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OUT, out: A tribute to wild nights and packed dance floors

By September 19, 2021No Comments

In the wake of this week’s Met Ball, Kate Demolder pens an ode to the blowout

My last time dancing before the world closed was spent between the floors and smoking area of a Dublin gay bar. It was early March, 2020 and I’d been to a play, hours before, with my friend Rory. We got so drunk on whiskey and cokes we decided the only way was up, running around, twirling, until the DJ decided to call it a night. It was thrilling – even for a time when congregation wasn’t illegal – and for the time I was there, nothing mattered. The outside world didn’t exist. We moved as one and that one was free, loved and uncaring. Liberté, égalité, détaché.


I’ve thought about that night every Saturday since it happened. Since the world eliminated contact. Since the 2km rule. Since my longing for contact consumed me. It burns me, my desire for difference. For chaos, for mischief, for change. 

Would I have done anything different if I’d known it was my last taste of freedom?

Nights out are part of our culture. Romantic, restorative, re-energising. They equalise us, base us, surface talking points, show us in our most primordial form. They create a world in which the binary we live in is flipped, allowing us to play the part of angel and devil all in one. It’s seductive and disgusting, soothing and anxious, pattern-following and wholly unorthodox. A regular fallacy that reduces us to the insensitives that create us. 

I want to be desensitised following two years of sensitivity. To feel the night between my skirt. To hug and kiss and scream and run and do it all while eight-people deep in a six-seater cab. I want to go into the bathroom and laugh at what I look like. To order a Dirty Martini and skid on wet tiles as I head to the smoking area. To light a cigarette backwards. To feel the bass throb in my ears as the taxi I get home drives through empty roads. I want to brush up against a sweaty friend on a dance floor as Katy On A Mission mutes all conversation. I want to scream ‘one more tune’ at a DJ whose name I’ve forgotten. To tell a girl in the bathroom to dump her boyfriend. To soak up the sauce of the night and feel sweat upon my chest as I drink two litres of water and pray for tomorrow.

Following the 18 months we’ve had, an abundance of LED light is needed to make everything feel less shitty. Who among us can resist the upward mobility of a ‘90s R’n’B groove? Not to be flippant or Celtic Tiger-adjacent, but clubbing is the greatest democracy, one party providing for us all. The New Normal has me less keen on trying new adventures, but romanticising old ones, most specifically the lesser COVID-compliant. But what does a blowout look like in this strange new world – and is there room for grotesque, gaudy, strobing fun?

There’s been a lot of talk of a revived Roaring ‘20s—an idea of reemerging into a dipsomaniacal post-COVID world, some 100 years after flappers first danced the Charleston. It’s a nice thought, that we can simultaneously go back in time and embrace the future, but what does a postmodernist flouting of Prohibition Laws look like? And can we really count on it to provide the guttural scream of a life’s-too-short blowout?

Nobody could quite put a finger on what a neo-Art Deco era looked like until this year’s (albeit delayed) Met Gala. Keke Palmer dances on tables while Kacey Musgraves sings the blues. AOC provides the message while Olivia Rodrigo smokes in a bathroom stall. Pete Davidson wears a frock. Kendall is covered in diamonds! Cara Delevingne wants to peg! The rules – finally – no longer apply. 

Celebrities at the Met Ball may not be relatable, the whole rigmarole verges on gauche—but we officially have a solid reference point for the new Jazz Age. Excess, indulgence, unthinking, in-the-moment letting loose.

I know what you’re thinking. That the time doesn’t seem right for extravagance and Charvet shirts. It’s insensitive – COVID still ravages on, the planet is crying and heartache still prevails. We should be compliant, cautious and wholly apprehensive. But apprehension, be damned. What we need right now is to prescribe carefree insouciance and normalcy to our aching, broken minds. To rub shoulders with friends and foes alike, to feel the variables of a night out wash over you, to appear fluid amongst a sea of fluidity – to emancipate yourself from mental sanitising! To have one day that differs from another! 

This feeling can be forged in a myriad of ways. No longer relegated to the jet set, a moment of reckless extravagance can be accessed by anyone who has done away with fun in the last year. Zip yourself into uncomfortable shoes and an outfit you need help to get out. Wear a slit that shows too much. Eat a whole turkey leg. Outsource meal prep and order something that ends in an é: sauté, flambé, brûlée. Dance like your ex is watching!

Remember that feeling of being out out? All the way out. Stripping naked in the bog to relieve in a jumpsuit, locking eyes with someone on the dance floor and wondering if they’re the one, feeling the heat of the speakers pulse up to a billion as my feet ache and top drips with spilled gin. We deserve to throw our coat in an uncivilised pile and dance around it like primitive soldiers, as people we don’t know do the same and whinny in succession. 

The forgotten pleasure of going out has been just that, forgotten, at a time when scrubbing groceries and avoidance have become commonplace. I long for cheap earrings and saccharine cocktails. We deserve to dance poorly and order doubly while texting friends “where you?” from the second stall toilet. To meet a new best friend, a soul mate even, and share secrets only to immediately lose her, your wallet and your cloakroom ticket. 

Take whatever money I’ve saved for rainy days and broken hearts and pour it into a fund for the soul: a night out to end all nights out. Let me go full Gatsby and pass my card around to strangers. For a night not where the evening flows, but rages on unapologetically, causing a tsunami of rollicking. A raucous glitch in the matrix of a fragile, tender time. 

So, no, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Because it was perfect. Because clubbing, for all of its scandalous flaws and eccentricities, is perfect. So, cut to me at 4am in the tightest dress I could find, choosing to sleep on the couch instead of the bed because it’s right there. To paw at the glitter I placed delicately on my eyes before giving up and chugging water. As light breaks, the night will return to my mind, and I will remember what it is to be free – the glitz, the glamour and the leftover glitter on my cheek, only seen in the bathroom mirror.