Holden decides to go downstairs to the Lavender Room, where the hotel serves drinks and hosts bands. As he puts on a new shirt, he considers calling his little sister, Phoebe, whom he cares about very much. He notes that Phoebe is surprisingly intelligent, funny, and creative, and he momentarily gets lost in his thoughts about the fictional detective named Hazel Weatherfield that Phoebe often writes about. These thoughts please him, since he thinks Phoebe is one of the few people who truly understands him. However, he decides against calling her because he’s afraid that his parents will pick up the phone.
By this point in the novel, it is evident that Holden tends to idealize people, appreciating them first and foremost for what they stand for in his mind. Whereas Jane represents his idea of the perfect woman (and, to a certain extent, somebody uncorrupted by adulthood), Phoebe represents his nostalgic feelings about the innocence of childhood. Although he wants to be seen as an adult as he makes his way through the city, he thinks that the only person who truly knows him is his little sister—a sign of his weariness of the adult world, which he thinks is incapable of understanding him.
Once in the Lavender Room, Holden tries to order a scotch and soda, but the waiter asks to see some proof that he’s old enough to drink. Annoyed, he orders a Coke and settles into his table, listening to a band he thinks is quite bad. As he does so, he casts flirtatious looks at a table of three women sitting nearby, though he doesn’t find them very attractive. Still, he convinces himself that one of them is pretty, so he asks if she’d like to dance. Her name is Bernice Krebs, and he’s surprised by how good she is at dancing. As they dance, he maintains a steady stream of conversation in her ear, but it’s clear that she’s uninterested in talking, since she barely responds to him. Because of this, Holden concludes that she’s a “moron,” though this doesn’t stop him from trying to kiss her.
Trying to posture as an adult, Holden boldly asks Bernice to dance, clearly hoping that this will make him look sophisticated and experienced. As if wanting to take this charade one step further, he tries to talk to her while they dance, a move that makes him look rather desperate for human interaction. This, however, doesn’t occur to him, which is why he reacts rather mean-spiritedly to Bernice’s lack of interest in making conversation. In this scene, then, he once again fluctuates between immaturity and maturity. On one hand, he puts himself in a very adult situation, but it is this very situation (and his naïveté while navigating his way through it) that makes him seem young and inexperienced.
Bernice rejects Holden’s advance, eventually asking him how old he is. This offends him, but he still sits down uninvited at her table when they finish dancing. Before long, though, he sees that the three women are obsessed with spotting movie stars in the city, and this strikes him as vapid and depressing. Playing on their obsession with celebrities, he even lies and says that he just saw the actor Gary Cooper, and one of them claims to have also seen him—an interaction that only further depresses Holden. Before long, they get up to leave without offering to pay for the drinks they had before Holden sat down with them. And though he wouldn’t have let them pay, the fact that they assumed he would pick up the bill annoys him.
Holden’s frustration with the three women in the bar once again reveals his hypocrisy. Although it’s perhaps true that their obsession with something as arbitrary as spotting a celebrity is rather shallow, it is no shallower than his own determination to spend time with them simply because they’re women. In fact, he didn’t even find them attractive when he first saw them, but he still gravitated toward them simply because he fixated on the idea of passing time with a group of older women. This, of course, has to do with his sudden loneliness, illustrating just how eager he is to find some company now that he has left his peers behind.