Don't Ever Go Somewhere You Can't Leave

Over my party-going tenure, I have developed one cardinal rule:
never go somewhere you can’t leave.

By Layla Passman


During my five years of living in New York City, my desire to explore nightlife in every corner has not ceased, but my eagerness to leave seems to be growing greater. My overeager eighteen-year-old self used to stomp around Manhattan in heeled booties until the early hours, bopping around from one overly stuffy club to the next. How excited I was to pay $15 for a vodka cranberry and dance around to EDM remixes of hip-hop songs. Now, not only does the thought of doing that nearly repulse me, but it shows me how distant I have become from that girl. Sometimes I wish I could still cultivate that naive energy; maybe she was doing something right. While I’ve felt disconnected from her, in many ways, she is still inside of me. Perhaps this manifests in my intense fear of missing out, or worse, the fear of not feeling relevant in any social scene in a city where your social capital is the currency. Maybe she just goes to different places now.

Regardless of my energy levels, I always have an escape plan. Last year, I had gone to the band Junior Varsity’s weekend-long party series, A Fucking Weekend. The main attraction of the event was its freeness. The party was in a big warehouse in Bushwick, filled to the brim with Brooklyn “artist” types, mainly those who just enjoy dressing up and being seen. The event touts a strong lineup of musicians, all of whom I found to be veiled in self-importance, trying to hype up the crowd and then proceeding to play boring pop-punk songs. Junior Varsity plays every party, though I’m never quite sure how many people are there to actually see them or just to be associated with the other people who are. Recently, I got a text that A Fucking Weekend was happening again—except this time, the party was on a boat. This, of course, goes against my life’s guidelines, as it is impossible to leave a boat ride early unless you’d like to swim in the East River. However, this boat was to remain docked, easing my worries about exiting but further confusing me as to why a party would be on a boat that doesn’t move. I trekked to the edge of the East River regardless, as one of my favorite local bands, Hello Mary, was set to play. I waited in the heat of the night that only the middle of summer provides. My eyes darted around, looking at people I had seen on Instagram or at other parties, sweating through their black eyeliner and leather shoes. As we got closer to the deck, security guards split up the line by “boys and girls,” a distinction that the given crowd made nearly impossible.

Once boarded, I went straight to the main ballroom where Hello Mary had already begun playing. I had seen the trio play at least four times previously, and each time, I was just as inspired by their sound. It is referencial of the trail of 90s alternative bands before them but offers its own unique take. I wished for them to play the songs I’d heard before, with sweeping tones and harmonies that made my stomach drop. One of the things I admire most about the band is their lack of stage presence. It’s so effortlessly cool to just stand there, play your songs, and leave. During the performance, waves of nausea pushed over me—a reminder that I was on a boat. I had to stand wide in order to regain balance and not vomit in the middle of their set.

The boat was large, and its carpet resembled that of a hotel ballroom. So did the chairs and tables. I felt vaguely like I was at a Bar Mitzvah—speaker towers, white tablecloths, even a buffet of chicken fingers and hot dogs. There were party rooms on each level of the boat with white leather couches, dancing LED lights, and heavy air conditioning. The crowd sharply contrasted the space, especially under the fluorescent light of the boat deck. I spent some time roaming each level, my eyes shifting from person to person while they did the same. I went to the top deck, where I looked out at the East River and joked to my friends that I was going to walk the plank (one must do this while on a boat). I walked back down to the main ballroom, where Junior Varsity was playing. A large crowd had accumulated on the wooden dance floor for Junior Varsity, who delivered an overly hyped but severely underwhelming performance. Each song would get an intro resembling a hip-hop song, which then led into a reverse-engineered pop-punk song made for a Spotify playlist. I bopped around to the music and saw someone get into a fight with the security guard. At that moment, my urge to leave was unavoidable.

I thought about how my need for social exploration lands me in mildly uncomfortable situations, weighing my need to see and be seen against the reality of what to actually do with myself once I’m there. Is staying longer, even if you’re not having a great time, even worth it at all? Sometimes, we go places just to avoid the possibility that something exciting will happen without us, or to just tell people we were there. But then, you’re there, and it doesn’t feel any different than the hundreds of other times you’ve gone out in New York City. A key motivation to participate in nightlife is the possibility that something might happen. You might be seen. You might see others. Something rash may occur. Half of it is the anticipation: getting ready, walking deep down into the Seaport on a Thursday in the dark, smoking in line. But the gradual disappointment as the night goes on makes the whole idea of going out feel empty. I am not totally discounting the social scene in New York, but rather continuing to delve in to see if we can pluck anything of value from it. Is this all just a ruse? Is anyone having fun? Or is this just a problem for the uncool? From my knowledge, you must weather through the oddly scenery, widely awkward, or just plain bizarre in order to be rewarded with genuine, non-judgemental, and authentic fun. That’s what keeps us here.