Dear Dr. Date,What…

Dear Dr. Date,
What is the protocol when men buy women a drink at a bar? I am a 22-year-old female serial monogamist, so I’ve never gone to bars. I went out for the first time this weekend with girlfriends. Two guys bought my friend and I a drink after we had barely sat down. I do not drink alcohol, so I didn’t consume the drink. Our group was dancing all night, and at closing time, the buyer came over and asked why we hadn’t consumed our drinks. I explained to him that I don’t drink, but that I appreciated the gesture. I also told him I was new to this, and surely he could forgive me. This guy was attractive and pleasant, so creepiness was not a factor. Also, I currently have a boyfriend, so I’m not looking for numbers. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle this situation better next time?
— New to This
There are two situations in which a man will pay for a woman’s drink. The first is a friendly gesture between buddies, family, coworkers, teammates or any other friendly, non-romantic situation. This behavior is what anthropologists describe as reciprocal behavior because it is expected that the person on the receiving end of the free drink will, at a later time, buy another round. This is notable because other than a payback drink, there are very few expectations involved with this drink exchange.
The other situation occurs when the man is interested in dating and/or sleeping with the woman. Usually, the man and the woman do not know each other, and the drink serves as an ice-breaker or opening line. This is the situation you were in the other night. When a guy buys a drink like this, he’s really just taking a chance that a) you might be single, b) you might be interested in him, and c) you drink. It’s his loss if nothing comes of it. When you accept such a drink, you are not making any promises to him. “Can I buy you a drink?” is not synonymous with “Would you like to go out on a date?” The classy, nonthreatening approach is for the buyer to use the bartender as a go-between. This allows the receiver to order what they want and reciprocate if interested without feeling on the spot.
Bars, alcohol and strangers can be fun, but the combination can also produce some innocent-looking predators who could easily spike your drink with Rohypnol — a tasteless drug intended to decrease your inhibitions and erase your memory. It happens everywhere. Never accept a drink that you didn’t see mixed at the bar, and never leave your drink unattended.