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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Cowboy Code: Chapter 10, Accidental Charity

If you've just arrived in the State of Burnettiquette, then you may not be familiar with the Cowboy Code.

It has nothing to do with cattle hustlers. Rather it's the guideline by which young gentlemen should deal with one another these days, where women are concerned. There have always been different names for it, but as far back as I can think - back to college more than 10 years ago, it has been the Cowboy Code.

It's the Cowboy Code that dictates thou shalt not ask your buddy's ex-girlfriend out on a date ever! Or at least not without his prior blessing and waiting six months to a year after their breakup.

The Cowboy Code says that if your buddy's girlfriend tries to trap him through you, by asking you if he really was hanging out with you last night, you don't give him up. You don't have to lie for him. But you smoothly give a neutral answer and then change the subject as soon as possible.

And the Cowboy Code says that no matter how big your crush on a woman is and regardless of whether you saw her first, if she seems more into your buddy than you, you should not keep trying as a sore loser would. You should step aside and graciously concede defeat.

So I was catching up with a good buddy, whom I consider a best friend - and I don't toss "best" around lightly. And he reminded me of a semi-funny situation that occurred in a booze hole in Milwaukee, shortly after Mrs. B and I got engaged. He reminded me, 'cause just last weekend he encountered the same situation and wasn't sure how to respond.

Here's the deal: Shortly after our engagement, I left work one evening with several buddies and strolled a few blocks to Milwaukee's Water Street bar row and we tipped a couple of pints. Mrs. B called and said she was wrapping up work and would join us for one if we didn't mind. We didn't.

Anyway, it was winter time. Colder than the girl who rejected my prom invite in senior year. And Mrs. B was bundled up in knit hat, scarf, mittens, etc. So when she arrived and spotted us, she detoured to the bar to place her order before joining us. Well, two young lions, fresh from their office stood next to her at the bar. And when the bartender brought Mrs. B's glass, one of the young lions hurriedly plunked money on the bar and said he'd get it. It was loud and crazy in there. Mrs. B tried to protest. He shushed her and insisted. She shrugged it off, and then took off her mittens so she could better hold the glass, and that's when the young lion saw the ring. He didn't say anything, but he turned beet red and turned away, apparently frustrated.

The exact same sort of scenario happened to my buddy over the weekend, except he was with a date, not a girlfriend, and not a fiance. The bar wasn't very crowded or loud. And in his case the guy who had bought his date a drink actually protested after the fact.

Now, when this happened several years ago, I felt bad for the young lion. He didn't know any better. And all because he didn't see Mrs. B's ring at first, he was out a few bucks. My instinct was to offer him the $3 or $4 he'd spent or to get his next round. But he was too proud to accept his money back as consolation prize, or a free drink. So I dropped it.

Faced with the same scenario, my buddy didn't even offer the cash or a drink to the slighted guy.

I don't know that our situations were any different. Or maybe they were, since I was with my then fiancee, and my buddy was with a first or second-time date.

The way I see it, Mrs. B had mittens on, so the guy who bought her drink couldn't have known at first that she was taken. And I gave him the benefit of the doubt that had he seen her ring up front, he wouldn't have offered to buy her drink.

My buddy? I sort of feel that since the place wasn't loud and crazy, and people could actually hear themselves talk, when they "buyer" paused for a breath the date could have spoken up and said she was with someone. Also, when you buy anyone anything in a bar, results are not guaranteed. There is a good chance they won't even say thank you, much less fall for you. So it's usually buyer beware.

Maybe I'm being a hypocrite. But I don't think so. Therefore, it's my judgment that my guy did not violate the Cowboy Code. What say you?

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  • I learned it as the "Guy Code"-same thing.
    But I would have done the same thing as your buddy, maybe worse depending on how work went.
    I might have gone up to him (before he saw her sit by me) and said something about how 'bad' hot chicks are now-a-days.
    ...And how whoever got her must have a line of B.S. and an *AHEM* 'that big' just to get her attention.

    By Blogger KurtP, at 1:12 AM  

  • Your buddy didn't violate the "cowboy code," but I can't give his date a pass.

    The "cowgirl code" obliged her to tell the waterhole denizen, thanks, but no thanks, to an offer of a drink, that she was being accompanied that night.

    It's the same kind of code that dictates a nod or thank you when a cowboy opens or holds a door open for a lady.

    It's the same kind of code that rates a thank you when a cowboy helps a lady be seated at a dining table.

    It's the same kind of code that requires a cowboy to return a lady to her table upon asking her for a dance, and the cowgirl code that says the lady should offer a thanks, or a gracious smile, at the end of the dance.

    It's the "code" that allows us to mingle, and interact with some civility.

    It's also called the "code of respect."

    To sum it up: your friend wasn't obligated to set things right. If the young lion offered the drink in hopes of scoring, he should have calculated the odds.

    The same goes for slot machines, roulette, or a game of strip poker.

    By Anonymous before the mayflower, at 1:57 AM  

  • You friend is in the clear, but his date may have infringed on the "dance with who brung ya" rule by not protesting the drink; it's not entirely clear that she did from your post.

    If she protested (as did Mrs. B) then she's clear, and the gentleman is S.O.L. according to the Cowboy Code. When you roll the dice, you pay the price; he rolled and lost. If a woman declines, a cowboy tips his hat and saunters on.

