because the personal is cultural
[Insert cliché quote by Einstein]
Ninety percent of the time, when I went clubbing, I didn’t have a good time. So it was surprising to me, when rereading my old LiveJournal, to realize how often I went out all the same. Why did I keep on doing it in spite of everything? Because I was desperate.
I’ve always been an introverted loner. I like to say that it was because I grew up on a farm in the country and that I’m more used to the company of cows than that of humans, but that’s probably only partially true; I have two older brothers whose personalities are vastly different from mine. Yet I’ve probably gone to clubs hundreds of times more than both of them combined.
I was hoping to meet someone. I never did. Still I kept going.
Often, I was one of the first people there to avoid having to stand in line, a nightmare for the socially anxious. (I have sometimes gone to a show I had a ticket for, gotten to the venue, turned around and come back home because I refused to stand in line.) Not very conducive to meeting people, you might say, but it did allow for the time it would take me to get drunk enough to dance. I usually wouldn’t be the first one on the dance floor but, if I was drunk enough, it could take just one other person. It was better than walking around every floor of the entire club one more time. I remember the straight goth couple who would come to Parking, a huge alternative two-storey club on what used to be Amherst Street in the Gay Village, back when the alternative scene was still commercially viable… The woman would be the first one on the dance floor and she would dance until it started getting just a little bit crowded. Then she and her boyfriend would leave. I consider her one of my people.
Even when I was drunk, I’d have to keep my eyes closed most of the time while dancing so I could pretend there was nobody around me.
One of the worst pieces of advice we commonly give people is for them to get out of their comfort zone. I used to go out of my comfort zone all the time and, a couple of decades later, I don’t have much to show for it. Maybe we call it the comfort zone for a reason: it’s where the good shit is.
Times I went even further out of my comfort zone:
-When a guy at Saphir refused the piece of paper (on which I’d written a compliment) I was giving him even though I told him it wasn’t my phone number.
-When I said “hi” to a man at Stud and he and his two friends giggled before just walking away like in a scene out of Mean Girls.
-When I talked to a guy I wasn’t that attracted to but who kept looking at me and I figured that was good enough. He later came over to sleep at my place, where I learned that he didn’t like Neil Young and realized that his entire body was shaved, which made it feel like a giant sheet of sandpaper against my skin.
-When I went to meet a guy at Stud and he left me for a guy he met at the urinals.
-When I said hi to a cute guy at Parking and we ended up talking about Mulholland Drive. Nothing came of it. We didn’t even kiss.
Times I was approached in a bar:
-When a cute guy approached me (!) on behalf of his less cute friend (?). I asked him “Why doesn’t your friend just talk to me himself?” and the first thing his friend did was pull on my beard.
-When a man sat next to me at Parking, pointed at the porn playing on TV and asked me which one of the men I’d rather be, the one fucking or the one getting fucked.
-When a man grabbed me by the hand at Stud as I was passing by and told me “I’m Armenian.”
-When I ran into a guy I’d met at a bathhouse and he ripped open my buttoned-up western shirt.
-When a Libra (I feel this is relevant information) approached me at Le Belmont while I was in a relationship and told me to get in touch with him if my boyfriend and I ever broke up. He disappeared as soon as we did break up.
-The time I was drunk at Parking and went to the washroom. There were two rows of urinals on each side, but water was dripping from the ceiling over one row, so I went on the dry side. As soon as I unzipped my pants, a man came at the urinal right next to mine even though the washroom was completely empty and said “Hi.” I had one rule back then: you can approach me anytime anywhere in the bar except in the washroom. So, because I was wasted, without even looking at him, I switched sides with my cock hanging out of my pants and peed there as the water dripped down on me. He followed me, placed himself in front of the urinal next to mine, and said “hi” again. I turned around to tell him off but, when I did so, I realized that he was quite good-looking. The reason we resent beautiful people so much is because we forgive them everything. So I said “hi” back. And we shook hands. With our free hand. Because the other one was busy holding our peeing cocks. I don’t remember how the conversation went, but I do know that I never saw him in the club after that.
All the time I went to clubs, I was looking for the other person who, like me, didn’t want to be there. I never found them. Maybe because they were smarter than me and simply didn’t go.
Since mask mandates have been lifted, I’ve only attended outdoor concerts. I was considering making an exception for my birthday, allowing myself to go out with a bang (once a year), unlike the rest of the world, dying with a whimper. To imagine what it might be like, I would project myself into the videos that people posted on Instagram of the concerts they were attending. I could not envision enjoying myself. What had changed (besides the obvious, which I was willing to overlook for one evening)?
Live music wasn’t like clubbing for me. I genuinely loved it. But it wasn’t all about the music either. I’ve already admitted on Twitter that I sometimes thought I went to concerts just so I could be around cute people (music fans are the hottest). More importantly, even though I had no illusions about ever meeting someone at a concert, just being among people who were appreciating the same thing I was made me feel less alone. Live music might still be there, but this is what’s been lost for me: I could no longer pretend that I’m not alone if I were to go back. That illusion has been shattered. Appreciating the same thing is no longer enough. I now feel less alone listening to records by myself.
A much better quote, one I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since I heard it, this one by Tony Bennett, of all people, in the Amy Winehouse documentary: “Life teaches you how to live it if you live long enough.”
has an MA in Film Studies and works in contemporary dance. His fiction has appeared in Headlight Anthology, Cactus Heart, and Birkensnake.