So it begins. My night out. I'd much rather be at home, sober, snuggled up in someone's arms watching Netflix. In that scenario though, I would be alone. Alone. It's a powerful word, but the word "single" just doesn't seem to be as impactful.
So I get all dolled up. I look good, at least, I think I do. To be honest I feel fat and ugly under the clothes I'm wearing and the makeup caked on my face that I hope no one notices because I'm going for a more natural look. I'm not "alone". I'm with friends. We go out together because how else am I suppose to enjoy the scenario of me staying watching Netflix and enjoying the company of my significant other when I don't have...a significant other. Not yet anyway.
Going out has now become a chore, a job, one that I hate, but must endure because loneliness to a Taurus like myself is like a disease slowly killing me from the inside out. Apps are convenient, but never bare fruit on my never-ending search for my soulmate. Yes, I said soulmate. Feel free to grimace and gag, but I'm a romantic. I can't help it. I'm mostly hopeless too, but tonight I was feeling hopeful. However, that never tends to last.
We get to the club. Sober. I'm a little anxious and excited, but I'm mostly just over it all. I don't want to be here, but I've already convinced myself that I have to be. It's just one night a week though, it's not gonna kill me. We head straight for the bar and order our drinks. Amaretto Sour, our signature. At least back then it was. It's sweet. I like sweet. It's also tasty, but it won't be enough. We'll be back for shots in a little bit.
It's packed on the dancefloor tonight. The crowd looks somewhat promising. A few prospects here and there. None have seem to notice me yet, but I've noticed them. I have to make myself known. How else can an introvert like me go about doing that? Dancing of course, but I'm not feeling it just yet.
We get another round of drinks, this time with shots. Fireball. Cliché, I know, but it gets the job done. We throw them back and continue drinking. We feel...something. We're getting there. I feel more confident. Liquid courage, they call it, for a reason. It works. I keep drinking. I want to dance now, but my drink is empty. I need another first.
Another round of drinks and shots too, why the hell not. I'm paying this time. We hit the dancefloor. I'm ready to show off my moves. The music is right, the alcohol is lighting me up, and I'm surrounded by like minded individuals that want to have a good time too. Nothing could go wrong in this scenario, but in my mind everything was wrong. It was that little voice again.
No one notices you, it says.
I get another drink and shot. I'm a little passed buzzed now. I've tricked myself into thinking I'm having fun. I'm dancing more and the smile on my face feels and looks genuine. I snap a couple photos with my Samsung Galaxy 7 Edge at the time to capture momentous high, plus I'm feeling very photogenic. I'm normally not.
When I look at the pictures, I'm very pleased. I look fierce and confident and those strobe lights hit me just right and I was able to capture it all myself. I didn't see it in that moment, but I also captured something else in those photos that I was too naïve to understand just yet.
The night begins to wind down. You can tell because there's fewer and fewer people on the dancefloor. The bar announces last call and we close out our tabs. Cinderella turns back into a pumpkin at 2am. Of course that was before I found out about after hours.
After that night I found myself home; hungover and again, alone. The cycle continued however. Our place to frequent changed as did my signature drink. I even met more people to hang out with. I was steadily honing the craft of going-to-clubs. There was a sort of routine in it all and as a Taurus, part of me liked that kind of stability, even if the outcome was always the same.
As the cycle continued and evolved, so did my friend group. To be honest, it was probably the circle of friends that kept the cycle of drinking and partying spinning. I graduated from friends who were in the same stage of life as me (crappy job and living at home) to friends that had their shit a little more together. I have to admit though, the demographic was more diverse than it was before and I wasn't used to that. I didn't necessarily feel not alone, but I definitely felt more accepted by them. They came from different countries and walks of life and they all worked hard for what they had. I liked that. Though as welcoming as they were, there still was a small caveat with this group. Most of them were female, which nothing is wrong with that, and most of them tended to go to bars and clubs that didn't feel as welcoming to me as they themselves were. I only fit into part of their demographic, there still was a big part of me that didn't feel completely accepted and I felt the most that way when we went out to, for all intents and purposes, straight bars and clubs.
