in Fun

Nightlife is a cruel unwanted necessity

I went to a nightclub the other night. That statement brings with it many secondary truths that  always describe such an evening. I went with a friends, on the behest of groupthink more than the desire of any one individual. We binge drank (pretty much any american pregame is technically binge drinking, FYI) before leaving. We paid too much for drinks, for entrance, for transportation to and from. We endured sweaty crowded environments, and waited in long lines for basic needs. And we spent a few hours in the morning regretting the excesses of last night.

And for what? Every time I go out like this the story is the same, and the payoff is negligible. Didn’t Einstein say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Yet here I am once more.

I maintain that the only reason young men go to nightclubs is for the prospect of hooking up with someone. It’s a universal truth that nobody wants to admit. The women go because they want to dance with their friends, and the men go in order to make advances on the women. The music, the drugs, the alcohol, the ‘scene’ – all this is secondary to those goals. Then the women spend the night fending off unwanted advances, and the men either get serially rejected or spend the night having the same boring small talk conversation that may or may not lead anywhere.

People don’t go merely to dance, because you can do that anywhere, to music better than the same crappy pop songs that always pop up at such venues. Certainly there is something to be said for the convivial atmosphere, but it is a far cry from the friendly, spontaneous dance nights I’ve seen at house parties. Speaking personally, even the best of such dancing nights wear thin after an hour or two due to exhaustion or redundancy.

You claim people go to have fun with their friends? Surely yelling at each other in an overly crowded space, paying too much for entrance and drinks, and barely having conversations is not anyone’s idea of fun. There are plenty of better ways to spend quality time with your friends. (Playing games, for example) Why, then, do people put up with this? Nightlife and alcohol are steadfast foundations of youth worldwide. It’s the false promise, the indomitable hope that comes at the beginning of such nights promising exotic new beautiful friends.

I believe we go because there is a dearth of alternatives for socializing as a twentysomething. Nightlife is almost the only way for you to make or spend time with friends. You either live with your parents or in a shared small apartment, which means entertaining friends at home is not practical. Vocations occupy the majority of the sunlight hours, which eliminates most daytime forms of interaction like sports or hikes. The only way to see your friends, then, is to head to the bars at night when the day’s obligations are over. Once you have enough drinks in you, you understandably want to dance or flirt, which leads to the clubs.

But nobody would ever want to go sober. It’s peer pressure at its finest. I always love to compare the drained, tired and bored faces of 2 am with the same pleading voices who proposed the night in the first place. Unless you met a special someone that night, your evening has just wasted perfectly good sleeping hours. Even then, your dance floor makeout partner is probably not going to be your new best friend. I can count the number of quality people I’ve met at clubs and stayed in contact with on one hand. Men simply aren’t there looking for friendships, and women are on the defensive. Plus you can’t get to know someone solely through dancing. Bars are slightly better in that they permit conversations, but you’d still be better off using existing friend networks or attending meetup groups that do activities you actually like.

I’m being harsh here, but truthful. The best axiom I’ve seen describing nightlife is that it is exactly as fun as the people you go there with. I have had fun nights out, when I went with exceptionally good friends or came across a special someone. But those nights are tiny minority of the total.

When I lived in Barcelona my peer’s urge to go clubbing was so pervasive that I ended up making rules. I would only go to a club if:

  • it was with the company of a woman I thought I had a chance with
  • it was a new club that I hadn’t been to before, just for the experience, or
  • a musical artist I wanted to see was performing there

These rules saved me from never ending repeat trips to touristy beach clubs replete with strict dress codes and douchebag bouncers. I tried to stick to the smaller bars, where you can meet new  people rather than spend time dancing in a circle with old buddies. I stick with this philosophy today.

I don’t like ‘going out’. I like being drunk with friends, seeing the city, and chasing pretty women, yes. But somewhere between the exclusivity with sleep, the overpriced drinks, and predatory atmospheres, my urge to pursue the former attractions fades. I will say that sometimes  nights look better in memories despite being mediocre at the time, a characteristic that is shared by all true adventures. But at what cost?

Again, I’m bring overly harsh here – I have had great nights out with friends drunkenly dancing like a fool, bars remain the classic locale for socializing, and I’m not crusading for prohibition. But I raise these grievances as a tall white (if you’ll permit me) reasonably good looking man – if I am not having fun in these shallow appearance-oriented clubs, who is? The stunning blonde who can’t get a word in edgewise to her friend? The hyper aggressive bro making moves on anything that makes a duck face? I don’t know. Surely I’m not the only one whose picked up on this.

  • Adam Van Dyke

    Couldn’t have said it better. I had the same type of realization after a couple nights of clubbing in South Beach at the start of my RTW trip. It’s so forced. Clubs dupe us all into thinking that they are fun and that you’re important if you’re there, but really it’s just a big room full of shiny things, loud music, and comically overpriced drinks.