I went to a fashionable London nightclub on Saturday. Not the sort of sentence I get to write very often, because I enjoy nightclubs less than I enjoy eating wool. But a glamorous friend of mine was there to “do a PA”, and she’d invited me and some curious friends along because we wanted to see precisely what “doing a PA” consists of. Turns out doing a public appearance largely entails sitting around drinking free champagne and generally just “being there”.
Obviously, at 36, I was more than a decade older than almost everyone else, and subsequently may as well have been smeared head to toe with pus. People regarded me with a combination of pity and disgust. To complete the circuit, I spent the night wearing the expression of a man waking up to Christmas in a prison cell.
“I’m too old to enjoy this,” I thought. And then remembered I’ve always felt this way about clubs. And I mean all clubs – from the cheesiest downmarket sickbucket to the coolest cutting-edge hark-at-us poncehole. I hated them when I was 19 and I hate them today. I just don’t have to pretend any more.
I’m convinced no one actually likes clubs. It’s a conspiracy. We’ve been told they’re cool and fun; that only “saddoes” dislike them. And no one in our pathetic little pre-apocalyptic timebubble wants to be labelled “sad” – it’s like being officially declared worthless by the state. So we muster a grin and go out on the town in our millions.
Clubs are despicable. Cramped, overpriced furnaces with sticky walls and the latest idiot theme tunes thumping through the humid air so loud you can’t hold a conversation, just bellow inanities at megaphone-level. And since the smoking ban, the masking aroma of cigarette smoke has been replaced by the overbearing stench of crotch sweat and hair wax.
Clubs are such insufferable dungeons of misery, the inmates have to take mood-altering substances to make their ordeal seem halfway tolerable. This leads them to believe they “enjoy” clubbing. They don’t. No one does. They just enjoy drugs.
Drugs render location meaningless. Neck enough ketamine and you could have the best night of your life squatting in a shed rolling corks across the floor. And no one’s going to search you on the way in. Why bother with clubs?
“Because you might get a shag,” is the usual response. Really? If that’s the only way you can find a partner – preening and jigging about like a desperate animal – you shouldn’t be attempting to breed in the first place. What’s your next trick? Inventing fire? People like you are going to spin civilisation into reverse. You’re a moron, and so is that haircut you’re trying to impress. Any offspring you eventually blast out should be drowned in a pan before they can do any harm. Or open any more nightclubs.
Even if you somehow avoid reproducing, isn’t it a lot of hard work for very little reward? Seven hours hopping about in a hellish, reverberating bunker in exchange for sharing 64 febrile, panting pelvic thrusts with someone who’ll snore and dribble into your pillow till 11 o’clock in the morning, before waking up beside you with their hair in a mess, blinking like a dizzy cat and smelling vaguely like a ham baguette? Really, why bother? Why not just stay at home punching yourself in the face? Invite a few friends round and make a night of it. It’ll be more fun than a club.
Anyway, back to Saturday night, and apart from the age gap, two other things stuck me. Firstly, everyone had clearly spent far too long perfecting their appearance. I used to feel intimidated by people like this; now I see them as walking insecurity beacons, slaves to the perceived judgment of others, trapped within a self- perpetuating circle of crushing status anxiety. I’d still secretly like to be them, of course, but at least these days I can temporarily erect a veneer of defensive, sneering superiority. I’ve progressed that far.
The second thing that struck me was frightening. They were all photographing themselves. In fact, that’s all they seemed to be doing. Standing around in expensive clothes, snapping away with phones and cameras. One pose after another, as though they needed to prove their own existence, right there, in the moment. Crucially, this seemed to be the reason they were there in the first place. There was very little dancing. Just pouting and flashbulbs.
Surely this is a new development. Clubs have always been vapid and awful and boring and blah – but I can’t remember clubbers documenting their every moment before. Not to this demented extent. It’s not enough to pretend you’re having fun in the club any more – you’ve got to pretend you’re having fun in your Flickr gallery, and your friends’ Flickr galleries. An unending exhibition in which a million terrified, try-too-hard imbeciles attempt to out-cool each other.
Mind you, since in about 20 years’ time these same people will be standing waist-deep in skeletons, in an arid post-nuclear wasteland, clubbing each other to death in a fight for the last remaining glass of water, perhaps they’re wise to enjoy these carefree moments while they last. Even if they’re only pretending.
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