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Essay: Anatomy of a Night Out (For the Socially Anxious)

I’m currently in my room; legs strewn across my bed, in my boxers, hair almost dry whilst I furiously scrunch it with cheap hairspray. Hunched over my computer, I am enthralled in whatever mediocre and painfully mundane drama Facebook is serving up, scrolling down my feed with one finger on my touchpad. Growling as I wade further through the seemingly crystal-clear waters of other peoples’ lives, I’m greeted by another mocking couple and pictures of their recent marriage. They look so nauseatingly happy it’s enough to make me claw away at my arms and the computer screen. Having been stung by this sharp reminder of my perpetual singleness, I investigate the timeline of the last guy that rejected me. Snarling like a harmless puppy, I agree with myself that he’s a complete asshole, but I’d be more than willing to take him back if he showed a modicum of human decency again – or like, you know, just replied to my texts.  My phone vibrates ‘Are you ready?’ ;Yes!’, I reply. Which is the biggest lie I’ve told this week. I’m currently sat in old boxer shorts and a frayed vest top, and it’s not a look that will survive the ages trust me. To make myself feel better about the decrepit, degenerate life I lead, I attempt to roll of my bed to get ready. Imagine a mouse trying with the utmost gusto to flip a beached whale over, that’s the current level of energy I am at. I am so far from ready. I’m about as ready for a night out as Donald Trump is to run the USA. If ready was the finish line, it’s little more than a tiny spec right now…you get the idea. Conjuring another lie (telling such egregious lies is easy over iMessage) I tell my friends not to come over for another thirty minutes. The very dull silver lining to spending time with the same people is that they eventually start swallowing your white lies like honey.  For next twenty minutes, I yo-yo between procrastinating and waiting to blossom into the sort of guy that doesn’t need to go to bars or clubs anymore. The buzzer chirps and I’m stark naked and I don’t want them to see my penis, or catch me out, so I throw on whatever isn’t in need of immediate ironing.

My friends sit chatting away, getting hyped up. I put some music on, a desperate attempt to lure my reluctant self out of this bad mood I’m currently trapped in. To me, right now, going out feels like the onset of a flu. A dull but constant ache wearing away at me. I enjoy busy clubs less than I enjoy eating wool. ‘Just go out’ I tell myself. “But there’s Pringles in my room” I argue back. ‘You’ll probably be surprised! Or disgusted! Probably disgusted.” Go out and get drunk and have an okay time, but do it because it’s expected of you and your (fairly) youthful liver, not because you’ll actually enjoy yourself. What a mantra. I think the fact that I have to tan vodka before even setting foot in a club or a bar speaks volumes. Is this supposed to be fun? Alcohol is crutch for me; it shuts my social anxiety down for a while. It’s not unlike giving a spoon full of whiskey to a baby to stop its relentless crying. It’s all temporarily at best, but hey, better than nothing. Until the next day when my problems reappear with a fucking megaphone and a marching band: “REMEMBER US?”

I leave my friends to socialise and go to change into something that doesn’t make me look like I sell crack on the street corners. I toss t-shirt after t-shirt over my head then across the room; flapping my arms around above my head, like one those inflatable blow-up men that you see outside car dealers. I find my favourite t-shirt and realise there’s deodorant marks on it and spend the next five minutes trying to work out if I could get away with wearing it. I conclude yes, as long I don’t lift my arms up or hug anyone. Sweating profusely, I wrestle my way into my recently tumble-dried skinny jeans. To pull these off I need to bend and crumble at the waist for comfort. Eventually they will stretch out, but only after they’ve eradicated any possibility of me ‘naturally’ having children.  I stare at myself in the mirror and I realise I have a food triplets; not surprising because I have very recently inhaled two bowls of Arabiatta – how the fuck a small-handful of fusilloni expands into a mountain of pasta I will never know. I take pride in the self-proclaimed quirkiness of my outfit, before eventually retreating to my wardrobe and hurling something more generic on, topped off with a biker jacket, making the entire outfit inherently cool. I drag myself through to the living-room and pour a very strong vodka. “Do you want some Coke with that vodka?” a friend observes. Listen, I feel a black cloud rolling in. I am characteristically dark and nihilistic, so unless you want to be uninvited via the window, keep your judgements to yourself. I am far too sober to even leave the house; my mind keeps replaying everything that’s bothering me on loop. I keep dwelling on real things, like how I’ll never be in the Olympics and that Glasgow doesn’t have a Taco Bell. I want to get drunk to the point where I believe I might have fun tonight. Miserable looks great on me, no?

