I have learnt a few things during my 28 spins round the sun. Don’t wear black and brown together, always use conditioner, don’t cut your own fringe, how to make a delicious bolognese, and this:
I do not like going on nights out.
It took me many years to learn this lesson. Years of standing at the bar sinking an eighth gin and tonic. Years of dancing awkwardly to songs that I hated but every single one of my friends professed to love. Years of carrying a ten pack of Marlboro Lights and a novelty lighter in my handbag for the sole reason of being able to escape to the smoking area when the dancing and noise got too much for me (which was frequently).
During my time at university I repeated the same dull routine every week:
I would spend agonising hours getting ready and worrying over how I looked. During that time I would drink most of a bottle of gin because the only way I could get myself to be excited enough to go out was if I was plastered.
Then it would be time for pre-drinks. Oh how I wished pre-drinks could last forever! Just me and my housemates gathered in the kitchen, playing music we all liked to sing along to, drinking the rest of my gin and making jokes.
Inevitably though, the time came when my housemates would insist we left the house and went out. By this time I’d have drank a bottle of gin but the thought of leaving sobered me. It took all the conviviality out of my mood. As soon as we reached the club I’d be straight at the bar ordering another G&T just so I could face the dancing, the smiling, the lights, and even that wasn’t enough to stop me awkwardly swaying on the dance floor, staring off into the distance to a future where I could return to my home.
There was no one single element that caused me to feel so awkward. Yes, I had low self-esteem, but I didn’t feel embarrassed dancing round the house with my friends, when I went out for coffee I didn’t spend the duration worrying about how I looked, I didn’t have to drink a bottle of gin to make conversation with a few friends around a pub table.
Why did you carry on going out then, you might well be asking. Well, it seemed the normal, correct thing to do. Everyone else was doing it, and they loved it. If I ever got near to confessing my hatred for nights out I felt like it was misconstrued as a hatred of fun. When I tried to be more myself, it seemed like everybody thought I was boring and at 19 I absolutely did not want to be boring.
As I reached my mid 20’s I gave nights out another go. Perhaps I’d just hated them in uni. Surely now, when I had more disposable income and lived in a big city, I’d enjoy them more.
I hated them just as much. I was just as awkward at 24 as I had been at 18, perhaps more so.
But here’s the thing: when you tell most people you don’t enjoy nights out they think there’s something wrong with you. First they might let out an awkward, disbelieving chuckle, then they might roll their eyes a little – eventually, as the veracity of your claim is understood, you see them mentally crossing you off their list of people to hang round with, you’re a dud, a dullard, a square.
I stopped going on nights out (pretty much) when I was about 26. I just didn’t want to do it any more – and it was freeing! I spent my time and money doing things that made me feel happy. If anyone invited me somewhere I didn’t want to go I would answer with a gleeful, firm “no, thank you!” And then I’d go home and do something I actually enjoyed like watch Murder, She Wrote, or read Cold Comfort Farm for the 60th time.
I felt really good about this choice until, one day, when my mum had had a bit to drink she told me she thought I’d become really boring in the last couple of years. My own mother! Not even a friend or work colleague, but the woman who had birthed and raised me, the person, who above all other people, should know who I am at my core.
“You don’t do anything,” she complained. What she meant was, “you don’t go out at the weekend like society expects a childless 27 year old to.”
Now, I’m a chronic over thinker and you better believe that this comment stuck with me for weeks. Months even! I’m not entirely over it now! It particularly stuck in my craw because I knew that some of my friends felt the same.
What hurt about people thinking I’m boring because I don’t like to go out to loud, obnoxious clubs and bars and drink too much overpriced gin and dance awkwardly at the edge of a circle of women hoping that my fake tan isn’t too patchy, is that I know I’m not boring.
I may not go ‘out out’ at the weekend, but my life is as full and exciting and rich as anyone’s. I spend my free time reading, cooking new things, walking in the beautiful countryside, spending time with the man I love, taking long, relaxing baths, writing the book I’m working on, seeing friends for coffee or wine and most of all, being myself and enjoying my time. It hurt that for some of the people in my life, that wasn’t enough.
Some ‘friends’ painted me as selfish for never wanting to go out and that upset me. But on reflection, I think that perhaps they couldn’t understand that not everybody likes the same things. They couldn’t comprehend that something they found so exciting to me felt like a chore. And I wasn’t yet articulate enough to explain myself.
These days, I explain myself better. When I meet new people I come right out and tell them I don’t enjoy nights out. I’m a ‘meet you for coffee friend’ or a ‘mix cocktails in your pjs whilst watching Clueless friend’ and many, many more iterations – but none of those iterations will ever ask you to hang out anywhere with strobe lights.
Look, if you like going out and having a good time with your friends then that is your right and I sincerely hope you enjoy yourself. When I go out to clubs and bars, I don’t enjoy myself, and whilst it may make my mother think I’m boring, I have decided to stay in instead.
How about you? Do you like to go out or are you firmly ‘team staying in’? Or perhaps you like a nice mix of the two? Let me know in the comments or at email@example.com