I’m sober – get me out of here

I'm sober - get me out of here

What is it like to go to a New Year’s Eve party completely sober?

No-one wants to proselytize, but our Steph goes to a slutfest New Year’s party dressed as a sexy army girl – and the only difference between her and everybody else is that she is, on this occasion, sober. A report from the frontline.

You may be familiar with the TV series ‘ I’m a celebrity, get me out of here’. A bunch of ‘celebrities’ sitting around in Australia’s outback, trying to survive the way great hunters would, or the ancient aborigines. Doing ordinary things like eating kangaroo’s testicles and lying down in coffins full of rats and insects. You know, stuff aborigines do. The celebrities battle it out, but due to their golden status on this earth, they are allowed to escape the jungle at any time by simply shouting ‘I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!’ At which point a helicopter flies out of an apparently ‘deserted’ outback and whisks them away to the safety of their London pads. Well, in my case, there was no jungle. No celebrities, no kangaroo testicles (though that could be argued judging by the look of some of the guys). Just a dingy room in the middle of Heanor. The event, a 21st birthday party.

At the age of eighteen, it is fair to say I’ve attended my fair share of parties. I am familiar with the concept of getting ‘bladdered’ and enjoy a night out with the friends. However, this party was different. For this party… I stayed sober. After suffering from a sore throat that made me sound more like a ‘Steven’ than a ‘Stephanie’, I decided to attend the party (I didn’t want to miss out) but not drink. To be sensible. The party was fancy dress, the theme being ‘services’. In other words, an excuse to dress like a whore and get away with it.

I had decided to go as an army girl. I ignored my dad’s protests over the shortness of my skirt, and painted my lips scarlet red. However, when we pulled up outside I suddenly felt under-dressed. Exposed. Walking to the entrance I found myself frantically tugging my dress down over my knees and doing up more buttons. But after scanning the sweat steamed room I realized if anything, I was over-dressed.

My eyes adjusted to various shades of flesh dotted around the room. A patchwork of ass cheeks, adolescent cleavage and beer bellies. Outfits ranged from full-on Ann Summers lyrca to blue Primark ‘police’ vests.

I greeted my friends, all decked out in costume, and ignored their gloating as I asked for a can of diet coke.

“Get a grip Steph, stop being so boring, it’s a party!’ some voice boomed in my ear. Was I being boring? True, I did feel like a 10 year old again, sipping on a panda pop while everyone else got drunk. But, by looking around the room, I realized if I didn’t stay sober, no-one would. So the diet coke it was.

In the shadowed booth of the pub I watched my friends’ normality drain away as they necked back the white wine. I propped them up as they slid down in their seats, giggling, and shot them disapproving looks as they tangled themselves around men in the room. As boring and tedious as it was sitting there on my own… God, was I fascinated. The girls, clumped in the middle of the dance floor, shook their hips and pushed out their chests like animals of the wild to attract male attention. The men lurked nearer and nearer, one hand clasped onto a pint like a safety blanket, another fumbling its way around the girl’s hips. Other girls who were receiving less attention danced furiously to the music, grabbing their friend’s hips, pouting and smiling. Ahh, the old ‘playing on a man’s LGBT fantasy’ ploy. Guaranteed to cause a flutter of mobile phone snaps and cries of joy from their male audience.

Everywhere I looked, I saw a transformation of character. People I knew to be shy were suddenly thrusting to the music, slap bang in the middle of the dance floor. The girls with a reputation for being ‘slutty’ were stood crying outside, clutching cigarettes in manicured fingernails. Does alcohol bring out the truth in people, or simply allow them to lose all inhibitions?

After another can of Pepsi I felt compelled to just get up and leave. Left, right and centre were people either shouting, swearing, dry humping or crying. It was like being locked inside some psychologist’s experiment of human emotions. The only person who seemed to be as fed up as me was the barmaid. Frantically pulling pint after pint to the shrieks of underage drinkers.

I decided to brave no man’s land: the girl’s toilets. Taking a deep breath, I edged open the door. Cigarette smoke washed over me, tightening my lungs and stinging my eyes. Through the haze I noticed the splayed figures of different girls. Two were propped up, back to back on the sink. Cigarette in hands, exchanging stories of ‘bastard’ ex-boyfriends. What sisterhood. Another lay flat out on the floor. Top open, revealing a grubby white bra and skirt hanging limp around her thighs. She looked ecstatic. Laughing and screaming in such a way you’d think she’d won the lottery. Both toilet doors were wide open, revealing a girl in each. One peeing, regardless of the crowd, to her heart’s content. Another with her head in the toilet vomiting.

‘Are you ok?’ I asked. With all these nurses dotted about, it seemed ironic that no one had bothered to help the girl.

I knelt down beside her and took in her appearance. Her complexion was milk-white and black mascara bled down her face through tears. Her head rested on the seat and her chin glistened with vomit. Oh dear. Everyone can admit to being in this situation before, so pulling up the sleeves of my dress, I began a routine passed down to mother to daughter for generations. Head up. Hair pulled back. A glass of water, only to sip. Some bread to soak up the alcohol, and as many questions as you can think of to ask, to take the person’s mind off being sick.

I recognised the girl. I’d often seen her hand in hand with a boy at school and asked her how her relationship was going. She responded with a pool of sausage roll tinged vomit and told me they had broken up. Ever being the gossip I asked her why in my most sympathetic tone.

“Sex. All he wanted… was sex”.

I didn’t really know what to say after this. This girl was young, vulnerable and looked as fragile as an old lady. It made me sad to hear such a thing coming from her mouth. I know that we live in a generation where girls are pushing out babies by 13, but this comment just rattled me. It was sad. At sixteen, her perception of love and sex seemed so distorted and painful.

Suddenly the doors flew open and the girl’s friend rushed in.

“Is she ok!?” she gasped like an escaped maniac. Her face was so close to mine and her eyes so wild, I expected her to either kiss me or headbutt me at any second. I ducked from underneath her and made a dash for the door.

It wasn’t much better back on the dance floor. God knows how much more alcohol had been bought and drank in my brief disappearance and just at that moment I wished I was on that TV show. I wished I was a celebrity and I wished I could scream at the top of my voice ‘ I’m sober, get me out of here!’

At which point the helicopter would come crashing through the walls, and return me safely to the softness and comfort of my home. Except it didn’t. I was still there. Stood on a carpet of broken glass and sticky spilt wine.

Eventually the lights came up and last orders were called. The barmaid looked like she was ready to break down and the birthday boy was flat out and latched onto a girl’s chest like a hungry baby. My friends were dotted about the room, singing and dancing to music that had been turned off. Nobody walked, just stumbled. Nobody spoke, just shrieked. I found it amusing how some of the girls who turned up to the party, so polished and preened, ended up outside, fighting and howling in such an undignified state. The whole experience was the biggest eye-opener of my life. There have been times in anyone’s life, when they would have wandered up to a stranger after a few too many. But do we ever remember what we say to these strangers? Do we even care what we say to people, how we behave?

Alcohol makes us feel on top of the world. Invincible. But from the eyes of a sober stranger, we look nothing more than roaring, bleary-eyed, stumbling fools. I never intended this to be an educational article. The type of thing a teacher or a parent would throw at you. Just simply an account of how it feels to be on the other side of the spectrum. Maybe it’ll make you think, just as it has done to me, to know when to stop drinking at a party, and earn the respect we ladies of 2008 deserve.