What Happens When All You Have In Common With Your Friends Is Partying?
The Debrief: 'These days I want to create memories with my friends not just catch up the morning after about all the things we wished hadn’t happened, about all the stuff we’d rather forget. It's OK to leave the party early, you probably won't miss much.'
I was standing at the bar in a dark club in Wapping, surrounded by strangers, trying to get a bottle of water when it dawned on me. I was trying desperately to pretend to myself, as well as everyone else, that I wouldn't rather be at home while techno so loud, with bass so heavy it made me feel like I my heart was beating in my mouth blared. It was 4.30am, that time of night when everyone who’s going to go home before the sun comes up has already left and those left standing look like the living dead. Fine if you're too out of it to see clearly but nothing short of terrifying if you’re sober. I wasn’t having fun. This wasn’t fun anymore. I didn’t want to be there.
When did chasing the night, wilfully ignoring the natural division of night and day and continuing to party for days at a time stop being fun? I couldn’t quite say. It didn’t happen overnight, it just gradually became less and less appealing.
The harsh light of day stopped making me feel like a smug ‘weekend warrior’ and started to make me feel like I was missing out on other, more wholesome and more productive things. Once the possibilities of partying had seemed endless, who knew where the night could go. Now it all felt depressingly predictable, even boring. No longer did sitting in a stranger’s house at 9am on a Sunday morning with some guy we’d never met before pretending to DJ on Traktor (not even vinyl) while his mates, who would not have been remotely interesting if we were sober, called in gram after gram of coke, appeal. The pretext for most nights out when you’re young and single is the possibility of meeting someone you want to have sex with. After time it dawns on you that while the probability of finding love on a late night dance floor is low while ending the night being cornered by the most boring mansplainer in the club, while one of your friends snogs his mate, is almost a given.
There was a time when not being at the party would have filled me with FOMO so strong I would have got out of bed at midnight, got dressed, ordered a cab and blagged my way into an over capacity club just to be with ‘everyone’. Now, being out until the early hours was making me worry about what I would miss the next day while I slept off the good vibes. Over time the mundane had become oddly seductive: getting up early to go the supermarket with a shopping list, being together enough to go on day trips and, even, spring cleaning my flat in winter.
When you’re not 20 anymore but you’re also not 40, you start entering a weird limbo like state of neither being old nor remarkably young. Weekends used to be for staying up all night, experimenting chemically, sexually, morally and ethically but suddenly the prospect of waking up on Monday and not being entirely sure who you are, pranging out until Wednesday and getting ready to do it all again by Friday stops being attractive.
Women are encouraged to think of themselves as parts of a whole – a girl gang, group or a squad to which we have life long membership. ‘Friendship never ends’. We roam in packs. You’re part of a girl gang on a night out, with the hashtag #squadgoals, one member of the group in the Whatsapp group attempting to coordinate brunch and part of a team staying up to go to the party after the party; never a completely alone.
The prospect of leaving the gang was a daunting one, terrifying even. So, despite the fact that I no longer wanted to be at the party I tried to introduce new activities. Nothing revelatory; brunch, walks, drinks which didn’t serve purely as a way of getting wasted before getting obliterated and dinner.
With one particular friend dinner was scheduled in. An hour before, the message came in: ‘Babe, I’m so sorry I really overcooked it last night. I only just got home. I’m so fucked up right now, I was really looking forward to seeing you but I don’t think I’m going to make it. There’s a warehouse party tomorrow though if you’re interested? xxx’
A pub lunch was arranged with a few others. They arrived, still awake from the night before downed shots, ate nothing and said little.
At first let downs and encounters like this left me feeling like I had been abandoned, ejected from the group because I was no longer a member of the ‘straight through crew’. I felt left out, even though I was making the decision to move forwards and do things a bit differently.
It was a sad realisation that when the music was turned down, the lights were on and there was no conversation to be had about last night we didn’t really have anything to say to each other. In your late twenties life starts to settle a bit, whether you like it or not. Some people leave the jobs they never really liked and/or the relationships that were never going to work, some move town, country or even go back to school and start again, and others make big commitments to stay put while a few turn the music up and pretend it’s not happening. By my late 20s I had become a pro at navigating the assault course that is partying and clubbing. I’ve been to squat raves, parties on rooftops that definitely weren’t safe, sterile suburban clubs, ‘secret’ parties that were advertised in TimeOut, all night affairs in people’s tiny living rooms, genuinely secret parties in the middle of nowhere where you had to put your phone in a locked box before you were allowed in and everything in between.
But now, I want to go out with my friends and actually speak to them. Not just shout at each other over the sound system or exchange stories the next day about who had done what with whom. I wanted to know how they actually were, how their careers were going, what they were happy about and what was keeping them awake at night (other than that extra bomb of MDMA they’d taken).
As you get older life starts to throw new challenges at you. You’ve conquered the art of staying out late and surviving a come down. Your relationships with your friends will change as a result. That’s inevitable, because life never stops changing. It has to and if you don’t move with it you’ll use all of your energy trying to go against it. You will have to find new ways of being together with friends, but that’s no bad thing. The ones who are going to stay with you will stick, no matter what, and those who are going to drift off will fade out quietly.
These days I want to create memories with my friends not just catch up the morning after and avoid talking about all the things we wished hadn’t happened or struggling to remember stuff that, in reality, we’d probably rather forget. It's OK to leave the party early, you won't miss as much as you think you will.
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