I TEND not to “club” unless entirely by accident. That is not to say that I accidentally happen upon a club and find myself in attendance against my will, or that I am blindfolded, kidnapped or otherwise taken to a nightclub without wanting to go there.
What I mean, is that I never intend to go. It is never on the agenda, entered into my meticulously organized Google Calendar, or in any way a part of my plan.
If I have time to go out with friends at all, it’s after a work shift that will end somewhere between 10 p.m. and midnight, so I’m wearing dull shapeless work clothes and the same makeup I put on at 8 a.m. If I have time to go out at all, the objective is to catch up with friends succinctly and efficiently while consuming as much delicious wine as possible in a short period of time -- minimum effort, maximum effect.
I entered into my Saturday night last week with just that in mind: wine, conversation, brevity, and home to my bed for a solid 12 hours of sleep before midnight. My day began at 6:30 a.m., bleary eyed from the two 14 hour days I had just worked, and stumbling onto a 7 a.m. A train into the city for an 8 a.m.–6 p.m. shift. Nothing like 10 hours of work to kick off a successful Saturday night.
As 6 p.m. and freedom loomed, and I was just mustering some excitement to see a play that night with pals before having a few weekend drinks, a migraine induced by exhaustion swept in to crush my hopes and dreams.
Anyone else who suffers this affliction can attest to how quickly and swiftly debilitating these clusters of horror can be. First comes pain, second comes nausea, third comes a complete inability to bear light. Ideal for going to a two and a half hour play.
I bought painkillers and drank five billion liters of water in an attempt to save myself, which meant that I spent the entire duration of the play plotting my several escapes to the bathroom to relieve myself of my desperate hydration attempts. By the time I got to a bar in Williamsburg and had a drink in front of me I was delirious from all of the signals my body was giving me to GO HOME. But Saturdays are my only real night off so I felt this insane need to persist.
I followed my girlfriends to a club a few blocks away and felt the instant cloak of regret wrap itself around my already pounding head. The music was abrasive and loud, as were the people, and as we descended into the dance-floor pit of hell, it quickly became apparent that I was the only one who was NOT single.
As I look back over the last few years, I have constantly attributed my lack of love for nightclubs to my increasing cynicism and general distaste for organized fun. However, on Saturday night I realized that there is also a strong element of feeling very excluded from what everyone else appears to be participating in: mating.
Once we got to the dance floor, I made one last effort to try and push past my searing headache and enjoy myself, and lord knows I love to dance. I created a little space for myself and began to bust out some crazy moves, letting my freak flag fly and shaking off stiffness of a long working week. About eight counts in, I began to notice that my movements and gestures weren’t quite gelling with those around me.
The other girls, for one thing, were all engaged in minute, twitchy movements that served to accentuate their chillness, coolness, and calmness in the face of all this hysteria, while allowing their bodies the particular level of stillness required to survey the plains and spot the prime peacock feather in the crowd. The men, peacock feathers out, were making larger, longer gestures that ranged from looming to hunching (presumably in order to check out both the taller and shorter of the female species) while side-stepping throughout the crowd so that the looming and hunching could take place while circling alternating pockets of women.
The women, notably, stood in tight-knit circles with their backs to the loomers and hunchers, unwilling to let a fellow female loose unless she was absolutely adamant that the guy hovering dangerously close behind her wasn’t a total creep, but was in fact an inviting prospect!
I stood back in horror, gently placed my vodka on a nearby table and quietly slipped out. I felt like I had just caught my parents in the act of love, or seen squirrels in Central Park engaging in some violent rodent orgy.
I felt like a voyeur, exposed to the secret acts of New York City singles as they park their humanity at the door and delve into the depths of their inner animal instincts.
The alcohol, the music, the guy at the door – it’s all a rouse, a disguise for this mating ritual that we have casually renamed “clubbing” over time. And even those of us who are not single, when we club, we too engage with the ritual.
I only ever really enjoy drinking and dancing while “clubbing” when I am with my other girlfriends who are not single. But do we turn up looking like crap? Absolutely not.
It’s all part of the show, part of the game, part of the ritual. How incredibly, predictably dull.
As soon as I got there on Saturday night, I wished that I was either with girls who had no interest in picking a peacock, or that mine hadn’t sadly left New York less than a week ago. My feelings on “clubbing” at the moment, are that when I’m in a happy, solid (albeit long-distance) relationship, I don’t need to club. It’s not a ritual that I need to engage in. I am spared.
And it makes me wonder: Was it ever that fun to begin with? I enjoy myself and my friends infinitely better in a less mating-oriented environment, but is it even that enjoyable when you are single?