By the time I got to university I had been going to my small town’s single terrible nightclub on a semi regular basis. I was already done and dusted with them. Freshers week felt like a chore to me. I would have preferred to get to know my new flatmates by talking to them rather than getting drunk and dancing with a group of strangers. This has never been the normal way to get close to someone. However I had to do it. I didn’t want to be known as the weird flatmate who never went out with everyone and ended up miles behind in the friendship stakes. I reluctantly went clubbing to keep my reputation as a fun, normal person. This carried on. I dragged myself to clubs reluctantly on a weekly basis to avoid being seen as a loser. I would groan on a saturday when I was asked if I was “out tonight” and have to feign excitement. It would be the same every week. Same music, same people, same routine, I began looking for excuses to skip nights out and would then sit in my room watching sitcoms and feeling like I was missing out. This year I’ve decided to be honest.
I am 21 years old and as such I am expected to be full of life and to propel that force outwardly in nightclubs. They only really work on you if you’re young. Nightclubs play music so loud you can’t possibly have a conversation that isn’t screaming I’M JUST GOING TO THE TOILET into someone’s ear. This means the only available activity is dancing. For literally hours. And I don’t mean ‘literally’ as in that’s what it feels like, I mean you are required to do nothing but dance for hours on end. You only have this kind of energy for a short period of time and for me that is already gone. I’ve never been particularly high energy and on hour three of dancing I am silently praying that someone else will ask if everyone wants to go home yet. It irritates me that clubs don’t offer more. There are chairs and tables dotted around the side of the dancefloor, sure, but the comical volume of the music means you could not have a conversation. I recently took to wearing earplugs on nights out to prevent that awful ringing you get in your ears, and every now and then I’ll pop them out just to remind myself how loud the music actually is. It has to be measured on a richter scale. Of course you can’t complain because that would make you “old”.
There’s a reason people pre drink before going out. Actually there are several reasons. Drinks are expensive at bars. Nothing that fun ever actually happens when you’re in a club so the pre drink is where the fun is. You have to be drunk to enjoy yourself. If you described any other thing with “I would have to be off my face to have fun” that would be a succinct way to say it was so mind numbingly dull you would have to drink yourself into a stupor to tolerate it. Yet it is accepted you must be drunk in a nightclub. If someone asks how your night was and you say you were sober they will roll their eyes and grunt in solidarity for how terrible that must have been. Sober clubbing is not fun. There are sweaty people grinding into you. Elbows are flying in your face. Everything is sticky and smells bad. The music they play is not music you listen to in your right mind. Usually the pressure to be drunk means you can’t manage it no matter how many jagerbombs you down. The need to be pissed feels like a requirement rather than a bonus. Being drunk in a pub is a laugh. Being drunk in a club is the only way you can put up with it.
Club music has become a genre of its own. As obnoxiously loud as it can possibly be with completely inane or no lyrics. Sometimes these songs become associated with fun memories and parties and you enjoy dancing to them. Familiarity breeds fist pumping. Sometimes you like the song enough that you actually leap out of your seat to dance to it. More often than not the club will have a DJ that likes to show off by splicing three bars of your favourite song with another one and expecting you to go crazy for its unholy offspring. My dancing drive comes from knowing the song and liking it. If I’ve never heard the song and I find myself trying to copy the people who clearly do my energy drains to nothing within the first verse. I had a night recently in the local hipster haven where I didn’t know a damm song they played for hours. It was generic hipster porridge without even a serviceable beat. I would have happily gone home after two songs. What’s worse is a DJ who plays nothing but a beat, a standard untz untz untz sound for you to dance to like some awful ancient pagan ritual that will culminate in a sacrifice. There’s always someone in your group who drags you to that corner of the club and seems to love it while you decide to go with your friend to the smoking area just to get away from it.
It’s also hard to have fun if you’re female. We get some perks sure, getting ready can be the best part of going out. That’s not an exaggeration. Expressing yourself through clothes, hair and makeup is a luxury afforded to us and on a night out we can really go for it. The problems start when you get there. If you’re a man reading this ask one of your female friends how often they’ve been groped or harassed on a night out. It may shock you. You may never have seen this behaviour because in a mixed group you’re less likely to end up on the receiving end of it. It’s sad but men respect other men enough not to approach their women. In a big group of girls or even being temporarily detached from your group you find yourself constantly on guard. Someone might feel you up in the queue for the bar. Someone might grab you or parts of you as you cross the dancefloor, or take your mildly suggestive dancing as a sign that any man in the room is welcome to you and you’re a prude lesbian bitch if you say no. It gets to a point where an entire security system is required. A hand signal that shows a creepy guy is bothering you, a buddy system, a head count once you’ve all left, having to rescue your friends from overzealous drunks who won’t take no for an answer. I slapped a guy once for making a particularly awful suggestion, it’s a battlefield out there if you’re a woman.
If you’re young in the current generation then you have no alternative to nightclubs. There is no ‘dance’, no one will ask you politely to couple up with them. There is no band playing or special new dance that is all the rage. I asked my friends recently if they would rather waltz or twerk? The answer was a resounding “waltz!”. Like many of my generation I feel cheated. The nights out of our grandparents prime and before seem glitteringly romantic and glamourous in comparison. While it is nice to dance of your own accord rather than waiting to be asked it feels like a far more satisfying experience. My Mum once told me about a trip to ireland and being asked to dance by young men on nights out, it just sounds so much more exciting. If I had a choice between the two I wouldn’t care, I may even occasionally choose clubbing. I just don’t understand why we all decided this was better.
Perhaps the worst thing about clubs is being constantly told how great they are. Leaflets, posters, mailing lists all tell you just how ‘bangin’ their nights are. How cheap their drinks are. How crazy it gets after a certain time. You are constantly being told how cool it is. Not just by clubs themselves but by your friends. Facebook statuses about how many times you’ve been out this week, pictures of people posing on dancefloors holding up a sign with the name of the club, your friends going “whaaaaat don’t be boring!” if you say you’re not coming out tonight. The truth is a lot of people feel the same as me. We’ve all kept up this lie that clubbing is the most fun you can have, the reason we have weekends and we all just roll with it. Ask people honestly, in the cold light of day what they think and they’ll probably admit they aren’t as much of a good time as everyone says. You know there’s something wrong if people in their 20s turn to you and say “I’m too old for this shit!”.