What is our current fixation with nightclubs?
The music pulsed, throbbing itself into the core of my veins and brains. The light was minimal, erratic. The crowd fought its way through one another, only to find more of itself. The smell of sweaty dance floor and alcohol filled the air, with the occasional tinge of marijuana or vomit.
“Who would force me or anyone for that matter to endure such an experience for several hours on end into the wee hours of the morning?” you might ask. In fact, people pay large sums of money to be a part of it. I know, because having bartended at some of the busiest clubs in San Francisco, I was the one they were giving most of their money to.
Suffocatingly tight clothing, epic hangovers, and the constant barrage of bodies against one’s skin are also among the pleasantries that are a part of the club scene in any city, so what gives? You may not wish such a scenario upon your playground nemesis from middle school, but throngs will stand in line in rain and snow for extended parts of their evenings to be a part of it, so let us explore if there is a method or if it is purely madness.
“I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something,” was the standout quote for me from the standout movie Crash in 2004. This thought is embedded into my brain because the writers nailed it. We are human beings who want connection with others more than we want anything else. This is in fact the core of our being and humanity.
This desire expresses itself in a multitude of ways, many of which seem crazy or are actually directly counter to what we are trying to achieve. Ever notice how often an idle conversation with a stranger revolves around subtle attempts to find something you have in common with them, be it place of origin, favorite sports team, or preferred coffee shop. Paradoxically, disagreements we have commonly stem from the same desired connection. We often say no, shake our heads, or differ with our fellow conversant on some small part of what they just said about us, because we are afraid of being known to closely and possibly rejected once “known.” This dysfunctional fear comes from the very functional place of wanting to be known, then accepted regardless of what the other person knows.
So wait, why do we endure the horrors of clubbing one another? Don Cheadle tells us in Crash--"we just want to feel something." We are hungry for that contact, even if it comes in the not so appetizing forms of sweaty bodies drunkenly grinding and groping themselves against us. We will pay quite a price tag even for a dulled, inebriated, partial contact with a stranger who doesn’t even begin to meet our most basic criteria for a partner. This hunger can become so powerful that just a bite of a tasteless, scarred morsel that has been gathering dust commands a premium.
Often a club goer will expel a litany of complaints about the experience they are in or were in the night before--drunk people, unattractive girls, gropey guys, douchebag doormen, asshole bartender, and on and on, ad nauseum, literally--and get in the exact same club’s line the very next weekend… or night. They are expressing a similar paradoxical fear of closeness and intimacy that ripples through humanity. We want this connection more than anything, and because of that desire are incredibly fearful of rejection. These so called rejections may be as seemingly minute as, “No thanks,” to your offer to purchase her a drink, a cocktail spilled carelessly down your dress, or her beeline to the bathroom mid-grind against you, yet each are powerful because they feel rejecting of our deep desire to connect.
Because intimacy is our deepest desire, it can create tremendous fear inside us due to our past experience of receiving the opposite, aka rejection. Thus we will go to tremendous lengths to try to find intimacy, even though the versions of it are often so contorted or watered down that they are barely recognizable, and may include a certain amount of rejection as a part of the pricetag.