My friend Madelyn and I went to the club this past weekend to celebrate my birthday. A club she has been looking at for a while turns out to have 18+ nights every Friday. Since my 20th birthday was on Saturday, we were able to be in the club and celebrate as soon as the clock struck midnight. It’s definitely weird to think that I’m moving into the only decade where I start off eating microwaved potatoes from a dorm room every night for dinner and end the decade fielding questions about when I’m getting married and having kids- but that’s a whole other article.
Preparing for the night, and the whole event in general, took me back to the first time we went to a frat party. My friends would grab my shoulder every once in a while because I’d just get completely lost looking at the crowd, staring at a group of people, and watching how they act. I think it’s fascinating to watch people in an environment that I’ve never been in before, and that’s exactly what I did at the club. So after having a week to gather my thoughts, I’ve finally come up with a summary of the whole night.
As any good day or night does – it started off with the clothes.
I don’t know if there’s anything more humanizing than walking out of my dressing room in a short and tight dress with a slit in the waist to show Madelyn and running into a motherly-aged woman. She looked me up and down and smiled before walking past me without saying anything. I sure hope she was reminiscing on the memories she has with her friends wearing similar clothes, not laughing at me for thinking I could pull it off.
I wasn’t looking for anything too specific to wear out. I did have one requirement though- I really wanted something pink. I think it was a kind of symbol to me that in my 20s, I can be whoever I want to be. In high school, I was put into a box. A box of someone who didn’t dress up, who hated pink, who was one of the guys. I don’t want to look back on that time and shatter all the blocks I put in place to be that person, I simply want to add more blocks. As we grow up, we grow, and we continue to grow and contain multitudes. So in honor of breaking out of that box and adding another multitude to that ever-growing field- I found a light pink dress that made me feel like a girl.
The dress was a major win- the shoes, a major loss. I’ve never had trouble walking in heels or wearing them for a long time. I wanted to wear heels, we also just thought that everyone wore heels to the club (they don’t). The problem was, though, I got a pair of heels the day of and didn’t get the chance to actually walk around in them at the store. As soon as I put them on getting out of the car I realized I made a huge mistake. The shoes had no back support to keep my foot in, and the strap at my toes wasn’t big enough so the shoes just kept falling off. At one point I was coming down the stairs and one completely came off my foot and I almost fell face-first on the cement ground if I hadn’t caught the railing and tried to play it cool while basically doing a pull-up.
The shoe issue brought me down a bit, along with Madelyn whose feet began to hurt. Security wouldn’t let us take our shoes off though, because of all the cigarette buds on the ground. In hindsight, though, I wanted to look as absolutely girly and put together as possible, so even though I could have danced better without heels, I had no regrets… although I will be wearing my loafers next time.
When we arrived at the club, the first thing they did was strap a big “Under 21” wristband on us, while most other people had red ones indicating they could drink. Ours were bright white and a huge turnoff for people that we are young, would not be drinking, and didn’t even have a fake ID. When we tried to go upstairs to rest a minute and get some water, a security guard immediately put his arm up once we got to the top and ushered us back down to the first floor, “21 and up only”. I felt silly, like people were watching us get rejected from going upstairs (this, unfortunately, was also when I almost ate it from my shoe).
We found a downstairs bar though and danced for a while longer before I could no longer hold the weight of the water I had drunk on the way to the club, and the glass I had chugged once here. I led Madelyn into the women’s restaurant but came to a sudden halt making her run straight into me. I backtracked to check the sign again, only becoming more dumbfounded as to why there were boys sitting on the sink in the women’s bathroom. I must not have been able to hide my face very well, because one of them jumped off the sink and runway-walked over to us yelling “girlies, we’re more into guys than you two are”, putting a hand on my shoulder.
The doors wouldn’t lock and kept swinging open, so he held the door for me as I peed. It turns out he was only 18 but his cousin runs a fake ID business. He’s been coming to the club since he was 14 because it’s a drag club, and he’s looking to perform. He’s from this city, but wants to move to New York as soon as possible. Don’t we all? He’s pretty much told me his life story before I even wipe. “Cherry” was the only name he provided me- I told him I’d look him up when we are both living in New York someday. He shook my hand before I even washed them, and strutted back out of the bathroom.
There were quite a few people like Cherry- younger, pretending to be older. People Madelyn recognized from high school with the red bands on. There were also the opposites of Cherry though- older people, pretending to be younger. When we first entered Madelyn and I thought it funny that a man in his mid-40s was dancing on the pole in the middle of the room, the platform elevated by three feet. The more I thought about it though, the sadder it made me. He wasn’t with anyone, it seemed like the regulars knew him well, and he was out of his mind drunk. I wonder if he comes every night, how he gets home when he’s drunk, if he lives with anyone, if he has a job, if he’s addicted. I’ve known too many adults addicted to drugs and alcohol to laugh and cheer the man on as he gets onto the pole to dance with the 22-year-old drunk girl.
By this time it was officially my birthday though, and I was supposed to be having fun, not wondering about the inner bouts of this man’s life. It’s easy to compartmentalize people. To believe that this man only exists in this setting, and is only active when I see him here. Like how we used to think our teachers live at school.
We did have a few more encounters with other people while at the club. At one point we sat down to take a break during a string of songs we didn’t care for. At which point three different people came up to us to ask if we were single, wanted to dance, or talk at the bar. Each time we glanced over at each other and giggled slightly before telling the person that we weren’t really interested and watched them go grind with someone else on the dance floor.
We didn’t have a single drink that night, but I accurately proved to Madelyn that I don’t need alcohol to impair my judgment, I can do that just fine on my own. When one of our favorite songs came on, I jumped up on the pole platform (sans old man) and pulled her up with me. Once upon the elevated surface, we didn’t really know what to do except sing really loud, twirl around the pole, and laugh. It looked more like we were part of Singing in the Rain than Hustlers.
Looking back, that’s exactly how I want it to go. I feel like there’s been a lot of pressure on me, especially towards the end of the semester and this summer, to grow up and be a woman. Go on dates, wear hot clothes, LOOK hot all the time- someone asked me the other day to guess my body count “give or take 5 people” and I laughed but all around me I saw my childhood come crashing down. Maybe it’s just the way we all get on our birthdays knowing that a full year has officially passed, but it seems impossible for me to become a woman and participate in these grown-up things when I haven’t even finished exploring girlhood. Wearing pink dresses and black lipstick instead of red, buying fake gold jewelry that turns my neck green, being selfish instead of being in a relationship…
The loud “under 21” wristband, lack of fake IDs, and our childlike dancing are all things that may have been taboo to me at the moment, but they’re things I want to hold onto as long as I can.
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