How Karaoke Helped Me Overcome My Social Anxiety To Actually Talk To the Cute Girl At The Bar

This is a brief tale in how for the very first time, I made a move on a woman who I’d never met before that night.  This is for all of my socially-inept, gameless females out there who have low-grade social anxiety attacks when even entertaining the thought of approaching any stranger - no less an attractive one.  Know that there is hope.  You might have to wait until you’re almost 27 years old, but there is hope.

I have what I like to call “game over time.”  I don’t tend to be legitimately interested in people unless I’ve gotten to know them for awhile and a certain chemistry between us has been established.  Then once we start to flirt a little bit, I’ll pull out the guns, turn up the charm a little bit, send a couple of intentional text messages garnished with emojis and try to get a hang out going.  I’ve never attempted to pursue a woman who I hadn’t known for at least a couple of months.

It’s an entirely different story with it comes to attractive strangers in bars.

When it comes to making moves on women in bars, I have a tried and true* method: stare and make ‘em stare.

(*this method does not work)

It’s simple, really.  I hone in on the girl who I find attractive that night and cast furtive glances from afar, hoping to strike eye contact.  If I’m lucky, she’ll happen to look in my direction, our eyes will lock for an incredibly awkward millisecond in which I surely look like a gaping zombie, and then she’ll go back to scoping out women with a much better fashion sense than me.

Or in most cases, she’ll go back to being, you know, straight.

The second fold of the attack is taking over the dance floor, amping up the theatrics, and busting out a few of my signature moves as my friends holler and laugh. Similar to Starkiller Base, absorbing this attention just makes me more powerful, intensifying my dramatics until I’ve created a true spectacle of myself.Occasionally, the fact that I am willfully making a fool of myself for the entertainment of my peers will attract the attention of the woman who I’ve been eying, who will then be incredibly amused, and we’ll make smiling eye contact that actually isn’t awkward, giving me a gateway to flash her a charming grin before I spin on my heels and shimmy my fingers.  Then never actually talk to her for the rest of the night.

Or the woman will roll her eyes at me, and that’s that. But I keep on dancing anyway, because I don’t do it for the ass, I do it for the people!

This method has gotten me approximately zero numbers.  But it has landed me many a stranger’s snapchat, so I guess I’ll take what I can get.

With a deft ease that never ceases to amaze me, some people can approach a woman they are interested in without having a miniature social anxiety attack.  As someone who has dealt with social anxiety disorder since she was eleven, this person is never me.  It’s an interesting dichotomy, where I have no problem with creating a spectacle of myself for strangers to watch, but the second actual social interaction is involved, I’m prone to completely shutting down.

Needless to say, I have never approached a woman at bar or a club, engaged her in flirtatious small talk before offering to buy her a drink or asking for her number.  My heart rate literally increased just by typing that sentence.  At best, with a few drinks, I’ve managed to approach a woman on a friend’s behalf, but even that has happened maybe twice and after at least two beers.

That all changed last weekend.

I’ve been working on a truly life-changing experience these past couple of months called “Calling All Lesbians”, which is a documentary film where my friends and I are exploring the lesbian community and culture in six different cities.  This past weekend, we officially embarked on the first part of the road trip segment of this journey and spent the weekend in Long Beach, CA and San Diego, CA.

Our Long Beach adventure brought us to Club Ripples, a gay bar that hosts a ladies’ night on Fridays called “Syrens.”  More importantly, they have a beautiful bartender with a great smile who immediately won the hearts of most of our crew with no effort on her part.  

Most importantly, they had karaoke.

Not to brag, but I’m a karaoke kween.  I shed all shame to give an impassioned, dramatic and hilarious performance from my repertoire of karaoke klassics.  Because I’m not a particularly good singer (I’m not bad, but no one would turn their chairs for me on The Voice), I find that there’s a certain freedom in karaoke where it’s not about trying to impress anybody.  It’s about unapologetically just being who I am, having a fun time with my friends, and most importantly, giving something for other people to enjoy.  I just want everybody to have a good time, ya’know?

Karaoke is something I’ve been doing regularly for the past eight years, and at this point, it’s honestly not just a hobby: it’s a passion.

I am also an apparently rare breed of person who does not have to be drunk to do karaoke.  Actually, I have never been drunk when I’ve done karaoke, because the thrill and joys of delivering a slightly differently-keyed cover of a beloved song gives me the only buzz I need in that moment.  Karaoke just be my kalling.  

So the second I saw that Club Ripples had karaoke going on, there was no question that I was definitely going to be taking the mic multiple times that night.  When I karaoke in a new place, I have a signature song that I always go to as sort of my official introduction, because I know that it without a fail never misses its mark.  It has all the qualities that I think makes for a great karaoke anthem: it’s widely known, but isn’t a downer; the song selection in itself will make people laugh, and it’s easy to turn into a comprehensive, entertaining performance because of the nature of the song.

