Better call Angela. Or maybe not.

angela

If you have ever used Tinder or any other form of internet dating and actually went on to meet some of your matches, the chances are you have experienced a first date that is awkward or weird or even disturbing. I myself have been quite fortunate in this regard, though some of my dates are probably still using me as a cautionary tale to their friends. But if you’re not as fortunate as me, there is a new solution:

The NSW Government has recently begun trialling a plan to offer an escape route to those who find themselves stuck on a date that’s quickly turning sour.

 

Ask for Angela is an initiative that encourages people to go to the bar and ask the staff for “Angela”, or order a drink called an “angel shot”, if they find themselves on a date with someone who they believe is threatening, dangerous, or creepy.

 

“Angela” isn’t a person and the “angel shot” isn’t a drink, but a codeword to let the staff know that the person needs to be assisted in leaving the venue as quickly as possible, and without their date’s knowledge.

The concept has clearly been borrowed from overseas:

angela1

“Writer and sex worker” Kate Iselin, however, provides an interesting contrary perspective:

 I’ve worked in hospitality before. I’ve poured drinks, scrubbed floors, and restocked fridges from sundown to sunrise. It’s tough, demanding work: especially when you add in elements like loud music, flashing lights, and rowdy customers.

 

It’s exhausting; and no hospitality worker is being paid enough to also be tasked with taking control of every social interaction occurring within the venue. While bars and clubs are responsible for the safety of their patrons, they’re also responsible for the safety of their workers: if someone is making their date uncomfortable by being aggressive or intimidating, helping their date leave the venue doesn’t stop the behaviour. Realistically, it’s likely to exacerbate it, with the bar staff being the next in line to cop an earful from someone who’s furious to find out that their date has disappeared. Any plan that aims to prevent violence or harassment against women by asking another woman to step in to the line of fire is profoundly flawed.

 

The Ask for Angela initiative is primarily aimed at women who may find themselves on a date with a man who behaves in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe; but it’s not ‘in a cocktail bar on a first date’ where a woman is most likely to experience violence. On average, one woman is murdered every week by a current or former partner and most women experience violence in the home. (It’s men who are more likely to experience violence in public places.) Even when I think about the non-physical acts of aggression I’ve experienced, like harassment and intimidation; I can’t recall very many of them happening inside a licensed venue. If I’m catcalled, verbally harassed, grabbed, or followed by a man, it’s most likely going to happen while I’m walking in to the bar — or while I’m walking home.

I’ve spoken to hundreds of women over the years about their dating experiences, and while many have had some disappointing experiences, none (fortunately) has ever felt threatened or in danger. But if you do find yourself in such a situation, then having a widely recognised alarm signal can be very valuable. I suspect thought that this is not what “Angela” will be used for. As the posters suggests, disappointed daters will more likely and more often expect the bar staff to smuggle them through the rear door when a date “is not working out” or “it all feels a bit weird” (because your date likes Donald Trump or looks ten years older than his profile photos). It’s a lot easier to escape than to face unpleasant situations. But if you meet someone for the first time in the flesh and discover that there is no chemistry, for God’s sake, just tell your date politely that it’s not happening for you instead of getting into some sort of a Jason Bourne-style subterfuge with the bartender. Like with other things in life, overuse can devalue – when girls cry Angela as a default solution to any minor dating disappointment, those who genuinely need an Angel Shot might find the staff too annoyed to help.

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