There's plenty in the way of unspoken rules and tacky etiquette when it comes to navigating nightclubs as a single person. Pick-up artists have filled sordid books with negging techniques and terminology like "dancefloor real estate," in order to provide guidance to hapless dweebs in their pursuit of the mythical lay. Yet there is a gaping hole in the literature. It's all very well recommending pick-up lines to Iron Man fans who've just discovered protein shakes, but what about the rest of us?
Let's posit that, somehow, you've managed to convince another person to enter into a consensual relationship with you. You've started watching House of Cards together, your parents ask how you both are, your laundry cycles have begun to overlap, like the confused merging of two orbiting cyclones. By and large this means domestic harmony—finally, making enough pasta slathered in pesto for two people is actually an appropriate portion—but there's a big wide world beyond the four walls of your hastily shared bedroom. At some point you'll be forced to take your new union into other, more challenging environments, and none provide more in the way of obstacles and moral question marks than the nightclub.
A successful night out with your other half* can have a profound impact; nothing is likely to bring you closer to the One You Love than half a pinger and a Tom Moulton edit. Yet "the club" can also transplant you back to the rampant individualism of your single days. Look around you: the writhing bodies, the unfettered availability of booze and drugs, the dodgy signal and bleak basements. The ideals of monogamy and mutual-respect can soon lose their appeal. You've had a few pints and a bump of some cheap drugs and nobody gets to tell you what to do, do they?
While this approach might make you a free-wheeling, inconsiderate legend for a night, you will also likely wake up the morning after with stinging memories of a shouting match in the cloakroom queue and a loveless night bus home. So, below are just a few golden rules and cardinal sins to consider when you next decide to get the cans in with your dearly beloved.
*A housekeeping note: writing this article has made me realize how totally fucking impossible it is to write about people in relationships in a gender-neutral way, that doesn't involve words and phrases like "partner," "other-half" and "significant other." So please excuse my gradual transfiguration into a tabloid agony aunt/sex therapist.
Photo via Flickr user Elvert Barnes
1. Don't fuck off with your mates all night long
A big, steamy, noisy night out can be a great way to introduce your new life partner to your friends, but: don't be dick. There is no contempt greater than the scorn you'll earn if you leave your new love to fend for themselves in a room full of people they don't know. Don't swan into pre-drinks like Michael Corleone, disappearing into the kitchen with your core squad, your girlfriend/boyfriend catching a final glimpse of your face as the door closes, leaving them perched awkwardly on the arm of a sofa nodding along to whatever music is playing, while 15 people they don't know talk around them.
2. Employ a coordinated intoxication strategy
AKA: drop at the same time.
If you're in a bigger group this doesn't matter as much, but if you want to enjoy a night out just the two of you, it's worth trying to stay on a fairly even footing when it comes to general waviness. Communicate throughout the night about how you're feeling and when you're thinking of dropping. Synchronicity is key. Your relationship will not be enhanced by one of you droning on about the "elemental power" of smoke machines, while the other silently contemplates how much their feet hurt.
3. Stop acting like a personal bodyguard
Big question here: what do you do if another person—a stranger—is trying it on with your beloved? You can see them, they are right there, teaching your boyfriend how to dab by holding his bicep, asking your girlfriend if she's Greek, cos, "you look Greek... my flatmate is Greek". The impulse is there—outrage mingled with Red Stripe as dental anaesthetic and 2% cocaine courses through your body. You don't want a fight, but come on, be honest, you do a little bit don't you? Part of you would like nothing more than to place a flat palm against their chest and push them aside with the calm authority of a Footballer's Wives bit-part.
Before you go storming in all "leave it out mate," take a breath. The likelihood is that your special friend is more than capable of dealing with a bit of unwanted attention. If they want someone to leave them alone, let them deal with it themselves. Stomping over ready to yank somebody's hair out is only going to make the entire situation worse, and make you look like a possessive child. The line between chivalry and looking like Big Tony, Simon Cowell's old bouncer on the X Factor, is a thin one.
