I tipped the last of the second bottle towards my glass, splashing it liberally over the table. 10pm and my friend and I had entered that shouty, bombastic stage of drunk which makes it almost impossible to have an actual conversation. The exchange had unravelled into a series of random statements like “it all comes back to Freud!” and “that’s capitalism for you!” Minimal sequential sense was required for maximum intellectual self-congratulation. Fresh rounds of chips appeared from nowhere every 45 minutes.
First term of uni and the world seemed to wink with opportunity - swathes of eligible males lounged outside every pub on every street corner. You could peruse romantic options like you’d browse different kinds of peanut butter. This sense of bounty was both exhilarating and tormenting – we were slaves to that feeling of lurking possibility, constantly plagued by the question were we missing out on something - or someone - better just round the corner?
Our socialising had become an anxious pilgrimage in search of ‘the party’. ‘The party’ was less a physical space and more a state of being – a nirvana of contentment and presentism where you could finally luxuriate in your current company, knowing that no one else could possibly be having a better time than you at that moment. Amidst the insecurity and restlessness, ‘the party’ was a rare moment of total exhilaration and peace.
Back to the pub – my sozzled friend had been plunged into doubt about her current boyfriend and was seeking advice. Having a total of one relationship’s experience between us, we had put our faith in the hands of Bacchus - hoping that after several hours of marination the answer would float effortlessly to the surface. As she absent-mindedly tapped the ash from her drooping cigarette into the last of the chips I suddenly asked her - “where’s the party?” After a confused pause I continued - “when you’re with him, is that the place you really feel you want to be? Or do you have this sense that something better is going on somewhere else?”
The boyfriend didn’t survive, but the simple beauty of the “WTP” philosophy did.
Finding a way to sink into the pleasures of your own company is a continuation of the spiritual ‘party’ pilgrimage; reclaiming the Night In starts with asking yourself “where’s the party?” and finding a way to answer honestly “right here”.
At heart, this is a simple re-framing exercise. The Night In is not the photo negative of the Night Out. It is not an anti-event, or a flop. It is not a deficiency, or a sinkhole where something fun should have been. It is a plan. It is an event. IT IS A PARTY – a celebration of time with yourself and for yourself. To banish the Mistress of Opportunity whispering in your ear “go to that warehouse party in Stepney – you’ve only got a few more years left before you need to start ironing your face and plucking your chin hairs”, you must become an expert in self-seduction. This means laying on a feast of temptation that transforms an evening beached on the sofa with a Pringle tube on each arm into something that might legitimately rival the shining apple being held out by that exhausting bitch Mistress Opportunity.
A short guide to the Night In:
Always have an arsenal of NITs (Night In Treats) to hand - the size/expense of the NIT is irrelevant in comparison to its definitive status as TOTALLY UNNECESSARY (lavender arse mist/chocolate covered babies toes etc.)
Make sure to either drastically raise or lower the standard of TV entertainment - my personal preference is for trash TV that overshot the ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ mark by several miles (NB - anything with ‘sex’, ‘gypsie’ or ‘Trinny and Susanna’ in the title is usually a good bet)
Keep a designated ‘celebration’ vessel to hand - some chemical change occurs when you drink stuff out of fancy glass, transforming the grimmest plonk into the nectar of the gods (NB - v. v. large celebration vessel preferable)
Anything can be a good accessory to a Night In if it lends the evening a sense of occasion, distinguishing it from your bog standard Tuesday night ‘episode-dinner-shower-episode’ quick step. This is a waltz of indulgence designed with your total enjoyment in mind.
It is pretty deflating when people forget to seduce us – they make the whispers of Mistress Opportunity feel more urgent and insidious – yet we rarely extend this logic to self-seduction. We torture ourselves with an infinite array of possibilities about what might happen if we pulled a comb through our hair, put on something that was not made of flannel and ventured out in the night. Yet what we’re searching for out there - that peace that fills us up to the brim - we can find without having to leave the house. All we have to do is practise the subtle art of self-seduction and turn that ritual into a celebration - a party within the soul where we enjoy our own company like we might enjoy a forgotten friend’s. If you can achieve that then you have reached a level of bad-assery that most can only dream of.
Written and illustrated by Jess Bird