An hour passes and I am desperately trying to find reasons to have a good time, to cheer up. I wind up appeasing this misery and major social anxiety with what is little more than casual alcoholism. I’m young, well young-ish, but that won’t last forever, so I best go and enjoy myself. It’ll be fine really; different day, same shit. Pre-drinks continue and I notice that I’m drinking faster than someone at a Betty Ford clinic. I conjure up any reason under the sun to drink more; ‘shots to the Internet for keeping our minds fresh and aware of the worldly issues.’ Shots to some pop-culture reference’ or ‘shots the cheapness of mid-week drinks.’ Shots to something, anything. My education allows me to discuss an array of topics; It qualifies me to chat about politics and current affairs, yet I find myself leaking information about what’s going on in my life; about how terrified I am that I am going to lose my mum to cancer; about how much I hate my job and my body right now. Two or three drinks and my friends turn into goddamn armchair psychiatrists. After a few vodkas I’m inclined to take what they say as gospel, so I place my boiling pot of problems on the back burner for now.

After ANOTHER an hour or so of my drinking my problems have been sufficiently buried, so we get on our way. I have the most analytical mind ever, so I am constantly observing my surroundings and peoples’ behaviours. It gets really draining, I can never just shut off for a while and have harmless fun. That’s probably why I drink at such an accelerated velocity, it helps dull the noise. We walk past a group of girls, two of which are wearing leopard print: A trend adopted only by cougars and the deluded youth they try to steal life energy from. It’s really only a five minute walk, but my overactive yapping brain makes the walk feel 834 minutes longer. I’m not paying attention so I’m nearly mowed down by a passing bus, but I’m not shaken by it. Instead I just study the people crowded together on said bus. Two girls sitting on each other’s laps whilst a crackhead sits on a baby. A young couple simulate oral sex and a terrified old woman ducks and squirms as she tries to avoid being sprayed with fizzy juice or abusive comments.  My friend yells and snaps me back to reality. I don’t know what’s worse: my mind or this street that is littered with drunk people all ‘having a good time.’

As we reach the club I am greeted by the latest idiot theme tunes, thumping through the doors and spilling out into the street. The bouncer looks broken; this is an insufferable dungeon of misery for him, occupied by inmates that take mood altering substances to have fun – something he cannot do. He so badly wants to be put out of his misery that he’s stopped stamping people’s hands and is now handing out copies of his suicide note. I look into the cramped, overpriced furnace of despair and wonder how sticky the walls are already. We pay. We go inside. It’s gross and smells like a putrid hybrid of beer and piss, or perhaps that just my rotten mood. I stand at the bar and wait to get served; a century ticks by and I’m still waiting. The bar tender looks endlessly cool, but utterly indifferent to my plight. Nearly ten minutes go by and I realise that I am a worthless floating entity; eventually he approaches and takes my order. I am not enjoying myself, so I order two doubles, I’m so sure everyone here is laughing at me.

We head down to the dance floor. I hear almost nothing in this place except my own thoughts, so dancing seems like the logical thing to do. A guy smiles at me; another says ‘hey’. A male who seems not like an axe-murderer attempts to buy me a drink. He tries to talk to me, but it’s so loud conversation is impossible, so we just bellow inanities at megaphone level.  All up in da club… trying to lose myself in the music, but also looking back at the table to check my jacket and wallet a lot. It gets so bad that I go to the bathroom to splash my face with cold water; stale after shaves tries to mask the aroma of sweaty crotch and hair wax. I wind up counting the tiles around the sink (there’s 167.) Honest to blog, being trapped in my mind is so exhausting. The story unfolds with the usual tedious inevitability: I get fucking wrecked. My problems catch up with me, but in my drunken state I lack the ability to articulate them, I just sound like a Furby having a seizure. The rest of the night flops into a hazy blur. I get home and take a sip or two of the mixed drink I didn’t finish earlier then pass out.

I wake up with a sort of pain that makes me believe I’ve fractured something, but it turns out it was only my dignity so that’s fine. What a great way to waste my day off; wrapped up in my duvet in the foetal position, trying to keep down air/water/dignity/food. My contact lenses cling to my eyes; trying to remove them is like trying to pry a screaming child away from its mother. I conclude that they’ve been superglued onto my retinas – likely by my flat mate, who is getting justified payback for me snapping the front door key a few weeks ago. I get flashbacks of conversations and discussions of feelings that I had with people the night before. I remember the random drunk girl who, after five minutes of conversation, I decided was my soul mate; I then proceeded to tell everyone she was like a sister to me. But this morning I don’t even remember her name. I lie awake on top of my bed, crippled by paranoia and ask why I have yet again done this myself?

The day will sneak up on my me when I’m too old to get away with this behaviour. There will come a time when I will miss these nights out, I am sure of it. But when I am more mature and perhaps in a relationship that has helped me grow in a real, tangible way, then I’ll no longer feel the need for these nights out. I now live in a world where things take precedence over nights out. They have become less frequent. In the future, they will perhaps take place in classier establishments, with my partner and our friends.  I’ve reached the point where I’d gleefully trade a night out for a slab of cheese, a mountain of crackers and so much Lurpack it promises to encase my heart in a cocoon of grease. I’m perhaps a little late to this party, in terms of my being socially in line with some of my peers, but it’s better late than never, right?

 

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