    By Blogger C.L. Jahn, at 8:52 AM  

  • Wait, why is it the date's fault? Do we know she had a chance to decline the free drink?

    Sorry, but I've been in situations where the bartender handed me my drink with a "[that guy] already paid for it." At that point, there's nothing to do, except say thanks. Besides, if you're buying a girl a drink expecting results, you're wasting your money. "Hoping" for results ... okay. "Expecting" them ... different story.

    As a woman whose been in the middle of this battle of testosterone more than a few times, I'm protesting. The right thing to do is for the guy to "ask" if he can get the drink before he actually pays for it.

    By Blogger SWF42, at 9:08 AM  

  • If anyone anywhere offers to buy me anything they get ONE out. I'll protest ONE time, unless I really want the thing and then I'll just say thanks. Offering to buy someone a drink is not making a deal. There is no quid pro quo involved, sorry guys. If it isn't meant solely as a compliment then don't do it.
    I don't feel bad for the guy in either scenario - If either had stared a conversation instead of going for his wallet...

    By Blogger WNG, at 11:25 AM  

  • I agree with c.l. jahn. If the date protested, it's "too bad/so sad" for the guy who bought the drink.

    If she didn't protest, she's clearly in the wrong but it's still "sucks to be you" for the guy who bought the drink.

    But I think, if there was friction occurring, your buddy should have offered him something just to smooth things over.

    "Look, there's obviously been a mistake. Here, take this and let's all go about our business."

    By Blogger Kevin, at 11:42 AM  

  • All these "rules" - geez, I had no idea things were this complicated. I don't think I could handle this much territorial wheelings and dealings. I never thought if a guy offered to buy me a drink that there were strings attached or that he was expecting something in return. I just accepted and said thank you.

    By Blogger Jeni, at 5:00 PM  

  • There was NO violation of the code. It is a "buyer beware" situation and guys need to take the good with the bad. Or at least try TALKING with the woman before buying her a drink.

    By Blogger ADW, at 6:47 PM  

  • I don't think your friend did anything wrong. The other commenters make enough arguments that raise enough doubts, that I'd say I can't say anything about the woman he had the date with or the other man involved.

    I wonder how your friend felt. Did he go out with her again?

    By Blogger The CEO, at 7:25 PM  

  • I don't think your friend did anything wrong. I think his date should have declined the drink because she was obviously with a date. The other guy should have never bought her a drink KNOWING she was on a date.

    Next time - tell your friend to take his date out to dinner to a restaurant so there isn't any "bar scene" there to have these incidents happen.

    Dreaming What Ifs...

    By Anonymous Karmyn R, at 2:16 PM  

  • I'm with everybody else. Home girl should have turned down the drink offer and told the guy she was with someone else.

    By Blogger GrizzBabe, at 9:42 AM  

  • it's everyman for himself out there--

    screw the cowboy code! you can't date a cowboy--unless you're the guy from Brokeback Mountain...

    in which case, to each his own.

    By Blogger Crashtest Comic, at 7:13 AM  

  • Verily, nay thy comrade didst not violate the most sacred of codes!

    In sooth, I believest that the fellow who pursued acted as a villain most base!

    lol, pardon me, I have been reading old Thor comics all week!

    By Blogger DJ Black Adam, at 11:43 AM  

  • I'm not sure this is directly related to the Cowboy Code, since the person buying the drink wasn't a friend, per se.

    In any event, I was the girl in this situation once. My date bought us tickets to a show, so I offered to buy his drink. He held our spots on the floor while I went to the bar. Ordered the drink, and this guy looks over at me and says, "Hey, that's my drink!" and then offered to buy it for me. I explained it wasn't for me. The guy sort of sighed and then said, "What the hell! I'm having a lousy night. I'll buy it anyway."

    I protested. He insisted. And I returned to my date with his drink and we had a laugh over it.

    However you look at it, I think it's on the girl to explain she's with some one, and not necessarily up to the boyfriend/fiance/husband to offer compensation.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 12:50 AM  

  • Cowgirl Algebra

    If the guy asks a girl if he can buy her a drink and she's on a date with someone else, then she should politely refuse.

    If man insists or has rudely pre-purchased said drink, then man has overestimated himself and deserves to give a little of his money away.

    Frankily Yours

    By Anonymous Franki, at 12:10 PM  

  • I'd say you probably went 'above and beyond' in offering as Soon-To-Be Mrs. B was protesting that he should not purchase said drink.

    If your friend's date did the same, and Mr. young lion insisted, then your friend is off the hook for any form of guilty conscience.

    Me, I do not drink so my bar etiquette is somewhat lax...

    By Blogger dennis, at 9:05 PM  

  • I was meeting my fiance at a bar one night and he arrived before I did. The bartender set a bourbon in front of him and said it was from the young lady at the other end of the bar. Well, being the standup guy that my fiance is, he told her he was waiting for me and would she please take $10 for the drink. She said it was the risk she took and they both laughed it off. I got there moments later and she said I had quite a catch. I think he handled it well.

    Sometimes (like the guy who didn't want to take your money when he bought Mrs. B a drink) people just want to do something nice and see where it takes them. But yeah, I think your friend should have said something.

    By Blogger Melissa, at 12:28 PM  

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