Monday, February 17, 2014

A Saturday night in Saigon

Growing older single has taken away the ability to do nothing without the sneaky feeling of being a social misfit. I’ve always enjoyed my own company – or that of characters in books and sitcoms – but now I can’t shake the feeling that it’s pathetic, and I should be out somewhere creating a fracas.

Every weekend I see Facebook photos of my peers taking their kids to the zoo, or watching TV with their partners, or having lunch with other couples. And I wish I was too. Until I found that several of them look at my weekend pictures and wish they were doing that. Clearly there’s a healthy amount of greener grass in the world at any given point in time. So that’s okay.

So I’m spending a Saturday night watching my friends make the mistakes I’ve already made, swallowing the wisdom I know they won’t hear, confining myself to light chaperonage that can perhaps steer them away from the worse bits. I’m drinking too, just like they are, but am hampered by a vague sense of responsibility, a very clear memory of what a hangover feels like, and an even greater desire to not lose my Sunday to one. (I’m also blessed with a harder head than most, which helps.) I seem to have moved seamlessly from eternal sister to eternal aunt. The fun kind, who you’re happy to hang out with. I do have a lot of good role models in that, so that’s okay too. As a cousin once said to me, we needed our young, single aunts; everyone needs that aunt.

I sit on the stairs, peacefully texting other friends in other time zones, while various characters from Leonard Cohen songs surge up and down, getting on with the serious business of bad decisions. I enjoy myself, as I usually do when left alone to do so. Clubs and noisy bars have never been my mileu in terms of social success, because I need conversation to click. I love the noise, the clubby music and the party vibe, but only as a spectator. If I’m allowed to just be the weird woman on the sidelines writing blog posts about it, I am deeply happy.

Now it’s two in the morning, still an hour away from the blinding lights of closing time. The evening is at the height of its fever. There are the young animals raising the roof with the sort of confidence you have to be born with. Around them, others are brandishing the kind that comes one shot at a time out of a tequila bottle. There are girls judging other girls for doing exactly the sort of thing they would like to be doing. Some girls for whom this is a working evening, many others who are so far down the tequila bottle that that line is not the only one that’s a bit blurred. Girls in tears, girls who will be in tears in the morning, boys getting into trouble, groups of friends unsteadily but doggedly holding one another back from one fate or the other.

Someone sits down on the stairs next to me saying “That’s the longest text message in the world”. I tell him it’s a blog post. He says I’d do better to rescue my friend. I look at him enquiringly, he points downstairs to the bar. I follow the pointing finger – and yes, it’s definitely aunty-time. I shelve the writer and get off the stairs. I have no trouble disentangling her, and getting her into a cab. I get into a cab myself, feeling like the oldest inhabitant of the world. It isn’t until I get home that I realize belatedly – for perhaps the five hundredth time in my life – that I’d misread an opportunity on the stairs. Could probably do with an aunt myself!

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