When my ace Thomas came in town this past summer, we did as we often do when he comes: linked up at Bar Takito, one of my favorite West Loop haunts, with a group of homies. It was a beautiful evening to be on an outdoor patio – mad shit was talked as the overpriced margaritas flowed and the chips and guac were reduced to crumbs.
Things were glorious but for so long. As we closed the spot down, someone suggested that we bust a move to my own c-word: the club…a spot called Reverie in the River North neighborhood. A member of our group knew someone celebrating their birthday party there, which was, in theory, supposed to get us in with no wait.
In large part because I’m in my late-30s, I was totally okay with calling it a night before I had the presence of mind to sprinkle water on my balls and get dressed to even show up at the first gathering place. So, given that it was around midnight and I’d already been drinking, I was a pubic hair away from giving all these niggas the Irish goodbye after Bar Takito and having everyone wondering what happened to Dustin for the first half-hour at Reverie. But I agreed to be a team player. Plus, I had to drive my guy Ish from the bar to the club.
Since we had to find parking, Ish and I got to the spot a bit later than the rest of our party, who were already in the club when we arrived. Despite a tiny dude in a Macy’s boy’s department suit vest rolling out to adorn the two of us with yellow “VIP” armbands ostensibly ensuring we’d get in ahead of everyone else waiting, we still had to post up outside the door and wait with everyone else. Cue the power-hungry meathead white-boy bouncer who probably flunked out of police academy relishing in the only authority he’ll probably ever have, talking shit as he made sure we KEEP THE DAMN SIDEWALK CLEAR!!!!!
I soon realized I was quite likely the oldest person waiting to get in this club. I was surrounded by people who were still zygotes when In Living Color first hit the air. The fine young ladies in their tight, short skirts became less-fine to me when I realized they probably couldn’t rent us a car from Enterprise if we wanted to take a road trip somewhere. Meanwhile, Short Round with the yellow wristbands popped out for the 4,128th time to promise he would get us in soon. As the minutes of the evening continued to elapse, so did the reservoir of fucks I had to give about the whole affair continue to deplete.
As Thomas waited near the front to usher us all in, I set my phone’s timer to tick down five minutes – if I wasn’t in by then, I was out. When that shit hit 0:00, I skipped back to my car like Michael Jackson in The Wiz. I mean, I tried, and things just didn’t work out. The drool puddles on my pillow that evening were especially viscous.
That evening perfectly personifies my club experience these days: social compromise bordering on captivity when someone I care about really wants to go to the club and I get downvoted like a YouTube video. For manifold reasons, it’s not an experience I ever look forward to, and I almost always protest.
Just walking up to the club reminds me of going to the Department of Motor Vehicles: I usually have to wait in a line to get in a place I’d rather not be at anyway. Here in the Midwest, club lines are loaded with people sacrificing their comfort for style at least seven months out the year – arms are tightly folded and lips turn purple as folks engage in that synchronous back-and-forth rock because they’d all rather leave their coats in the car instead of having to worry about the shit show that is the coat check closet at the end of the evening. I don’t even want to imagine what it’s like for women to have that bitter-ass wind sweeping through their undercarriage.
When I finally do make it past the big ice box-shaped nigga trained to tell me that my Rockports aren’t Rockport enough to get inside, nine times out of 10 I’m forced to endure the music I go out of my way to avoid on the radio: Primary school struggle bars over some variation of the same three Metro Boomin beats. Swag surfin’ is only fun at a wedding or an event where you know people, not with a bunch of strangers throwing their shoulder blades into your drink.
Speaking of drinks, getting one at a club often involves entering a borderline-biblical relationship with some dude you never met as you rub your private areas against each other while squeezing up against the bar in an attempt to get the attention of the overwhelmed bartender. This often results in a one-drink-every 80-minute average, which keeps you sober enough to constantly remind yourself that you should’ve kept your black ass at home.
Hollering at women….? Forget about it. The club is the most artificial and forced petri dish of an environment in which to engage in the social contract of meeting a partner. Women are automatically on guard (for good reason) and you can forget about striking up a conversation that doesn’t involve yelling in each other’s faces in attempts to parse out basic information like names and occupations. But if I did happen to meet the future mother of my children at a club, I’d look forward to regaling our grandchildren with stories about how grandma had seven-eighths of her asscheeks out for God and the world to see the night we met.
(Strip clubs are exponentially worse. Who cooked up the brainchild that we should pay $30 to walk in the door and $18 for each Miller Lite only to hurl dollar bills at naked women you can’t touch or touch yourself to? A demented fucking genius, that’s who).
Hell, I even have bad club luck in other countries: a decade ago, I went on a European excursion with my boys that took us to a club in Brixton, London’s “black” neighborhood. We thought our American accents would get us all the play, but we got straight curved by sistas who sound like Mary Poppins. A day later, we went to an “Asian night” in an Amsterdam club, where we might as well have been see-through. A couple days after that, we couldn’t even get in to a Paris nightclub because, the bouncer said, we were three niggas with no women. (Pretty sure it was because we were three niggas. Natch.)
The most fun I’ve had at a nightclub in my 30s was when I was with a woman I’d recently started dating. We wound up in a spot after 1 a.m. when most folks had departed, and she was grinding me at the bar so hard with the strength of things (and people) to come that just a couple thin pieces of fabric separated us from a lewd sex act. I didn’t even give a shit what music was playing. Or that a former high-school student of mine was also in the spot.
My lane is a nice lounge with minimal lighting where I can sit down with my artisanal cocktail containing some manner of jalapeno-infused something poured over a huge ice cube. I can chat with my peoples without worrying about sounding like Fran Drescher the next day. Bonus if the DJ is over the age of 35 or young with a 90s hip-hop soul and spends the evening bumping shit that reminds me of the only good parts of being in high school.
If I never have to set another foot in a club in life, I’ll be perfectly okay. Really, it’s only recently that I’ve been able to tell people confidently: “I ain’t going to the fucking club, fam.” Can’t believe it took this long.