My friend Bianca Spriggs has a guest essay for us that is, well, perfect for anyone who's dating a Kentuckian. Then again, I've never read anything that Bianca has written that isn't pretty great.
Here's her official bio: Bianca Lynne Spriggs is an award-winning poet and multidisciplinary artist from Lexington, Kentucky. She is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently, Call Her By Her Name (Northwestern University Press, 2016) and The Galaxy Is a Dance Floor (Argos Books, 2016). You can find out more about her work at: www.biancaspriggs.com. What she's left out is that on top of being tremendously talented, Bianca is funny, inspiring, and nurturing of her tribe. I'll let her essay tell you the rest of the story.
I like my men like I like my bourbon: Top shelf. Neat. Smooth. Complex. Hard to find. In other words, I don’t risk a heart hangover for just anyone.
Recently, I was speaking with a girlfriend about a couple of fellas she was dating. With the first guy, given what I knew about him (dubious living circumstances, place of work—we’re actually still not sure where that is—and all the personality of steel wool), I blurted out, “No! Way! You’re like a Pappy Van Winkle! He’s Rebel Yell! What do you look like running around with some Rebel Yell?” We both started laughing because being Kentucky-bred women, bourbon is the quintessential metaphor to contrast her qualities with his. No more needed to be said. The next of her prospects was a sight better—this guy wasn’t too hard on the eyes, kept a decent job, paid his rent on time. But I surmised he was more like a Maker’s. And in Kentucky, that’s like saying he’s the Coca Cola of bourbon. Basically? He’s basic. She could go to any bar in America and find the same guy.
One of the issues I’ve noticed with a lot of women is that they tend to be much too modest about assessing their own profile! The problem therein, is that if a person doesn’t value their own traits, they’re going to end up attracting riff-raff. Some of my girlfriends tend to make compromises (because, let’s be honest, the pickings are pretty slim in a state that notoriously contains more bourbon barrels than people) so inevitably some well-dwellers are going to end up on the wrong shelf. But after you date so many bottom-shelf people, you can forget you’re a total catch. Thus, I developed this handy-dandy bourbon classification system because there’s quite the difference between a Basil Hayden’s and an Old Crow. All we need now is a Buzzfeed quiz to establish what bourbon type we are and what might correspond in a partner!
But perhaps, deep down, most of us would probably already be able to say what shelf we’d belong on if we were a bourbon. That means some of us might have to admit: ‘You know what? I’m Wild Turkey right now. If I don’t want to date Wild Turkeys (heh), then maybe I should spend some more time in the barrel.’ I don’t claim to be a bourbon expert, but everyone knows that the longer bourbon sits in its barrel letting the right combination of ingredients do its thing, the better quality the bourbon. In people terms, spending more time in the barrel might translate to getting one’s career or finances or health on track. But the longer we hold out in the barrel ourselves means the more likely we are to attract someone who can not only appreciate the finer qualities of what we have to offer, but will match them.
Now, before hurt feelings start amassing (particularly from the folks who are inevitably going to get that friend-zone text: “I need a Blanton’s in my life, not a Very Old Barton”), hear me out! This doesn’t mean there is going to be an increase of lonely nights ahead for everyone. The system actually works in terms of whatever you’re looking for in a partner at any point in your life! So, say you are feeling a little reckless. It happens! By all means, go for the Kentucky Gentleman. That person just might help you forget your cares for a night or two even if they burn like the devil going down. If the hangover from that little experiment is worth it, more power to you.
Maybe you’re not even be looking for tip-top shelf. You could be totally cool with someone who is consistent. A Knob Creek or Four Roses. Someone you can count on to meet your needs whether it’s just you two hanging out or you’re in a Derby-sized crowd.
Now. If you’ve reached a certain point where you think you’re ready for someone more seasoned, someone with all the right ingredients who has taken extra time to mature, this might mean you go out on fewer dates, but let’s be honest. Anyone who’s ever tasted Pappy Van Winkle 23-Year, can tell you just how worth it is for the wait.
Is it hard being single as a Kentucky woman? Sure. This state is brimming with women who pair off straight out of college and busy themselves with getting hitched, procreating, and so on. To each their own. And I get it. The older and more solo you become, the more people start y’know…wondering. I get that the pressure mounts to find the right person. Your person. But my point is, baby-girl, understand that this is less about getting that dreamy forever boo or nabbing someone that will do in the meantime to keep up with your friends. This is more about learning how to value yourself. Learn to recognize what you are bringing to the shelf first, so you will more readily recognize those qualities in someone else.
My suggestion if you’re serious about settling down? Don’t date ‘em if they’re further than one shelf down. The closer to the bottom-shelf, the more time they could use in the barrel. And if you find yourself indulging from that shelf a little too often, maybe so could you.
(Bourbon photos: Heather C. Watson)