Just before I turned eighteen there was only one thing I wanted to do, and that was explore the sultry, adult underbelly of my home city at night. Back then, the nightclub had romantic connotations. I wanted to find and be a beautiful stranger in the small hours, dance until my feet bled, and sacrifice my soft childhood for something more real.
But these days going clubbing is a more bitter pill. Long gone is the mystery of it all. I know what to expect from hen parties, and lad crews, and lone vultures who try to prey on the drunkest girl at the party. I know that wearing heels is only fun for the first hour, and that tears shed under the influence of alcohol mean nothing in the face of sober weeping. I still dress up, but only sometimes, and sometimes even then only because everyone else does.
Nowadays I see how bad my makeup looks in the harsh lights. I see the toilet paper strewn across the floor, the empty glasses in the sinks, and the lipstick smeared on the mirrors. I balk at the price of cocktails, entry fees, and find something sad in the smokers’ eyes when I step out for some air, which I want to, more and more.
In most nightclubs, the regulars are shadows, and on the dance-floor there is little to be found that means anything before your third drink.
These days, I’m surprised to see a club as much as once a month. Gone are my hazy teenage years, when nights out on the town were a weekly affair. Occasionally I meet up with my friends of old and we add a new story to the collection, but we know what we are: veterans to the scene. More of the time, we’d rather have a good chat than spend the night peeling our shoes off sticky floors.
The problem is a simple one: I’m getting too old for this. It’s all too familiar, borderline dull, so I find myself feeling a little numb every time I step into a blazing pit of schizophrenic light and sound.
A few more years and I know I won’t enjoy any of it, but for the moment I have a small confession, which is that for all my cynicism and disgust, I know no better excuse for a night out than a best friend’s birthday in a city I don’t have to live in.
In early October, I took the train to Glasgow. I arrived in my favourite UK city with my suitcase full of makeup, dresses, and a pair of ready-to-blister shoes.
I had side-lined a portion of cash for the weekend, and was prepared to ruin myself for the next two days, with the eventual goal of resurrection in time for my train on Monday.
And ruin myself, I did, at such great speed that I spent the second night unable to face even the thought of alcohol. Instead I bought a lighter, and took a photo of the street with the full moon, set to watch the crush of Saturday night from its perch.
I went clubbing sober, with two couples. Playing the fifth wheel is an experience which until recently I considered punishment for great sins committed in past lives, but this time it was different. Standing in the fog of the smoke machine, I had a sudden epiphany, a moment of past meets present and at last, looks toward the future. It was a simple realisation; I was happy to be there, young and single and with my oldest friend, as part of her cohort, and a traveller passing through.
Editor: Joel Emmons