It’s 7 p.m. on a Saturday, and you feel hopeful. After a long week of crushing deadlines, joyless commuting, and finding the office bathroom full of people doing their makeup every single time you had to poop at work, you’re getting ready to go out for the evening. Suddenly, life has potential again. As you chat with your roommate, try a hairstyle or makeup thing you wouldn’t have time to pull off during the week, sip a glass of wine or a cup of tea or just dance around the room, you’re overcome with a feeling of lightness and excitement. You love how you look, you feel great, and the night pulses with opportunity. Everything is, for a moment, carefree and perfect. Anything can happen!
Then, somehow, in the blink of an eye, it is midnight, and things are very, very different. You have sweated off your carefully applied makeup, waited in line 20 minutes to procure a cocktail that tastes like GoGurt and rubbing alcohol, and are now standing on the sidewalk with most of a stranger’s beer in your shoes, trying to convince a surge-priced car to take you away from this.
The good news is that the problem isn’t you. The problem is… going out kind of sucks.
And honestly, that’s the best case scenario. You’ll be lucky if your evening out doesn’t involve the following: barf (your own or others’), bathrooms so absent anything to wipe with that you’d believe the TP Rapture happened right before you walked in, and friends who genuinely believe that the guy they just met can get you all into a party at John Mayer’s house.
So what went wrong? How did a night that began with so much potential end with you dripping yourself dry over a clogged toilet in a bar that pretends to be a secret “speakeasy” but is actually listed on Yelp? Well, the good news is that the problem isn’t you. The problem is… going out kind of sucks.
I’m not saying leaving your house sucks. Leaving your house to see loved ones, exercise, enjoy the arts, or simply go to a store and touch a bunch of expensive things you’re not going to actually buy is healthy and important. No, I’m saying “going out” — to a cocktail bar, dive bar, rooftop bar, karaoke bar, mega club, exclusive club, friends’-friends’-friends DJ night, art gallery opening-cum-”dance party,” or promotional event celebrating the “launch” of a new pepper-flavored vodka — sucks.
I have come by my knowledge the hard way. Throughout my 20s, I went out four to five nights a week to pretty much any place that was licensed to overcharge for a gin and tonic. I went out in snow storms and heat waves, when I had to get up early the next day and when I was chronically unemployed. And one day, I cracked. As I walked to my front door to leave the house for the night, I realized that I… just didn’t want to. I didn’t want to see another person’s boyfriend “DJ” off their iTunes, I didn’t want to step in something mysterious while waiting on another interminable bathroom line, I didn’t want to think I was going to stay five more minutes, then look up and find that it was three hours later.
I had been going out so hard all these years because I hadn’t realized that you can put on a sparkly romper, spend 40 minutes working out a decent cat eye, and just… stay home.
I realized that I liked the rituals of getting ready to go out — trying on the cute outfits that I could never pull off at work, putting on makeup without rushing, lighting candles and listening to music and doing all the relaxing things I never made time to do in my regular life — far more than I ever actually enjoyed anything that happened after I left my apartment. I had been going out so hard all these years because I hadn’t realized that you can put on a sparkly romper, spend 40 minutes working out a decent cat eye, and just… stay home.
We have been sold a false bill of goods. We have been told that in order to enjoy all the fun of getting ready, we have to be on our way somewhere. We are told that it’s totally reasonable to spend an hour on our hair when we’re going to a party, because all our hard work will be admired by the other party-goers (and possibly get us laid). But if we spend an hour working on our hair for the sheer pleasure of it, then stay home and watch The Great British Baking Show, we’re somehow weirdos.
But growing up is about pushing back against an ever-lengthening list of cultural myths that we discover are lies — Santa isn’t real, you didn’t need to learn algebra for real life, and quitting lattes won’t allow you to suddenly buy real estate. I’d like to add this one to that pile: you don’t need to go out in order to enjoy getting ready to go out.
Try on outfits, talk, eat, drink, listen to whatever goofy pop music makes you feel good and hopeful about life’s potential.
I’m not suggesting that we close all clubs and bars, or that people who genuinely enjoy going out be forcefully stopped. Some people also genuinely enjoy running ultra marathons or eating foods made out of ground-up crickets, and while I don’t agree with them, I would never stand between them and their passions. But if, like me, you’ve given going out a fair shot and found that, even in the best cases, it ends with you overpaying for mozzarella sticks that were not even good, I would like to issue you the following challenge: next weekend, get together your usual getting-ready buddies — your roommate, your neighbor, your best friend, whoever. Get together and engage in all the fun parts of getting ready. Try on outfits, talk, eat, drink, listen to whatever goofy pop music makes you feel good and hopeful about life’s potential. Do it all ‘til you feel great and happy and like the next great phase of your life is about to begin. And then… just don’t go out. Order a pizza. Watch a movie. Have a smart conversation. Have a dumb conversation. Prank call your college crush who is now managing a fake speakeasy bar. Go get dinner at your favorite restaurant. Do whatever the hell you want. If you find you actually really, truly want to go to a bar or party or club, knock yourself out. But if you don’t, stay home — and know, as you Instagram your amazing eye makeup while sitting at your kitchen table, that you’re having a way, way better time than everyone else.