By Gamal Hennessy
People usually have reasons for why they do things. We go to work to make money. We eat because we’re hungry. We fall asleep on the train because we’re tired. We may not consciously know why we do certain things, but if we think about it, we can usually figure out the reason.
So why do we go out at night? It can deprive us of sleep, money and the chance to watch reality TV if we don’t turn on the TiVo. We put something into nightlife. Do we get anything out of it?
I think there are as many reasons for going out as there are people who go out. But after three years of non-scientific, anecdotal, and random observation, I’ve come up with seven broad categories to define why we go out. Six of them can be lumped under the concept of ‘having fun’, and one is just closer to work (but much better than being in the office). Take a look and figure out which category fits you best.
Consumption: (The things we take in)
For some people its beer. For others it’s dirty martinis. Some of us want to eat and some of us want things that the DEA would bust you for. It doesn’t really matter what your particular poison is, a big part of nightlife is about eating, drinking and smoking freely. The reason wine bars, micro brew bars, and hookah bars do so well is because we are willing to pay to satisfy our hunger to imbibe.
Connection: (The people we meet)
You meet a friend at a bar for a drink when she wants to talk. You go out for happy hour after work with your co-workers to bitch about your boss. You might have girl’s night out once a month. You might cruise the hotels bars for cougars. Humans are social creatures. We have a need to connect with one another. At work and at home, you are constrained in your behavior and limited in the people you can interact with. When you go out, the walls come down. You can talk and act more freely. You can meet people for a minute or forge bonds that last for years. The connection might be intense or shallow, but the energy is different at night.
Entertainment: (The things we see and hear)
The chance to see, hear or feel something is a huge part of nightlife. You might be listening to an unknown comic or garage band one night and part of the insane crowds at a Police or Danny Tenaglia concert the next night. Entertainment can be something as innocent as watching a baseball game at a local bar or as corrupt as the champagne room at a local strip club (actually, it can get worse than that, but you get the idea). It’s been said that one man’s porn is another man’s art, and no where is that more true than New York at night. What you want to see and hear at night actually says a lot about how you see yourself as a person.
Flash: (The wealth we display)
There are people who want to be seen spending big money on table service. They want you to see their Mercedes SUV. They want to drop a couple hundred on a cover to a place the rest of us may not be able to get into. The idea of a discount or happy hour makes them cringe. Why? Because they are living the glamorous life. Consumption here isn’t as important as being able to afford the consumption. If you have the money (or just want to look that way) you want the car, the clothes and the Grey Goose. What better place to display your status than in the clubs?
Obligation: (The social debt)
There are times that we go out when we don’t really want to. The client is in town from Kansas. Someone has to take them out. Tag, you’re it. You’re girlfriend’s brother is having a birthday party. She’s going, so you’re going. Tag, you’re it. You’re friend just got fired, dumped, rejected for the cast of Real World 37. They want you to meet them for a drink. Tag, you’re it. This is the only reason for going out that might not be fun, but compared to being stuck in your office or bored at home, it’s not that bad, is it?
Release: (The temporary escape)
Sometimes you need a break. You can’t sit in your cubical anymore. If your boss calls you one more time about TPS reports, you’re going to cut someone. You’ve tried to like Deal or No Deal and its just not working for you. You need to dance. You need to spend time with your friends. You need to get away from the desk and the Blackberry and the TV for a few hours. Going out isn’t as long as a vacation, but you don’t have to get frisked by Homeland Security to get into the club.
Sex: (The common theme)
Expressions of sexuality can be found in almost every aspect of nightlife. The clothing is tighter and more revealing. The conversation has more carnal energy. Inhibitions are lowered with alcohol. The movements on the dance floor don’t leave anything to the imagination. Nightlife is a sexual metaphor on a city wide scale. It can be simple or elaborate, fun or dangerous, satisfying or forgettable, mysterious or revealing, expensive or cheap, all at the same time. Maybe that’s why so many people keep coming back to it night after night.
Of course, many of these categories overlap. Any of us might have several goals on any given night, making any club night an exercise in multi-tasking. But if you think about why you go out, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of place you want to go to and finding the right place for you will be much easier.