The Barmaid's Tale
At dockside nightclubs in Cape Town and Durban, barmaids fetch drinks for foreign seamen and local prostitutes. But many are also available for romantic trysts. So what are they really?: waitresses or prostitutes?
Most dockside barmaids focus on serving drinks. That's their "real" job. They get a salary for it. Plus tips.
But they can earn better tips if they actually sit with the guys, chat with them, entertain them. So a couple of clubs allow the barmaids to do double-duty: serve drinks and hang out with the sailors. She keeps the boss happy by making sure the seamen keep buying liquor. And she makes herself happy knowing that she'll get a greater tip at the end of the evening for her personal attentions.
So, if a girl want lots of money, what are the pros and cons of being a barmaid?
* they enjoy great mobility in the club, allowing them to meet lots of guys
* they avoid hostility from the prostitutes because they're just doing their job
* they deflect the stigma of being prostitutes because they have legitimate employment
* they can pass themselves off as "normal" women to men who don't want sex with a prostitute, but a "straight" lady
* and if they're shy, they can still meet lots of men because their job makes them move around the club a lot.
* they can't abandon their bar work to go off with a client; they have to finish their shift (or pay a R200 exit fee)
* they can't wear alluring outfits, just the boring bar uniform
* they're not always sought after for sex because the sailors think they're just barmaids, not prostitutes
* they're not supposed to drink on duty, nor dance (unless the club is empty)
But Durban and Cape Town are different. An example: In Durban, a shy pro stopped soliciting so that she could become a barmaid. She didn't like dressing up every night or having to approach men. So she donned the barmaid’s uniform: jeans, takkies, t-shirt with club logo, and a skipper’s cap. This lowered her ability to attract attention, but it allowed her to constantly meet guys. With a server’s tray in hand, she could move about, getting lots of valuable face-time with the men. And the prostitutes wouldn't bother getting jealous because it was simply her job. Though she’d usually be busy serving liquor orders, she could hint to customers that she was free afterwards.
This is a fairly typical scenario in Durban. Many women move from prostitute to barmaid. They appreciate the steady, if small, income they can earn. And they like the fact that they can still get guys every once in awhile.
But in Cape Town, the women tend to go from barmaid to prostitute. They come to the clubs as young girls, become barmaids, then realize that they prefer the freedom that the pros have. They want to work their own hours. They want the cash bonanza that comes with a sexual contract. Being a barmaid ties them down too much. So, after some months as barmaids, they switch to being full-time pros.