Similarly, if you're the person being flirted with, make it obvious enough that you're not about to elope with this entire hen do. It's nice to be nice.
4. Beware of grand declarations
I realize that right now—right now as your heart pounds with lysergic exuberance and your scalp feels like a peeling orange—telling your partner of two months you want to raise children with them feels really right. But just on the off chance it's the drugs, maybe save that chat for the day after. That way you can both enjoy the latest episode of Better Call Saul in really, really uncomfortable silence!
5. When it's over, it's over
This one is tough, but important. If you're partying with your partner and one of you is flagging, you've sort of got to call it a night. To be clear, we're talking about properly flagging here. If you're having a sick night and they start tapping you on the shoulder because they are "bored", then you're perfectly within your rights to force them to stay out for another hour. An hour max but a whole hour nonetheless. However, if they are done in—I'm talking droopy-eyed, nearly falling forward before they jolt awake at the last moment flagging—then do the right thing and make a swift exit. "Get a gram in for me, just going to put the missus in a taxi," is not a good look on anyone. Don't forget, existential loneliness is the soup du jour of any after-party, so you probably won't fit in anyway.
6. PDA policy
You'd maybe expect me to be a snarky dick here and make some comment about how "nobody cares, so keep your hands to yourself," but actually, controversially, public displays of affection in nightclubs are a good thing. These are, after all, sites of togetherness, aren't they? Isn't the sight of two people who like each other enough to hold hands and smile for five hours is actually quite...nice? That said, after a few hours in a club, you're probably struggling to keep your jaw still when your mouth is closed, so any attempt at a sensual make-out session is likely to resemble an emperor penguin regurgitating mackerel into the gullet of his chick—which isn't as sexy as I've inadvertently made it sound.
7. Bring chewing gum
Before you slide into the Uber make sure you've got the following: keys, phone, wallet, drugs, and a massive box of Wrigley's Extra. One of those pots that travelling salesmen have on their dashboard. Good for grinding teeth and not tasting like a pub-garden plant pot.
8. Having sex in the club
Look, I'm in no position of authority on this one. I'd sooner eat a car tyre than have naked sexual intercourse in front of other people, but hey! This is light-hearted online content! Leave my systemic insecurities out of it! Obviously, if you are at a sex party in deepest Berlin, then lube up and go bananas.** However if it's not that sort of club—Pryzm in Ipswich, say—then please don't have sex on the dancefloor. You will probably end up arrested.
**Yes, by the why, the venn diagram of "people who go to sex parties" and "people who say 'lube up and go bananas'" is two completely detached circles. Correct.
9. Going to bed
You've made it back to the comfort of your bedroom. Time to put some Prefab Sprout on and crawl under the sheets, pulling fresh, floating cotton over prickled skin. You'll probably try and have sex, before realizing the chemical flush gently slowing in your veins has rendered your libido as potent as a Fruit Shoot. Don't give yourself a hard time—you physically can't. Best to admit defeat and enjoy the transitory state between comfort and euphoria, as you flit between inane chatter and blinking, shallow sleep.
That is presuming you've been on the pingers. If you've just been drinking expect to spend the night trying to cushion the heavy breathing of your significant other who fell straight to sleep and now sounds like a dying dog sneezing its lungs up through thin black nostrils. If you've spent the night doing coke then it's doubtful you're still together.
10. Managing the comedown
Now, this is the real reason you signed up for a long-term relationship in the first place, right? Remember all those comedowns spent alone? Stemming the gnawing flutters of dread by watching Superbad, eating toast and downloading Tinder? At last you have somebody by your side to share in the clammy-palmed listlessness. Make sure you're well stocked—the usuals in the way of fruit juice, cigs and Doritos—and settle in for a rollicking day of naps, daytime TV and the rich, ripe, unquestionable stench of two bodies that have remained bed-bound for 20 hours.
Basically this is a taster day for what your decaying, twilight years will be like, as the pair of you embark on the final, and ultimate comedown: old age. If you can get through the Sunday with your relationship in tact, then congratulations; it must be love after all.