At 26 years-old, trying to “go out” is the worst. These days, “going out” is meeting some friends at a bar, drinking for a while, not really being drunk enough to warrant needing to call a taxi, but doing it anyways (because #responsibility), going home, chugging an entire bottle of water until your stomach hurts, going to bed by 1am (at the latest) and waking up with a slight headache, because literally everything makes you hungover these days. Even eating salted chips before bed is enough to dehydrate you enough to wake up with a hangover.
After too many of these late-20s “social outings” that hardly merit the distinction of “going out,” you wonder why you keep going to bars at all and why did it used to seem so fun? And then you reminisce about your sloppy early 20s and all those nights that seemed to last forever and ever and made you feel like an extra in a Ke$ha video. And you think to yourself, maybe it would be fun to have one of THOSE nights again. Just to see if it’s STILL fun. One of those nights where there wasn’t a birthday to celebrate, where you and your girls would just go out because it was Saturday and you’re 22 and you could actually fit into an extra small cotton/lycra blend dress from American Apparel because you were in the habit of not really eating a lot back in those days and “going out” always merited a dress and some nude stilettos you bought online from Shoedazzle.com or wherever. This was in the days before you threw on some jeans and a leather jacket and called that an outfit; this was in the days when you and your girlfriends affectionately referred to the stretchy little dresses as “slut dresses” not because you actually WERE a slut, but because you looked like a Vegas cocktail waitress in those dresses and you liked to show off how #skinny you were. You and your girls didn’t really have a plan for the night, but you’d maybe heard about some club on Sunset that Zac Efron had been to one time and even though you didn’t really like waiting in lines and didn’t know any club promoters, you knew that if you did enough shots at the pre-game and drank a water bottle full of vodka in the taxi ride over, you’d have enough booze bravery to walk up to the bouncer and demand to bypass the line because after all, you were three girls wearing slut dresses and they couldn’t possibly make you wait in line, so you end up inside the club and immediately you realize you aren’t as drunk as you thought (or maybe you are) but either way, the social anxiety starts to make you panic, like, really panic, suddenly everyone in this club is judging you and your slutty dress and you cant talk to anyone because now you’re convinced that you’re TOO SOBER even though you aren’t sober, so you order a drink and hate that you paid $15 for a vodka soda, and the entire night seems like a horrible idea suddenly but your friends seem to be fine, which makes you even more anxious, how can they be so fine when you’re so suddenly stricken with so much panic?! So you drink up and it tastes like rubbing alcohol and you wish you could just go home, but then a guy talks to you and he’s not really attractive at all or interesting but you’re so thankful for any sort of attention to eliminate the social anxiety but it’s so loud in this stupid dark room, so you sip and nod and blurt something out about how you live on the westside and how you’ve never been here before but it seems cool, even though it doesn’t seem cool, but by now you finally start to feel the alcohol, you’re finally hitting that warm, kind of blurry area, where suddenly everything is fine but also scary, like you know everything you’re saying is really dumb and you’re technically not doing anything “fun” but you feel awesome and the panic is totally gone and so are your manners and you can’t remember what the boring guy said to you but you decide at this point that you’re done talking and you want to dance so you yell to your girls, “let’s dance” and now you’re dancing, but it’s not really dancing, or maybe it is, but it feels like swaying, so you shout something dumb like “I love Rick Ross!” and rap along to all the lyrics because it makes you feel cool that you know lyrics to rap songs, and suddenly you’re in LOVE with this night. And you’ve been dancing for maybe five minutes (or maybe five hours, you can’t be sure) when some guys who say they’re football players invite you to drink with them at their table, and you do, of course, because their alcohol is free and you want to fit in, but you still can’t hear what they’re saying so you feel obligated to make out with one or more of them, your logic is that it will repay them for the alcohol, and maybe you do or maybe you don’t, and then the club is closing or maybe it’s not, but either way, you’re being ushered out of the club by the football guys. Actually, you learn that only one of the guys is a football player and the rest are just some guys, hangers on, you guess, but you don’t