This song is The Thong Song by Sisqo.  A truly ridiculous song that I’ve been slaying since 2011.

Performing The Thong Song at by best friend's birthday in August 2015, where people were so moved by the performed that they rushed onto the stage to twerk on me 

Performing The Thong Song at by best friend's birthday in August 2015, where people were so moved by the performed that they rushed onto the stage to twerk on me 

People really get into The Thong Song.  It’s weird, considering how one of the lyrics is “she got dumps like a truck, truck truck” and that line is repeated multiple times.

Naturally, it was a hit at Club Ripples, solidifying me as a karaoke force to be reckoned with and leaving me amped to keep the adrenaline going.

Meanwhile, my friends were swooning over one of the bartenders who apparently was really cute, but since I was caught up with highly scientific process of choosing my next karaoke banger, I didn’t really pay that any mind.

But karaoke is a emotionally and physically exhausting activity that deserves all of me, so naturally I had sweated out half of my body weight during my performance of The Thong Song and needed to hydrate.  So looking like a sweaty mess, I went up to the bar to get a water.

And then I saw her. The bartender.

She served me a water, and I immediately fell in love, as one would.  That smile!  That presence!  I had to interact with her more!  

But how? As previously established, initiating actual conversation - especially with flirtatious intent - is a good way to give myself an anxiety attack.  And there was only so many times I could get water, especially since I wasn’t drinking alcohol that night.  I tagged along pointlessly when my friend Claire went to order a drink, hoping I could silently but charmingly grin my way into this bartender’s heart, and though I was graced with a little bit of a laugh as I ended up ordering a Sprite, it still wasn’t enough.

I had to make my mark.

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I was going be 100% okay with embarrassing myself, because I was sick of subconsciously seeking out validation from other people. I wanted to be okay with failing, of having eyes rolled at me, for not getting reactions that I want, as long as I’m being authentic and not doing anything for approval.

Entirely sober (but definitely underslept, which makes for a different kind of uninhibited loopiness), and running off of a karaoke high and cute bartender induced adrenaline, I decided to put this into practice.

I turned to Claire.

“I’m going to dedicate a karaoke song to the cute bartender.”
Claire’s eyes lit up.

So it was settled.  I was gonna do it.  I was finally going to openly declare my romantic interest in a stranger at a bar, but in the most brazen (and potentially mortifying) of ways.

First, I had to select the perfect song.  It had to fulfill all my usual requirements. It had to be smooth as hell, because duh.  And it had to state my intentions (“I want to get to know ya, girl”) without coming on too strongly (so “Let’s Get Married” by Jagged Edge wouldn’t be the best choice in this case, though in other situations it would be a karaoke hit).

After asking my friends, the ultimate choice was given to me:

“Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber.  

Immediately, I knew it was the perfect selection.  Plus it’s a song that I’m well-acquainted with because I’ve used it as a serenade for many a love interest.*

*It’s a song that I’ve belted out the lyrics to as I sit in traffic, imagining that I’m singing it to some girl I have a crush on.

Next, I had to find out the name of the my bartender, because there were a couple of them - all brunettes and at least two with an “alternative lifestyle haircut” (the bartender of my affections had one side of her head shaved, making her look very similar to Demi Lovato circa 2014, which only served to fuel the fire within). I didn’t want there to be any doubt as to whom my song was for.

Thanks to Claire, who was all for the cause and did some subtle snooping for me, I found out that I would be dedicating the Justin Bieber classic to Danielle.

Our names rhyme.  It’s fate.

One of the many perfect things about Club Ripples was that it wasn’t overcrowded, so I didn’t have to wait endlessly in-between karaoke performances.  In what felt like no time, I was called up to take the mantle once more.

Ignoring the urge to vomit all over the mic, as the DJ music softened and the karaoke instrumental started to fill, and I took a deep breath and faked the shit out of my confidence.

“I’m going to dedicate this song to the cute bartender over there, Danielle.  This is for you.”

As my friends cheered and the DJ made an amused, impressed comment, I snuck a glance over to the bar, where Danielle was in the middle of pouring a drink and seem to be very confused as to what was going on.  


But I was already up there, mic in hand, so I had to go through with it.

“If I was your girlfriend , I’d never let you go.”

The crowd went wild, which seems like a very ridiculous thing to say in regards to a karaoke performance, but it happened.

All in all, I was relatively satisfied (though I couldn’t quite say ‘hello’ to falsetto in the way Bieber can) with what I had done, and especially satisfied with the way the people around me were reacting.

But to my disappointment, Danielle was not staring at me with googly eyes from behind the bar, waiting for my marriage proposal.

