Why Do We Insist on Socializing at Night?

I started pseudo-napping in bars senior year of college. My sudden and apparently permanent disinterest in staying out late hit me like a second wave of puberty. It truly felt like a chemical change had occurred inside me, except this time my haunted house of a body developed tiredness instead of chin acne.

My friends dutifully began documenting these episodes, which is great because I now have an adorable collection of photographs that illustrate my condition. Here is one of them:

Quick disclaimer — because I know what you might be thinking — I was not drunk in this photo. I’d had one drink, maybe two max, when it was taken. If I look a bit bleary (which, let’s face it, I do), it’s not because I was incoherent. It’s because I was resting my eyeballs and an iPhone camera flash was not-so-gently jolting me back to life, which I’ll admit I deserved.

Up until that year, I had no problem staying out late. In fact, I can recall multiple instances throughout college in which I stayed out dancing with my friends right through the next morning. NBD! We would migrate from dance floor to diner booth at sunrise, kicking off our shoes under the table, stretching our tired toes while digging into stacks of pancakes drowning in fake maple syrup, watching the sky turn from white to orange. I definitely felt exhausted after nights like those, but it was the invigorating kind of exhausted you might feel after a 30-minute jog — nothing a cup of coffee or a few hours of rest wouldn’t fix.

I think back on that time with bewilderment. It feels like another me — or, at the very least, another body. Nowadays, when 11:00 p.m. rolls around, all I want is to be tucked under my clean covers with a clean face and clean pajamas watching Master of None.

It’s frustrating that this desire is equated with being antisocial or intensely introverted, because that’s not how I would describe myself. I love my friends (except when they’re shining camera flashes into my reposing angel face!!!), and I enjoy socializing. I just don’t enjoy it in the wee hours of the night, during which my brain is rightfully accustomed to winding down.

I often resist the overwhelming urge to bail from late-night festivities, though, because hobnobbing in the dark seems to be society’s universally accepted mode of weekend fun, and I’m wracked with self-imposed guilt over the prospect of becoming that boring member of the group who can’t hang like a “normal” 25-year-old. It would almost feel like a moral failure. My skeleton is still lousy with youthful marrow. I can’t let that go to waste.

When I’m signing the merchant copy of my receipt at a group dinner on a Saturday night and someone inevitably says, “Where should we go out?,” I brace myself for what’s next: approximately four more hours of Googling directions with cold fingers, expensive cabs, dimly lit subway rides, waiting in lines, cover charges, watery vodka sodas, squatting over urine-sprayed toilets in dirty bathrooms, dancing in cramped semi-circles, trying to talk over 100-decibel music, getting elbowed in the ribs by a drunk stranger who knows all the words to Justin Bieber’s latest single, more watery vodka sodas, sweating into my new going-out top and pretending to be awake even though my cells have started slowly shutting down one by one.

WHY DO WE PRETEND THIS IS FUN? Or maybe it is fun for some people, or even most people, and I’m the only one who turns into a pulpy pumpkin after a certain hour. I’m curious, though, as to who decided our cultural obsession with circadian rhythms, eight-hour sleep cycles, bedtime “routines,” proper nutrition and self-care should go on hiatus from Friday evening through Sunday morning. Why is daylight suddenly uncool just because it’s the weekend?

You know what’s more fun when you’re freshly full of morning caffeine and not debilitated from 100% normal twilight-onset fatigue? Dancing! You know what’s a treat when you can actually hear your own voice? Conversation! You know what’s way easier with the illuminating aid of sunshine? Successfully balancing over a toilet! You know what’s significantly more delicious than a vodka soda? A mimosa!

When you think about it, there’s nothing you can do at night that you can’t do better in the daytime — except, perhaps, a discreet dance-floor make out — but I’m happy to personally shield you and your tongue partner with my very own shadow if it means getting the go-ahead to transfer all nighttime socializing to daytime hours. Deal?

Photos by Edith Young; documentation provided by Harling Ross.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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