They're looking at you weird, the voices chimed in again.
Do you think they know?
Of course they know, look at me!
I drank to numb the anxiety being in those situations gave me. It worked, for a time. It got to a point where I just hung out with them less because it completely and utterly drained me to be in that environment. And it's not like I was pretending to be someone I wasn't, but I just wasn't around enough people that were like myself or into the same things I was into. I clung to a specific friend because he liked both girls and boys and could somehow easily transition between one type of setting to another at will. Like a chameleon. In order for me to do that, I would have to drink, heavily, just to replace the shy and introverted persona inside me with someone more charismatic and equipped to be in the situations I voluntarily put myself in.
I eventually met someone else. A prospect that turned into a friend. Not exactly healthy, but I've been through worse. I knew what my psyche was capable of handling and so far I've been doing just fine. This friend though, introduced me to some of his friends and then I eventually moved in with one of his friends. We formed a sort of trio that eventually expanded into a squad. This squad however was another step out of my league. They had their shit together, better jobs, nicer apartments and hella money to burn. I found myself struggling to keep up, especially when I was going through my own problems. To put things in perspective, there's two accountants, two real estate agents, and a pharmacist in our main group of friends and then beyond that with the extended group there's also an app developer and landscaper. Then there's me. An aspiring writer who has a boring warehouse job that is so hard to explain that I just avoid talking about it all together.
I continue going out with these people knowing full well that I don't belong with them, but for some reason, some deep seeded resilience keeps pushing me to go out and make more friends whose lifestyles I can't keep up with all for the slim chance that I'll bump into the love of my life. It's tragic looking at it from the outside in, but it's honest, it's my truth. It's how I feel unfortunately.
A typical night with this bunch consists of pregaming, always. It's become a necessity to pregame, especially if we're going to our usual spot. It's pretentious and expensive, but the music is great and one of us is bound to get lucky, so why not. We have a few drinks before our Uber picks us up because I honestly can't stand to be in that environment with all the pretentiousness and privilege. Besides, it's come to a point over the years where I feel like I know everyone there at the bar now. I've been burned by a few of them, ignored, turned away, laughed at, judged and I still go back for more. I am insane. I know.
We get to the bar and of course I'm a minority in more ways than one. The obvious one being my skin color. Then over the passed two years I've come to identify as gender-queer/non-conforming so half the time I'll be in heels, but you'll always see me painted. A natural matte look of course. Again, not a lot of people like me, at least none that I can spot right away. So loneliness begins to take root, but it's manageable at this stage.
I usually feel hot AF when the squad rolls up and I strut in looking like I own the place. It's come to the point where the lady at the door checking for IDs knows me and even the bartenders know what I like to order as soon as they see me. I worked hard for that. I made them laugh. I was entertaining to them. I deserve a little compensation right.
"Vodka red bull, Yolanda?!" my favorite bartender Larry asks.
Yolanda. Not my real name of course. Inside joke. He also thinks I work at a salon too, but that's only because, again, my job is kind of hard to explain and not at all interesting.
I started drinking vodka red bulls after a coworker told me about them. They definitely help keep me awake and active throughout the long nights.
The first few drinks don't get to me just yet, but they keep me from yawning. I'm active now. More willing to put myself out there. I need more courage though. Maybe a shot. Fireball.
We shoot it and drown the taste with our drinks. Things are getting fuzzy now and that's the way I like it. I'm becoming more free, but I'm also becoming a caricature of myself. I've become loud, slightly obnoxious, but mostly just more fun to be around. If I wasn't there I'd probably be at home alone, probably doing this, but maybe not.
I'm on the dancefloor, feeling the music, dancing with my friends, but hoping some one will scoop me up into their arms and take me home, not for a hook up, because I'm not that kind of person, but to cuddle and talk, but that's just what sober me wants.
As the night winds down and 2am approaches, I'm not worried because the squad already knows where we're going to next, it's become tradition. After hours. That's at least another 2 to 3 hours more of spending more money to forget who I am as a person and to loosen my morals.
