In the hour building up to leaving for the club, my night typically looks a lot like this. My Spotify playlist blasts in the background, the heavy bass thumping in my chest as I touch up my makeup. I check out my outfit in the mirror, opting at the last minute for an outfit change. I take a sip of my vodka lemonade, carefully pouring a little more mixer into my glass.
At first glance, this is the standard pre-club ritual you would anticipate from anyone. In truth, there is a lot more thought embedded within this process. As I’m checking out my reflection in the mirror, I suddenly feel self-conscious about my strapless dress. I change into a long-sleeved top, feeling a little safer if my arms aren’t exposed. A voice in my head tells me that I’ll be less of a spiking target if I have less skin on show. As I’m preparing my drink, I pay close attention to how much alcohol is in my glass. The voice in my head tells me to keep track of how much I’ve had to drink, just so I’m aware in case I suddenly feel a lot more drunk than I should.
Since the recent concerns surrounding spiking emerged, these thoughts have become intrinsically woven into my getting ready process. I’ve always been conscious and careful when it comes to watching over my drink on a night out, but now more than ever I need to prepare myself mentally every time I leave the house to go clubbing. It’s something you automatically adjust to, these thoughts and concerns becoming second nature. When I actually take the time to reflect on it, I realise just how scary this new reality is. My priority when I get home from a night out should be washing my face, rehydrating, and popping hangover-anticipatory paracetamol. Instead, as soon as I wake up now, I find myself checking my arms and legs for bruises I can’t explain, and running through my memories of the night in my head to make sure that nothing is missing.
Given the current climate, what determines my decision to go on a night out or not isn’t whether I’m in the mood to, but whether I feel safe enough to. I tune into my instincts and work out whether or not I feel like I’ll be okay, but the terrifying reality is that you never actually know. Now more than ever, I’m on high alert when I’m in a club or a house party setting. I find myself keeping tabs on how much my friends have been drinking, whether there’s a lid on their cups, whether they’re leaving them out of reach even just for a moment. I notice my friends doing the same thing; we watch each other’s drinks, hold hands everywhere we go, and guide each other away from strangers who seem to have been lingering nearby for just a little bit too long. Our club consciousness has become more heightened than ever, and we are increasingly watchful of ourselves and one another.
This extra degree of care we now take is borne from feelings of vulnerability and defencelessness that we just can’t seem to shake. No matter how much care you might take, you can always be a victim. I feel that the week in which clubs were boycotted truly helped raise awareness of the severity of the situation. As someone who goes out at least a few times a week, it is easy to become naïve. Just because my friends and I have gotten home safely on each night out that we’ve been on, this doesn’t mean that we can take it for granted.
On my nights out since the boycott, I have felt a lot safer due to the measures put in place by the clubs. Being able to have a lid on my drink has made me feel much more at ease, as I had gotten to a point where I was no longer buying drinks in clubs. Now, I feel safe enough to order a drink again. Similarly, when I went to Jimmy’s, I felt reassured and relieved by the thorough pat down and pocket checks that were being completed on the door. The extra degree of care shown by the clubs amplifies my comfort in going out immensely.
Of course, despite these measures, it is important to acknowledge that a night out can never be guaranteed to be entirely safe. Thus, it is important not to release your inhibitions entirely. Stay in your groups, keep an eye on your drinks and be watchful of the people around you.
Image Credit: Verity Laycock