really care, because everything is fun and everyone is nice to you and someone’s paying for an SUV to take you and your girls plus all your new “friends” to some house in the Hills and once you get to the house, the lights are on and your makeup looks awful and you’re asking someone where the bathroom is but nobody knows where it is because the house is huge and nobody’s really sure who actually lives there and there’s a guy daring you to get into the hot tub and you’re suddenly super uncomfortable and you keep telling the guy that you don’t want to go in the hot tub, but he doesn’t care and keeps chanting “HOT TUB,” so you walk into another room to avoid the hot tub guy and your friends are sitting around a table and they seem fine and drunk and maybe-happy, you’re not sure what the definition of fun is anymore but you’re sleepy and thirsty and everyone’s still drinking but something is telling you that you should stop drinking or you might die, like you actually feel like if you don’t go home you’re going to die here in this house with all these fake football players, and your friends and everyone else are telling you to chill out, and you say that you’re done drinking for the night but you leave out the part about how you feel like you’re heading straight into the abyss of a blackout, and you wonder if everyone else is over-analyzing this as much as you are, so you try to call an Uber because you really want to leave now, but you’re in the Hollywood Hills, so there’s no cell service, so you go back to the party, and there’s all these girls doing coke and dancing to Kanye, but not fun old-school Kanye, like, they’re thrashing around to angry Kanye Yeezus music, and it’s now 4am and you can’t stay overnight because your social anxiety is rearing its terrible ugly head really bad and every ounce of your body is screaming GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE, like you’re stuck in this labyrinth when really you’re just at a stranger’s mansion and the only real threat is that damn hot tub, and why is everyone here having so much fun and why are you suddenly not having any, so you grab your friends and just decide to leave, just start walking away from there, stumbling down Laurel Canyon in your slut dress and heels so you can get cell service to call an Uber, but honestly at this point, you’ll just pay more for a cab, ANYTHING to get out of here really and then finally you’re at Sunset and Laurel Canyon and there’s some maybe-hookers trying to talk to you and you’re pretending like you don’t hear them as you desperately try to find a street lamp because the light will keep you safe, you think, and your friend is basically crying at this point, or maybe you are the one that’s crying — you can’t remember because at least one of you is in the middle of a black out and you’re not sure if you’re the one that’s blacking out, but finally, by the grace of God, you think to yourself, a car that you didn’t remember calling shows up to get you and now you have to tell the driver where you live which is a separate dilemma so you shout out SANTA MONICA, which you hope will buy you some time, he’ll at least head in the right direction, you think, while you try to focus on the task at hand, what was it again? Oh right, give the driver your address, you shout our your address, and he’s asking you to slow down and repeat it, but you just keep reciting it, because if you stop reciting your own address, you might forget it forever, and then you’ll never get home and that’s all you want, you just want to be home and this night to be over, because dancing with the football players seemed like a lifetime ago by this point, and then the poor exasperated driver finally asks you if you live at xyz and that address does seem familiar to you and you shout “Yes!” and the driver is ecstatic that he finally knows where he’s going and suddenly a wave of calm washes over you because now you know you’re actually going home and there’s no more vodka that tastes like nail polish remover and no more hot tubs and no more coked out party guests and now you’re pulling up in front of your apartment and you’re running from the car, literally sprinting and you don’t remember taking the stairs but you know you must have and you also don’t remember taking your shoes off and you have no idea where in your apartment you threw your purse, or if you still have it at all, but somehow you’re in your bedroom now and you’re alive and then you’re in your bed and the room is spinning and it’s spinning and spinning and spinning but you’re home and the anxiety is gone and everything is fine again and you think to yourself, I’m never going to do that ever again.
And then in six months when you’re sitting at a bar, sipping a glass of chardonnay, making polite conversation with nice people you wonder what it would be like to have one of those crazy wild nights again. And you can’t remember why you don’t have nights like that anymore.