I had a thought this last Saturday morning. I finally allowed myself a long booked in advance night on the town with my entire house (it was a friends 30th birthday, which I classed as a ‘special occasion’). I thought it about time, what with deadlines drawing near, my friends already planning to leave Portsmouth permanently in just under a month, and feeling confident in my own behaviour and sense of well being at the moment, to indulge in one of the few ‘why not?’ nights I allow. I also- genuinely- needed some fresh experience, stories and first hand knowledge of Portsmouth partying a la 2018. To say that the evening escalated not only quickly, but quite wonderfully for my purposes, is an understatement. We got fully and relatively warmly dressed up to the nines (lots of tight jeans and spangly, floaty tops), curled piles of hair and put the champagne in the fridge to chill. So far so good. Very civilised jovial ‘pre drinks’ were had- a bottle of wine between a few of us and a few shots to spare, and off we hopped into our Uber shaped carriages to the Wetherspoons evening ball.
When we got there- about 9.30, the place was suspiciously quiet. The floors thus far unsticky and bar lacking enormous queues or nameless gropes from behind. The calm before the storm. We ordered bottles of wine, found a nice central table near the dance floor, and off the evening kicked. I’d be lying through my teeth if I said it wasn’t a wonderful time, and a well needed change of perspective to bring student partying culture into a different point of view for my usual old-lady self. For a while. When we got in and started the festivities with the main birthday group, I promised myself I’d be observant but enjoy it as much as I could. What would the point be of going out with my soon to be distant dear friends if I didn’t throw myself into the experience as much as they were? The group that included the birthday boy- five hard drinking males all averaging around 30 years old- made this task one I would soon find challenging to the extreme. What I realised differentiates the elegant jollity of the pre drinks or more socially relaxed glass or two of wine at the bar with friends from a student night is of course, the pace.
What starts as a relaxed excitement when we first arrived turned into the most Olympic series of shot and drink buying I’d seen since my days in Cambridge. Unbidden boyfriends, girls and the accompanying guys all began procuring little black trays crammed with untrustworthy looking potions. Jäger bombs. Sambuca. G&Ts. More wine. Beers. On and on to the table they were brought, and the chemical madness picked up its pace as it always does. At this point, I began to slow down as much as I could to try and pick up the changing dynamics around me. When others are getting royally sloshed and you have the foresight to get a glass of water and tell everyone it’s vodka lemonade, it’s incredible the quite unsubtle behaviours people will let you see. When I previously googled the genuine effects of alcohol on the mind and its thought process, a key quote from a prominent scientist in the US solemnly reminded ‘the obstacles that the sober, more active mind would usually flag up for us and warn us against are no longer there. We feel and see what we want to do- throw a punch, have another drink, tell a secret, and what would logically deter us from pursuing this is no longer of importance. The danger here is where those decisions can lead.’ This quote reverberated in my ears as I looked around the now rammed club at about midnight- music crashing in on my hazy brain, friends shouting into each other to be heard. The dancing was getting wilder and the security more prominent and hands on. The young people chatting each other up at the bar were getting sloppier and closer to each other by the second. At least two arguments within the group had already broken out and subsided. Eyes were lingering more fervently and lazily on each other, and hands now no longer caring or nervous about where they rested or wandered. I’ll not bore you (or shock you) with the gory details of where this evening ended and how (4am, tears, laughter, mozzarella sticks, lips locking- not necessarily in that order) but as my ‘night off’ from health and self care came to its end and I hazily reflected on what I would perhaps use in my future writing piece, the only word I seemed to be able to spot in the alcoholic distance of my mind was: permission. When I looked around the club at the end of the night, just before the lights where switched on and everyone was well and truly (as they used to say) ‘loose’, I realised why at least the majority of people may have been there. They were letting themselves out of their usual restraints, and giving themselves permission (via alcohol metaphorical tying their sober hands back) to let their inner, truthful, more decadent selves do exactly as they pleased. The married men were somehow unmarried by the volume of tequila they drank, the women no longer modest or restrained in their emotions once the cosmos hit their bloodstream. It truly makes me wonder- may be that’s what it’s all about- at least here in Portsmouth last Friday. You want to have a fight? Want to have a fling? Want to eat fast food? Want to call that person you don’t like out on their BS right then and there? The solution is easy. Get together with your friends, make yourselves clean, well shaven, made up, smelling wonderful, looking quaffed, and watch the veils of social decorum and restraint fall with every sip. I did, and I can assure you it was most entertaining.