The Uber takes us to our next location and we just repeat. My friends, they're looking to hook up and as thirsty as I am too, I'm still trying to convince myself that I'm worth more than that, but I just drink more to shut that person up, because in this day and age who cares about someone with self-respect and morals. It's all about having a good time and forgetting about of the societal restrictions we place on ourselves. Right? YOLO and all that crap.
So I drink some more. Shots as well. The night is still young.
The music is super loud at this after hours place. You can barely hear anything anyone says. There's just this constant drum of beats and rhythms as your brain slows down time.
Oh look. A hot, sweaty guy dancing up against you. Maybe he's interested, that voice says.
I dance with him. I'm fully immersed in the moment. We eventually make out. It's my twisted version of the Cinderella ballroom dance scene, but it's good enough in that moment. It has to be. By the end of the night though, no number or name exchanged and I'm left with the memory of his lips on mine and a determination to see him again.
So I repeat. Next weekend.
Same thing; outfit, makeup, pregame, club.
Where is that guy?
Nowhere to be found. I go back multiple times, Friday's and Saturdays, and when I finally do see him again, there's absolutely no recognition in his eyes.
How drunk was he? Was I one of those people to him? Someone that got attractive the more you drank?
Off to the next one.
I repeat the process. I find someone else and the flames from their alcohol induced passion burn me once again.
You're so gullible.
And it's not just the potential suitors I feel burned by. It's my friends too, though they just don't know they're doing it. They have so many options and their problems pale in comparison to mine, plus they're all attractive. I'd probably date any one of them if they gave me a chance.
But you're not good enough for them.
So I drink more.
They'll never truly accept you.
Another shot. Fireball. No. This time, Rumple Minze. I need something stronger.
You're just their token.
I throw back another.
Stop being a prude and just give it up.
Ugh, you need to lose weight.
Maybe you shouldn't be so feminine.
Of course they're together. Why not me though?
Three shots, please!
Is that cocaine? I've never done that before. Don't be a little bitch!
Chug! Chug! Chug!
Ooh, he's offering me weed. Cool.
Just fit in! They won't like you if you don't.
You're not good enough. You're nothing.
How much is too much?
This Ecstasy is not working. Lame.
Then it gets to the point where the voices in my head start to make sense.
Why are you doing this to yourself? But then I realize those aren't the voices, it's just me.
I drink to fill the empty void inside of me because it's a space so vast that no matter how many friends I make or what family members support me, it just won't close shut. And no matter how many drinks I drink or drugs I take, I get the same results. Just emptiness. Though it's ten times worse and not just because it comes with a hangover, but because I realized how much of myself that I chose to sacrifice in the process of trying to fit in.
I realized that when I looked at these photos of me nearly three years later. I usually opt for a pouting face because faking a smile is still too much even when I'm drunk. And even though I'm wearing sunglasses, I can tell behind those shades that I was just acting and putting on a show because what else am I going to do. Stay at home and be lonely? Or go out with friends and act like nothing is wrong for a night with the help of some alcohol.
I then look at the more recent photos I've taken, some of which are sprinkled throughout this story. The quality is a step up, but that's because I upgraded to an iPhone X due to some persuasion from a friend. Plus, most of my friends had iPhones and my other phone was cracked and it was time for an upgrade anyway, one that I am still to this day paying for. I also noticed how much better I got at lying to myself and acting in the newer pictures. I actually really look like I'm having fun and to be honest I did have fun, but I wasn't happy. I caught moments of vulnerability in the first collage of photos. And as good as I think I look in the more crisper photos, I actually like the photos from 2017 a lot better. I wasn't trying too hard. I was living in the moment. My friends were real and dependable and struggled as I did.
After three years of doing the club and partying scene, I've come to realize that it's not worth it. I want to find something genuine and meaningful, but I can't expect someone to come along and just fix me with a kiss. I need to fix myself first. Respect myself. Love myself. Do what I love which is write and once I've achieved that inner success, I'm sure someone will fall in love with my authentic smile and that will be worth taking a photo of.