wildebeest intent only to rise from the mountain of rejects with the very first outfit I attempted. The preparations, for the most part, are the same as they were in my pre-married state. The contrast comes in the actual outing. During my single days, walking in a bar took a strategic, almost methodical set of guidelines, rules, and cautionary measures.  As any woman knows, first impressions are critical in survival of the social scene. One must be pretty, but no too pretty; dress fashionably, not too fashionably; and only make eye contact with either gender if first given approval by their respective spouses, ex-spouses, girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, and any other individual who at any point at some stake in emotional ownership. It is an unspoken yet highly enforced rule in a small town. Anyone not familiar with the ties that bind can find themselves in quite the predicament. Somehow being married lessens the sting.
Having lived the throes of single life in our lovely little town, I feel it incumbent upon me to offer advice to any poor soul unfamiliar with the hierarchy of the jungle. It wasn’t too long ago that someone took me under their wing and delicately explained the rules, dangers, and escape routes necessary to social scene survival. Without the careful instruction, I would have certainly been a statistic among the socially dead.  In keeping with the pay-it-forward mentality, I offer the following tips to any newcomer or re-emergent individual who dares to downtown.
Once the outfit and make-up stage is complete, it is now time to practice the most fundamental of social graces. It is imperative that before ever entering the world of downtown, one must rehearse several scenarios to perfection. Staring at the floor is preferred over staring at one’s odd choice of shoes, no matter how shoe-icidal they may appear, stare at the floor. Staring at the floor is a safety precaution that often deters even the fiercest of predator. If you made the grave error of making eye contact when eye contact was not yet approved, immediately revert to the stare at the floor tactic. It could very well save your life.
Another seemingly impossible situation would be any sentence that starts with “Did you know…” This is a trick, a trap, and must be avoided at all costs. If you find yourself in a conversation that includes the portentous phrase, there is only one maneuver. Immediately begin sneezing, sneeze wildly and without abandon. There is no winner in the “Did you know…” and no one is safe, so sneeze and retreat.
The background check is one of the more difficult but the most necessary of preparations. Whether you peruse Facebook FBI style or have the bartender on speed dial, you may want to adequately educate yourself on anyone you may or may not have a conversation with, stand by, be seen in the same general area, or worst case, accept a drink. The most common fatal error is speaking with someone who at any point in time and in any capacity dated any one who may consider you a friend. Hell hath no fury, and no vacancy. Should you find yourself in this Twister of Turmoil, there is only one acceptable reaction. You obviously have to move and/or become publicly celibate. Do not make this mistake, only speak when spoken to if you do not have a list of their friends, their enemies, their pharmacist, and the last four digits of their social. What may seem like an innocent introduction can land you in the abyss of absolute isolation by all of those better informed. The walls have eyes, the eyes have iPhones and everyone will know that you committed this mortal sin before you ever finish your drink.
There are many who survive frequent social outings without dents or damages, but they are rare and should be respected. They are the unmentioned heroes of hang outs, masters of mingling, and their ability to walk through the briars unscathed is a thing of beauty. They are professionals, they know who to talk to, what to wear, who to avoid, and who to tip well. You can only hope to attain such status as it requires a local birth certificate and years of experience. For the rest of us, we must learn the ways of the wild, the laws of the land, and the quickest routes home when happy hour goes awry.
Small towns have their own rules, their own food chain and an encyclopedia of acceptable behaviors. Knowing the rules levels the field, ignoring them often levels individuals. The changes in tide, the pull of the moon, and the salt of the air can often be blamed for the odd social norms. It is fairly understandable that placing so many people in such a small area can, without fail, produce interesting results. Going downtown to enjoy all the camaraderie, all the comedy and all the confusion is a great alternative to folding clothes or cleaning baseboards. There are friendships to be made, memories to cherish and embarrassing encounters to endure.  When the sun fades and the bars brighten, arm yourself with good friends, good manners, and possibly a good attorney; one thing is certain, there will be much to talk about the following day.