Growing up in the temperamental and turbulent moods that plague the teenage body, deciding how I felt was relatively straightforward. Social? Nope. Happy? Undecided. Ready to go clubbing? Absolutely 100% definitely not. But then came the awkward age of 18 and even more complex, the entrance into University lifestyle. That social/unsocial, introvert/extrovert distinction was becoming slightly more vague. The line on which I had firmly and immovably placed myself was crumbling under the weight of forced socialization. After all in University and at the latter end of your teenage years, it becomes almost impossible to avoid such social encounters.
The night of my first prospective foray into clubbing and drinking that wasn’t at the local curry house, I didn’t even make it to the club. In fact I didn’t even make it past the accommodation doors apart from to be taken to hospital. With the slightest amount of inebriation, my lightweight brain mixed with my natural curiosity and a dose of stupidity had swung my body down a flight of stairs. Needless to say at 6ft 2 and with the bottom of the preceding flight of stairs jutting out at the top, it did not end well. Not only had I not seen so much blood before, I also had not seen the inside of a club, and for that night at least, still would not be anywhere near a dancefloor. More a linoleum floor and a long waiting list, looking like the recipient of a good old beating while visibly fine patients get seen before my bloodied face. It was not the best omen for my new social self, but arguably a good marker for some of the more eventful nights.
The fear of knocking myself out, being drenched in blood and being told the ambulance was figuring out who was more life or death out of me and another man (the other man) eventually subsided. I had finished a performance and for the Christmas end of show celebration we headed to the campus club, on what was my first memory of a club and of a positive interaction with one. A good night overall, and some hindsight introduction to the social rules of flirtation in a club (as in I sucked at it and realised after). Fast forward to 20 years old, several drinking game rules embedded in my head, enough embarrassing moments to write a book and a regular affinity for rosé wine as my pre-drink. I was more confused as to whether I was extroverted and social or introverted and unsocial and for that matter whether I actually cared about those terms anymore. But I didn’t care, I was, for the most part, having fun. I went out some nights, I didn’t go out others.
This tiptoe into my twenties however began the period where clubbing (actual clubbing, not just campus club or karaoke or bar nights) became more attractive. Someone would message on a Friday night, suggesting a club night, I would jump up, bored of studying, and looking for a way to wake up and plan my night. Pre-drinks would come around, id chose my cheap but cheerful bottle of Echo Falls Summer Berries and launch into Mr and Mrs and Never Have I Ever. Eventually we’d be out, laughing, drunk in the cold night and swagger into the club. I looked old enough to have been drinking for 20 years already but I still found my body contorting itself as I presented my ID, just in case the bouncer somehow did not believe my birth year. Once in, each time the alcohol and the adrenaline made us feel like Jay Gatsby walking into one of his grandiose parties, impenetrable, powerful. The dance would challenge the blood to see how fast it could flow, the heart how hard it could beat. Attractive women that I would be nervous to approach but whom my faux confidence might on occasion draw me near to. The unbelievable, gourmet taste of literally any food once the night was over. The laughter of walks home and random friends made waiting for a taxi. Finally, the comforting touch of a mattress softening the blow of aching bones.
Then comes the alternative universe. The nights out that are such a polar opposite that you struggle to believe you’re in the same club with the same people. I receive a text suggesting the club. My brain hasn’t been cooperating recently and my depression has been hitting me hard, but I figure maybe it will help. Pre-drinks come round, I buy my bottle of wine, more out of routine than out of a want, more out of a hope that I’ll be energetic again once I’m drunk. It doesn’t work as well, I am tipsy but I’m not drunk enough and the wine has gone the wrong way and is making me emotional, I’m oversharing. I forget it, believing the walk will freshen me up and the club will brighten my mood. The walk is freezing and uncomfortable. The club is smaller than I remember but with more people, a girl looks at me like I’m insulting her just by existing, a brawl kicks off behind me and I get pushed in the blowback. The music is so loud and I really just want to go home but my friends seem happy. I don’t dance as much, I notice how much I’m sweating, the drink is getting to me, but not in a good way. My chats with random strangers in the smoking area are rambling, inaudible, I decide they’re laughing because they laughing at me not because they’re enjoying the conversation. I leave when it feels acceptable, the night air hits me again, but I look forward to getting home. I walk in and lay on my bed, it feels hard, unwelcoming and I’m confused. What happened?
23 in April and I’ve had enough variations of both nights to understand it a little more. Nights out are both typically predictable and completely random. You can guess the general trajectory the night might take, but you’ll not know when the near-fights (oh so many near-fights) will occur. You won’t know whether the alcohol will switch your mood to one you didn’t want. You won’t know whether going out actually will improve your mood or make it worse.
For me, clubbing has become pretty irregular. I don’t go ‘out-out’ very much, I’m often tired and it seems every time I’m invited, my brain has other ideas. But I don’t see this as a bad thing, I’m always attached to the idea of a few drinks and a meal at a bar, at least you can talk easier there. I’ve also gotten over the immense confusion and found that generally speaking, much like everything in life, if you don’t feel completely up to it, you’re more than welcome to just say no. There is no worse feeling than having a bad day, being possessed by the strongest emotions and walking into a club, where your emotions will emphasise and explore every bad thing you never noticed before. At the same time, it goes without saying that the club scene can create some of the greatest moments. You just have to realise that the reason for that isn’t the alcohol, it isn’t even the club, it is everything that those things afford, the opportunities everything together gives you and the compelling, indescribable rush you get on the right nights with the right people.