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By Lauren Rae
ith the prospect of going ‘out out’ at our fingertips, we’re so close to freedom I can almost taste the tequila and feel the burning sensation in my chest. But after a year in captivity, my germaphobia has amplified tenfold.
I’ve always wiped down the lid of my M&S tinnies before consumption, but the idea of meeting up with friends without the added protection of sanitisers, masks and wipes feels criminal. Is there a Covid-friendly way of getting completely obliterated?
Meanwhile, my inability to speak to people IRL has effectively tripled and I seem unable to communicate unless it’s via rectangular digital device. Seeing someone's bottom half might send me spiralling, having spent so long only viewing people torso-upwards via Zoom.
Suffering in conjunction with my mental health and social skills are my eyebrows, nether regions and nails. Each area has surpassed the point of acceptability by my own standards and are battling one another to get the earliest slot at salons.
My posture has deteriorated after a year hunched over a laptop with no back support and my eyesight has worsened as I alternate between the big screen and the slightly smaller screen of the exact same content.
The wildest nights I’ve had over the past year have been drinking a bottle of red, alone, and falling asleep to reruns of Friends on Netflix. Memories of my clubbing days – a life of bad decisions, swapped numbers and regret – feel like an old black-and-white movie. Imagining a world where I’m still able to wake up after a night of “no sleep, nutha club, nutha club” without a sordid hangover is basically impossible.
‘I long to lock lips with someone on the dancefloor, but will anyone want to swap saliva with a stranger? Will we present one another with our vaccine passports?’
As 21 June looms ever closer, I think of all the new issues I may face with a night on the town, conjuring up a fresh set of club-centred anxieties. Before, I would be stressing about remembering to pack my ID or making it to a club by 11pm, now I fear forgetting my mask and anti-bac or getting the drinks order wrong because I’ve forgotten the correct term for a Disaronno and coke.
Bathroom encounters with friendly strangers now seem daunting, instead of fun. While I long to get drunk enough to lock lips with someone on the dancefloor, will anyone want to swap saliva with a stranger? Will we present one another with our vaccine passports, asking, “So uh, which one did ya get?”
A number of go-to venues won’t reopen post-lockdown: gone are the days of struggling to get into Ace Hotel and opting for the bar 0.3 metres down the street. A “clink clink” girl at heart, I also wonder what will become of my beloved bottomless brunches.
I’ve dreamt of the moment the waiter approaches to ask how the dining experience is going, and me trying to respond with a mouth full of lobster mac ’n’ cheese, throat burning and eyes watering from swallowing it at record speed. But now, housed in booths spaced at a safe social distance, are we destined to scream, “scuse me, mate, nutha round, please” to get their attention, muffled behind our perspex screens?
My current idea of cool is audibly laughing at TikTok videos, curating my favourite ones of the week into an Instagram Story and patiently awaiting the complimentary LOOLs to follow. Forced to create our own fun during lockdown parts one, two and three, Verzuz battles and Chloe Ting have became our preferred choice of entertainment, but I’m curious to see how the TikTok generation of cool kids will cope with life outside of robotic dance routines and effects that boggle my old millennial mind.
With my closet now filled to the brim with comfortable home attire and a sizable collection of activewear, the idea of wearing jeans and a cute top feels almost a betrayal of the homebody I’ve become. Perhaps I will fish out the clothes I’d abandoned in summer 2019 – the outfits once so integral to a successful night out – to re-debut. Formerly well-dressed for every occasion, ready to pose in front of Instagrammable fixtures at our favourite clubs, bars and restaurants, now we’re a generation who prefer slow-dancing in their PJs to club-ready glam.
Having spent so much time cooped up indoors, terrified of encounters with other people, I’m getting used to the idea that re-entering society will feel uncomfortable at first. But with every outdoor party, restaurant booking and festival that makes its way into my calendar, I realise the anxiety of getting back out there is just part of the process, part of the journey back to something I hope might approximate a normal life.
Re-entry anxiety is real but the call of the Big Night Out can’t be ignored.
By Lauren Rae
The ‘Pure O’ or ‘purely obsessional’ type of OCD is characterised by distressing, intrusive thoughts and mental rituals to cope with them. Rae Elliman shares her experience of living with – and learning to manage – these hidden compulsions