Prince of the City 9: Club Life vs. Real Life

The following is part of a conversation I had sitting by a bar with a beautiful friend and watching a dance floor on a random Thursday night…

You see those two? They’re big in this scene. Everyone loves the way they dance. I remember watching them when I first came to New York. Their moves were amazing. I used to look up to them so much…”
“What do you mean used to?”
Then I found out they don’t do anything in real life. They work at the Gap or something. I think they still do…”
“You don’t really need to be big in real life to be big in club life.”

This little exchange made me think about the difference between real life and club life. I sometimes see it as two different worlds that we inhabit.

Part of the magic about club life is that you can be the person you want to be. The identity that society imposes on you in real life doesn’t have to apply. It doesn’t matter if you came from a small town, live in a rat’s nest with five other people and work a dead end job. Once the sun goes down, you have more power to decide who you are. The shy student becomes the dancer. The geek becomes the musician. The powerless cashier becomes the influential promoter. The conservative lawyer becomes the insane DJ. The plain can be glamorous. The introverts can be extraverts. Straight can be bi. The young pretend to be older. The old pretend to be younger. The poor can even pretend to be rich, for a little while.

In real life, you can only get as far as your position allows. People judge you based on your position and treat you accordingly. That position is a function of your education, your job, your family, etc. In club life people often judge you based on the impression that you make on them. The person you are in real life becomes secondary, unless you push it in people’s faces. People will talk to you, hang out with you, and maybe even hook up with you without knowing much more than your first name (which you might have made up anyway) at night. The basic rules of club life and real life are similar. Money, looks, personal connections and audacity mean a lot in both areas, but things are more fluid and flexible in club life.

And don’t we all need to escape? When we were children we could create our own worlds and pretend to be anyone we wanted. If you do that in real life, you’ll probably trade your cubicle for a padded cell. But what would happen to us if we didn’t have a release? If we couldn’t lose ourselves on the dance floor or in our shot glass or in the eyes of a woman we might never see again? How would we deal with life’s frustrations? I’m not a psychologist but I doubt that any of us could benefit by simply going to work and going home every day. Hobbies can only take us so far. Vacations are few and far between. Nothing soothes the soul quickly like laughing hard with a drink in your hand.

In real life our goals are about acquisition. We want more money, more power, more stuff. In club life our goals are about experience. We want to see, hear, and feel. One isn’t better than the other. Both parts need each other. I tend to be the same person in real life and club life, but I’m irresponsible. The only real question for you is who are you in club life and are you enjoying the experience?

Have fun.