It's with great relief that I don't have to go out clubbing now the 100-pax gathering limit is back.
Back in the old days of orange (all 23 of them), it seemed like every event promoter in Auckland was squeezing 2021's rescheduled club nights into the first few weeks of January. I had tickets to just one postponed event, and knowing Omicron was only a week or two away, I owed it to myself to go (while I could). With that in mind, I went out clubbing for the first time in more than half a year.
In theory, I like nightclubs. I like their darkness and the ability to be anonymous in them. I like dance music, and being with a good DJ when she or he knows how to rouse a crowd. I like the movie version of clubbing: the slow-motion, bodies together, dance-like-nobody's-watching freedom of letting loose (à la Zion rave scene from The Matrix).
But that is indeed Hollywood's idea of clubbing. In reality, nightclubs are a place you just convince yourself are fun because you're always wasted in them.
When I went to this dance party a few weeks back, I did so knowing we aren't going back to limitless gatherings anytime soon, so it was wise to give proper partying a shot while I was able to.
The experience? Exactly why I'm no fan of dance parties in the first place. It was why I've spent the past few years avoiding invitations to "head to town" after any kind of pre-drinks. Clubbing isn't fun. It's a young (wo)man's game, and at 36 I'm too old to spend the early hours of a weekend morning with vodka spilled all over my Guccis.
Let's start with the obvious vexation around nightclubs (clue, it's in the name). It's the time they open. Why does everything happen so damn late in the partying world? Why do you have to completely screw up your normal body clock scheduling to go out dancing? Ask anybody who goes "out out" on the regular, and they will tell you there's no point in arriving at a nightclub until at least 11pm, maybe even midnight. And the "real fun" happens between 12-2am. You know what's the "real fun" is for me? Sleeping normal human hours. If clubs opened at 5pm and I was in bed by 11, my partying thesis would be entirely different. Imagine if the "real fun" was between 8-10pm? Heaven.
What's more, when I was in my twenties, I never really believed anybody who said hangovers get worse with age. Fast-forward to mid-thirties and the mere tiredness from a night out gives me a hangover - I don't even need to have had much booze the night before.
When you do arrive at the club (after 11pm of course) there's the queue and the security guards to deal with. Never a pleasant experience, especially somewhere like K'Rd or The Viaduct. Surrounding you will be aggressive drunk passers-by, many of them feeling it's appropriate to comment on how strangers (you) look. Thanks for stating the obvious, but I really don't need to have my sexuality egregiously identified while waiting outside a gay bar.
Inside the club, after you've paid your entry fee, say goodbye to personal space. It's standing room only, but dance parties seem to function as a circuit between the dance floor, bar, and bathrooms, which results in spending the whole night being elbowed and pushed out of the way. You go to a club to dance, but you can't really dance because you spend all your time hitting what's moving around you. Instead, you just do a sort of dance-shuffle and fake a smile whenever your friends look at you.
It's impossible not to spill your drink, and have countless drinks spilled on you, so you spend the rest of the night feeling like you just got hugged by a gummy bear. It's also too hot, naturally, so say goodbye to any make-up you walked in with. You'll sweat and people will sweat on you. Sometimes, you'll even feel the sweat that has gathered on the ceiling rain back down. I'm confident this is not what Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande are on about.
Before the #MeToo movement I used to think being groped in a club was part-and-parcel with going out. I now know you don't have to put up with unwanted behaviour, but when I get touched inappropriately on a dance floor - my butt was grabbed at least once on my recent outing - I still felt the need to brush it off, and pretend it didn't happen so the offender didn't think I was too big for my boots. Dodging sexual advances from strangers (and non-strangers; often people you know hit on you too) is infuriating.
There's a reason dance parties are not just alcohol-soaked but also drug-fuelled as well. As a sober (or sober-ish) person, clubbing is pure monotony. It's hours upon hours of the same deep bass, lights, and hedonistic atmosphere. You stay because you're always waiting for it to get better: for someone new to arrive, for "your song" to come on, for the whole vibe to reach a new level. When you're cooked you think everything is amazing. When you're not, you are stuck amongst the drunk and the dead-eyed, who are having some sort of out-of-body experience, while all you see is a slurry and uncoordinated hot mess.
Which leads to the eventual end of a night of clubbing. They finish in one of two ways: boredom or drama. That aforementioned monotony eventually becomes too much to bear and you go home via Maccas. However, parties always come with drama too, whether it's a messy friend, an argument, a fight, being near or somehow involved in some kind of violence, or just feeling disrespected and that blowing up in an intoxicated screaming match.
I can't help but wonder what everyone out clubbing is searching for. A release from reality, a chance to throw caution into the wind? A hook-up, leading to some fumbly early morning sex? Or is it just an outlet for your emotions, positive, negative, and everything in between? Whatever the case, it might be six months before I'm invited out to a dance party again. I'm stoked about that. When the highlight of clubbing has become the kebab at the end, it's time to do other things with your weekends