Ladies' Night

Ladies’ Night: Rosie Schaap


Who: Rosie Schaap

Age: 47 (46 at the time of this interview)

Where you might know her from: The Drink column in The New York Times, memoir, “Drinking With Men,” or maybe her regular shifts at South, a South Slope bar.

Where I know her from: A few writing workshops and mutual friends.

Krista: Did you fall into the cocktail niche or was it by design?

Rosie: Not even journalism was by design. I had been working at bars on and off since college, though I never particularly considered myself a cocktail bartender. I like cocktails with limitations. I feel kind of about cocktails the way I do about food: the simpler, usually the better. But I had done a little bit of writing about cocktails. Not a lot. Largely in a literary context like what kind of martinis W.H. Auden drank.

I had started writing my memoir when the column opportunity at the Times came up. I didn’t know anybody who worked at the Times Magazine. They had approached a friend of mine, a really wonderful novelist, Kate Christensen, who had just moved to the wilds of New England and wasn’t really going out to bars a lot. It’s hard to do in New Hampshire. She told the editor at the time, Hugo Lindgren, it sounded great but it wasn’t really for her anymore, but she knew someone who was a writer and a working bartender. It was really nice of her to do. And I remember her emailing me and saying “I hope you don’t mind but I recommended you for this job at the Times.” Then I heard from the editor and I thought there’s no way I would ever get this job. It’s too good to be true to begin with, and there’s like 30 million people who knew more about this subject than I did. So, I wanted to show them some good writing and give it a shot and just not embarrass the friend who recommended me for this thing.

And I got the job. It ended in the spring after five-and-a-half years.
To be honest, it was good timing for me because–and I wrote about this in my final column–I don’t have the constitution I had when the column started.

Krista: So, you mean that six years ago you had a little bit more bounce back or fortitude? Because I’ve noticed that and I hate to admit it. After a few holiday parties I wasn’t just hungover the next day but the next day too. It’s not like I was doing shots. I was like “OK, I guess this is your 40s.”

Rosie: I don’t know how you feel, but I’m kind of lucky that my body just lined up and made that decision for me. I certainly had to quit smoking and that was really, really hard.

Krista: I don’t really smoke anymore. Well, I bought a pack last month in Japan but only smoked one-and-a-half cigarettes. I couldn’t throw the rest away, even though they were cheap. Japan is crazy cheap, like you can still get apartments under $750 in Tokyo. They are tiny but still. The last time I paid $750 was just down the street on 31st around 2000.

Rosie: It was 1996 when I first moved into my apartment across the street and it was steal even in 1996 at $650. No one in my family is good at money. They are just not good-at-money people. In the late 60s/early 70s my parents were offered what they told me was an amazing deal on an apartment. I think it was in the 60s on Second Avenue. A steal. But they heard–remember this is, you know, 40 years ago–they were going to start working on that subway and it was going to get really noisy.

Krista: Going back to what you said about your family not being good with money. You’ve had a bunch of different odd jobs over the years. Did you ever really want a career?

Rosie: My dad was a journalist. A really great journalist. And I never wanted to be a journalist. In high school and college, I wanted to be a poet. And, you know, I realized I’m probably not good enough at that, and even if you are really good it’s a really hard way to make a living. Other than being a poet, being an English professor was what I really wanted. When I decided to kind of pursue academia after college, I wasn’t really ready for that in my 20s. Though I think I’d be great at it now. I didn’t teach for a long time and then I started again, volunteering at the senior center here. I really love it. I made the mistake when I started volunteering at my little workshop, thinking “Oh, these are elderly people. I should cut them a lot of slack and not be very critical.” They wanted it, though, and are open to honest critiques.

[Started talking about random NYC connections, which is kind of inside baseball but kind of not. It turns out that I knew an editor, John Sellers, who had published an essay Rosie had recently written, not in any professional context but because the guy had met my English brother-in-law’s family in the early ‘90s when they were all on vacation (can’t bring myself to say “holiday”) in Scotland. They had kept in touch over the years and when my sister and her husband visited me in Carroll Gardens a decade ago, we met this person for drinks at Sparky’s (R.I.P.).]

Rosie: I had only recently become friendly with Jami Attenberg, and our friendship largely grew because of our addiction to Lexulous, a pre-Words with Friends. Jami was more in it for the chat and I was more in it to win. She said, “We’re friends now, we don’t need it anymore. You should play against John Sellers. I play against him and he’s more your speed.” We started playing all-business Lexulous, friendly but serious. This goes on for months and he says “Hey, I just heard my girlfriend bought your book.” Wait a minute, is your girlfriend Megan Lynch? Megan edited “Drinking with Men.”

Krista: New York has a serendipitous sort of quality. I feel like I’m scared to move to another city because you’re are not going to get that anymore. Is that in my head or is that true?

Rosie: Krista, I don’t know! I wish I could tell you the answer.  

Krista: People say because of the internet, there’s no advantage to be in New York anymore. I disagree.

Rosie: I agree with you. That can’t be true. I’ve met people at various bars, not just the one I work at, who’ve gotten me job opportunities. It’s not that that can’t happen elsewhere but there are more bars and more people here.

Krista: Do you feel married to New York? It’s maybe a little different for you because you grew up here.

Rosie: Not anymore. I don’t know if you feel this way, but there was a time in my life, not that long ago, when I would never be thinking seriously about leaving New York.

Krista: What happened?

Rosie: Well, I mean, age.

Krista: I hate to say but I think it’s true.

Rosie: Age happened but there’s another thing that happened. I am a city person. There’s no use in pretending I’m anything else. But I do love the country. I went to school in Vermont which was the biggest dose of country I had gotten. Traveling over the past few years, I’ve mostly tried to travel to the countryside. I don’t have a massive interest in traveling to cities. Lately when I go away to a beautiful countryside, I really love it. I find myself craving that more and more, which is probably related to age.

Krista: But do you actually want to live there?

Rosie: Right now, I think I do. I’m realistic enough to say try it for a year. Don’t commit to it and don’t feel like you failed if you go to live in the countryside and discover it’s not for you.

Krista: You seem like you’re doing a million things, you just started at Fleishers, but are you ever concerned about the future? That you’re not going to have retirement?

Rosie: Yeah, I’m concerned. I’ve always been bad with that stuff. I wish I had been taught better.

Krista: I was not taught about it either.

Rosie: I don’t know why we weren’t taught things like this. Like why should a freelancer file taxes quarterly? Nobody told me any of this. I’m the kind of person who isn’t organized, not good at paperwork, and I hate saying these things because it makes me seem like a helpless female.

Krista: I’m lucky that in my 30s, I finally figured out how to get my shit together.

Rosie: I’ve been inspired by a friend, not quite a generation older than me, but who really got it together in her 50s. I was hoping to leave the country next year for a year, and I’d like to leave with my house in order.

Krista: I’ve saved the hard question for last. Do you consider yourself middle-aged?

Rosie: Yes! That’s not such a hard question.

Krista: It was hard for me to admit, which is demented. I’m not vain but I didn’t think of myself as middle-aged and it was freaking me out.

Rosie: I totally am middle-aged and I’m fine with it. I don’t know if you saw my baby picture on Facebook, but I was always in my 40s.

Krista: It’s actually in my notes that you seem ageless, which might be a weird thing to say. When you were younger, you were probably mature.

Rosie: On the one hand, I’ve feel like I’ve always been in my 40s. On the other hand, I was the kind of person in high school who people thought would be dead by 25. So, I’m perfectly happy to be 46.

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