This weekend I went on the Hen Do of a friend and colleague. I don’t have that many female friends to start with, still fewer who are not already married so I have limited experience of Hen Parties. I knew we had an action packed weekend ahead of us and I was a little nervous about hanging out with a group of people I barely knew. In that event I was happily worrying over nothing. Her friends are lovely and we bonded over a white water rafting session and a Masterclass in Cuban Cocktail Making. We had the obligatory games of making our Hen guess how her betrothed would have answered various intimate questions, replete with anatomically themed prizes. We drank, we giggled, we fortified ourselves over an Italian dinner, and then we went to a nightclub.
This was the part I had been dreading. As I have previously blogged, I don’t really do late nights. I’m definitely a morning person. Get me up at 5 in the morning, and while I won’t be particularly happy about it I will be functional. Keep me up after midnight however and I turn into a pumpkin. I’ll have been unattractively petulant for the past hour anyway, but after midnight I just stop. Woe betide if you haven’t got me into bed by then.
But, I’m away for a mate’s pre-wedding party and I am aware that I should make a special effort. After the rafting I have some water trapped in my ear, and on the advice of my roommate I lie down on my side. My bed is by a large window and I curl up like a cat in the little sun trap which has obligingly appeared. I drift off into a pleasant slumber. At least I assume I do. I wake up about an hour later having drooled on the pillow, which I don’t generally do whilst conscious. Annoyingly this pool of liquid emanating from my body is not from my ear as hoped, but I’m barely caring about that, instead focussing on the delightful realisation that I Got A Nap.
The reason I am so pleased about this is that any period of actual sleep I can get during the day extends the period of time I can remain awake and alert later on. Perhaps now with the right combination of alcohol, sugar and general exuberance I can make it through the clubbing portion of the weekend after all.
So we’re all nicely tipsy from our cocktail session (but not rolling around drunk out of our skulls like most of the other hen parties I’ve seen in Cardiff tonight.) I’ve taken the risky decision to sip a diet coke through dinner (normally I avoid all caffeine after about 3pm) followed by a digestif of Amaretto to ramp myself back up for the night ahead. We take a short walk to the club and although I’m still feeling trepidation about what’s to come I have some confidence that I won’t be bailing out straight away due to exhaustion.
I pay my £2 cover charge and step into a crowded room with pulsating lights and bodies, the latter crowded at the bar, gyrating on the dancefloor and draped over bannisters. The Wall of Sound rushes towards me, only it’s covered in evil looking spikes. I know at once I’ve made a mistake. I generally don’t get panic attacks, and knowing people who do I would not want to debase that hellish experience by saying my discomfort is in any way comparable to what they suffer. But the atmosphere in this sweaty club is palpable, and it’s an atmosphere which is threatening to choke me. Despite being in a large group of women, none of whom are overly intoxicated, I feel vulnerable.
Hands grasp me round my hips, ostensibly to keep me from stepping backwards while their owner slides past on his way to the bar. Do they linger on my body for slightly longer than is necessary? Am I just being paranoid? Was that a grope? Or is that a par-for-the-course physical interaction, inevitable when that many writhing humans are packed into so confined a space? People are shaking and shimmying in time to music which is slightly familiar to me, but hardly the soundtrack of my life. I’m astounded by their carefree movement. If I tried to do that I’d be either the unwilling victim or perpetrator of a mild sexual assault.
The floor is sticky. It’s a nightclub, of course the floor is sticky. The bar staff are filling tiny glasses to the brim with viscous, luminous liquids half of which are spilled en route to the gullets of those who would consume them. The room smells of stale sweat and beer (which is unpleasant but probably not carcinogenic so in my book an improvement on the days when cigarette smoke drove out all other offending odours.)
Belatedly I notice that the reason the music sounds familiar is that it hails from the 90s, not the 80s as promised. I was 7 years old when the 80s ended. I knew Christmas Carols and the theme song to Postman Pat. If it sounds familiar then it must mean I’m failing to enjoy myself in the wrong era. The only things which look authentically 80s to my eye are 2 enormous cathode-ray tube TV sets in cream plastic casing mounted on the wall. I look around me at the party-goers dancing and drinking and having fun. I wonder how often the term “cathode-ray tube” goes through the minds of the average attendee at this venue.
I realise this is not for me. I can no more go to a nightclub than I could run the Marathon. By which I mean: I accept it is not a superhuman feat, plenty of people do it. But you need a certain disposition to start with, or failing that, a substantial period of training. I have neither. I have spent the past decade of my leisure time reading, watching TV & drinking good ale (or good wine or good spirits) slowly in a comfortable environment (either home or a nice local pub) whilst conversing on topics both whimsical and earnest with friends. I relax knowing my property and my person is safe from danger, I can take my time to consume well crafted alcohol, and I can hear & be heard. With hindsight I wonder why I even tried to ‘go clubbing.’ It’s loud, frenetic, and kinda skeezy.
Perhaps I needed one last experience to realise that this is not something I will ever find fun. And that’s fine. Perhaps as a philosopher I’m always looking for the moral dimension to any given situation. I realised that didn’t need to be the case here. I could just accept that people enjoy different things. That doesn’t make me better, or worse, than anyone else.
So I make my excuses and head out towards my hotel to get into bed with John Scalzi. On the way out the doorman asks if I am coming back. I smile sweetly and say “Under no circumstances ever!”