Considering it a romantic fail, but glad I had taken the risk regardless, I let it roll off of my shoulders and started plotting my next karaoke move: “My Heart Will Go On.”

Yes, the Celine Dion masterpiece from the greatest cinematic venture of all time, Titanic.  

Not even ten minutes had passed, and I was back in the center with the microphone again, not in hopes of seducing a bartender, but to return to the roots of karaoke: a good time.

I may have just delivered one of the best karaoke performances of my life that night.  And I’ve done at least a hundred karaoke performances, but everything came together in that moment.  The crowd was perfect and involved, as bar-goers starting waltzing behind me.  My friends were so invested and vocal, hollering and singing along like true friends do.  My voice was surprisingly on-pitch for the vast majority of the song.  And my dramatics game was on point, because an anthem like that needs to be performed with passion.  I’m talking about twirls, dropping down to my knees, clutching the table, randomly quoting Titanic lines during instrumental lulls sort of passionate dramatics.

I collapsed amongst my friends afterwards, very satisfied, but still wondering about the whole bartender situation.  She wasn’t casting alluring looks in my direction, disappointedly enough, but at the goading of my friends, I decided to send representatives on my behalf to scope out what Danielle was thinking.

They returned with surprisingly pleasing news!

First off, Danielle had no idea what was going on during my “Boyfriend” performance, because I  had announced my dedication in the middle of her taking an order, so she ended up missing most of it.

She did, however, catch “My Heart Will Go On” in its full glory and said that it was very impressive.

BRB buying a U-Haul and ordering “save the dates.”

Fine, okay, it wasn’t a blatant declaration of love, but it wasn’t a complete failure, either.  Encouraged, I gathered up the last bit of confidence not spent on my karaoke triple-feature and dragged my friend Monica to the bar to me so that I could do the unthinkable:

Actually initiate social contact with an attractive stranger at a bar and have it not be under the pretense of ordering a drink!

It’s funny - I had just performed “The Thong Song”, “Boyfriend” and “My Heart Will Go On”, ripe with average vocals and ridiculous antics and didn’t think twice about it.

Yet having to approach the bar and talk to this woman nearly unraveled me in anxiety.  But I clung to my unofficial New Year's resolution: I was going to be okay with potentially making a fool of myself.

So I talked to her.  For a good ten minutes. We laughed a little, bantered a bit, talked about Calling All Lesbians, found out that we were both vegans, and then I delivered the hook, line, and sinker.

I gave her my business card.

I know, I know - the epitome of smooth.

Okay, fine, I know that’s a cop out, and I know that it could’ve easily read as the douchiest thing in the world, but luckily I was in town specifically for “Calling All Lesbians” work, so it made sense to give her my “Calling All Lesbians” card that just happened to have my full name and, you know, phone number on the back.

Ultimately, I don’t think anything beyond a nice conversation with a cute girl will come of it, nor did I really expect it to.  I mean, she lives in Long Beach - that might as well be a long distance relationship. I wouldn’t deal with that commute and traffic for Selena Gomez herself.  Plus when it comes down to it, I would still prefer to date someone who I’ve already known for at least a few months.

But my experience on Friday night wasn’t about trying to get the girl.  It was the fact that I was able to do something that I had absolutely never done before, that I usually balk at the thought of doing.  I put myself out there in a way that I’m not used it, and the world didn’t end.

Rejection is a bitch, but it can’t be a dictating force in my life.  And if the most I have to lose is a bit of pride, then I say it’s worth the risk every time.  But ironically, I gained a little bit of pride on Friday.  It sounds minute and ridiculous, but I’m proud of myself for initiating a move and making my intentions known.  I still wouldn’t say I have game, but it’s at least a start; it gives me a bit of a confidence boost moving forward.

Part of what drew me to “Calling All Lesbians” was the ideas of spontaneity, experience and adventures.  That one little moment on Friday embodied all of that for me: I’m doing things new things, not overthinking them, and enjoying what comes of it.  I think that’s how life’s supposed to be lived, and I look forward to embracing that more as the journey of CAL continues.

Also, I got to sharpen my lack of game a little, and came out of it with a revelation:

When your body has a metaphorical allergic reaction to flirtatiously engaging with strangers of your preferred gender, you have to get unconventional in your methods.  This can work to your advantage, because your originality - for better or for worse - will make you stand out to your object of affection.  Attractive people are used to being hit on, so use the fact that you can only hit on people if you are literally running into them in true awkward glory in a crowded bar to your advantage and serve up a little something different.  If anything, it’ll leave you with a good story to tell that just may become legendary.

And I’m determined that one day, karaoke will get me the girl.  Now that I have this new method of karaoke dedication in back pocket, you best believe I’ll be pulling it out more.