I took my one-year-old to her first night club.
Hello, I'm Sophie Heawood, does my column need a title? If John Doran is MENK then I could be MILF. Or maybe MILF TEETH. I don't want motherhood to define me.
MILF TEETH #6: RAVES MADE ME AND THEY'LL MAKE MY BABY TOO
The anxiety set in when I realised that the German family on my bus, dressed entirely in camouflage, leopardskin and fake fur, were going to the same place I was. A baby rave, in a nightclub, from three till six on a Sunday afternoon. Come and listen to banging techno with the kids, said my friends, it'll be a laugh! Then I got there and the queue was already around the block, one hundred parents with their offspring, their deely-boppers and their tortured hope. It looked quite a lot like the Boden Catalogue, if all the children's faces had been painted over by Hieronymous Bosch. My one-year-old was with me in her pushchair, chewing on her own hand. Joining the queue, I found myself asking God – much like when I peed on a stick two years ago, actually – if this was really happening to me.
Inside, things were really crowded and noisy and BANGING. Some seven-year-olds were deep in chat on the stairs, engaged in some nefarious tangerine dealing, with an older man clearly trying to push pistachios. Toddlers ran past me screaming, clearly off their chops on ketamine, or sweets. The main room was blasting out K-Klass, which simultaneously made me so excited and terrified that we had to run away into the chill-out room, where a jovial old Father Christmas lookalike was playing a bunch of rare groove and soul. My friends were in there with all of their confused babies, and somebody passed me a beer, and I put my child down to dance so she got to work pulling out all the electrical wires from the back of the decks, and then burning her finger on a very hot set of fairy lights. It was at this point I realised I had done entirely the right thing by bringing her here.
Raves were the making of me. Illegal ones in fields somewhere near a roundabout off the A64, or semi-illegal ones in dusty warehouses with structural issues. Legal parties in nightclubs full of attitude. The quite fancy club in Leeds where there was a power cut, and when the lights came back on a couple were having penetrative sex on the nicely carpeted stairs. The one where I went to Manchester to meet my friend and then ended up spending two days with an African guy in Otley (he wore dungarees and was kind). The gay night in Leeds that the straight lads loved so much the transvestite bouncers started making them kiss each other before they could go in. The outdoors one that we were approaching when the police stopped us, and my friend Phil – who was driving and skinning up at that point – talked boring stoner shit at them for such a long time that they just couldn't BEAR it any longer and waved us through.
But what I really learned from raving was how to lose yourself dancing in a crowd of strangers, who you can love even without talking to them. In fact it's better if you don't stop dancing to talk to them, as more than two minutes of conversation often reveals that they are a pathological racist, the sort of person who re-uses teabags and has constructed a complicated faith system about their local car wash. A person who, when you pass them the office stapler, says "Monkey magic!!" by way of thanks, and then cracks their knuckles and says "Bad habit!!" and "Mental, eh!!" A person who would be about as popular in your real life as that Microsoft Office paperclip, or the Comic Sans typeface, if it had been gifted a driving license and legs.
At the dance, though, you love these people and you are one of them. Because if you've never been hugged by a stranger in a darkness only lit by lasers with pure happiness swelling up inside you, you haven't lived! Occasionally it's good to liberate yourself from the exhaustion of holding all your love in every day – man, it's so tiring being English, and keeping all of this passion in here. If it wasn't taboo I'd touch people on the bus. I'd run my hands through children's hair. I'd wrap my fingers around the driver's face and say, "How long do you think it will take to get to the ends of the Earth together?" I'd have sex with all of my friends if there weren't repercussions, and I know all about the repercussions, as there was a good chunk of 2003 when I was quite committed to field research in this area.
(Back at the baby rave, they're playing a song like "Je t'aime" – it's not that, but it's got a breathy orgasm bit where a female voice groans with pleasure, and a seven-year-old girl has grabbed the microphone and is groaning along with it, and nobody has noticed. I don't know who I am any more.)
But most of all, I want my daughter to know the joy of being squashed by the otherpeopleness of other people, particularly the ones who you might scroll right past on a dating website or turn down at a job interview, because in the end you're just one of life's 8,000 teeth. I'm not raising her to think she's the one in a million that can make a difference – that way madness lies. All this propaganda going out to kids today that they matter! I want her to know that she doesn't matter at all and that none of this is real. I want her to revel in the freedom of being born an unplanned human being. Nobody painted a nursery for her, nobody set aside a college fund or organised the person they wanted her to become. All this stuff about working hard so you can be the best and stand out from the rest – I think it might be capitalism's cleverest trick of all. Teaching you to think that this is how you count.
And so I wish her the joy of being anyone, for a few hours, lost in the darkness, answerable only to the molecules. If anything, I want her to know that she is nobody, and nothing. I want her to feel like air.
Follow Sophie on Twitter: @heawood
Photos by Elizabeth Dunningham
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