Has our social appetite changed irrevocably? Perhaps not, as it had briefly appeared in that post-lockdown period when nobody knew how to interact with each other, aside from that largely elderly class of conversation veterans who could make a mild remark about the weather if tornadoes of brimstone and hellfire were blowing over (which may happen yet).
But for me, as with other young adults, something has changed. Meeting people, particularly lots of them at once, has come attached with a new kind of apprehension, as if we might each secretly suspect the other is a double-agent, conspiring against us, though we still all put on that veneer of amicability which we’re so good at. Things are the same as they ever were, and entirely different, now, somehow, charged with a new, anxious energy. Not that the desire to socialise has diminished, but it has certainly been altered.
For women particularly, the risks of a night on the town, though always present, have gained a new significance in the MeToo era. This won’t wholly deter many – but it does make the idea of a night in that bit more appealing.
That is not all that is to be said in its favour, though. The night in mitigates many of the bugbears of public socials, while encouraging an introspection to our interactions, that we are too ready to disregard in our extroverted, exterior world. We’ll start with the least poetic of reasons though,
It’s cheap: Served alcohol is bloody expensive. And clubs that have a door fee are as sweaty and claustrophobic as those which don’t. Eating out is expensive too – and often beset with disappointments. Every time I order chips (or French Fries, as those southern cosmopolitan metropolitans will have it) I find myself comparing the serving to every other chips I have ever consumed. I judge the thickness, the form, the crispness, the potatoeyness and of course, the portion. It is no way to live your life, I will tell you that.
Besides, there is something homely about eating something you lovingly devised with your own mitts (a radical idea, I know). It’s particularly homely when you’re serving your dear compatriots (and there isn’t nearly enough room for all of them), and when (now get this) it’s at home. If this is too much effort then there’s always takeaway – but it must be curry.
Lest we forget the additional unique satisfaction of busting out every single glass you possess, which inevitably includes those McDonalds glasses shaped like coke cans. And the unique satisfaction in passing out on your own sofa.
It can be as non-social as you please: Meeting people – as a sport, as a vigorous exercise with the undertone of competition – is overrated. Many people we meet are instantly forgettable anyway, not necessarily because they aren’t interesting, but because we only chose to engage with them as much as convention has forced us to – superficially. It can be exhausting. Ironically enough, it can make us less social, since we become jaded and start to feel that genuine friendships are depressingly hard to come by.
Well, perhaps they are hard to come by, but this fact shouldn’t be so depressing. They are relationships, just as you might have with your family or a partner, multidimensional and highly involving. The benefit of the night in is that it suits the confiding, sensitive, even intellectual element of friendships, without the backdrop of chaos and ruckus (which is also beneficial from time to time). Of course this isn’t always the case and plenty of people like to emulate chaos in their own living spaces, or those of their friends. But the tone of the ‘night in’ (not the same as a house party) is one of quiet, warmth, and care, explored not by testing the limits of acceptability, but through what might be referred to as more ‘pedestrian’ pleasures. Scrabble. Mario Kart. Charades. Take your pick. However, I warn you Monopoly will only end in tears. Tears and accusations of certain players being ‘ a greedy landowner scumbag, why put a hotel there?’ and ‘Capitalist pig, oink oink, have your complete train station set for all I care’.
It can make you get creative: The ‘night in’ harkens back to the parties and social interactions we had as children. Playacting, movies and games were the order of the day. Though there was order and limits (and likely because of them) a erratic energy abounded wherever it was allowed.
It may have seemed a bit ridiculous in retrospect, but these moments were priceless in terms of the imagination they fostered. Now, as adults, though we may have accumulated many more responsibilities and a more sober perspective of the world, that creative spark is still present in us, and needs to be nurtured. The night in is an apt opportunity for this, since it provides a recluse from the judgements of the outer world and a limit to distractions of our imagination. This is space not just for childish delights, but daring challenges to conformity.
It’s comfy: Sometimes Netflix and chill means exactly that. Really. Pop on a film to which everybody, annoyingly, knows all of the lines and won’t stop pre-emptively quoting them. Disappear under a blanket so that you may henceforth present yourself to the world as little more than a disembodied head. Deal out the snacks (and concoct popcorn. It is fun). Realise that socialising doesn’t have to require much energy at all, in fact it can quite primitively mean being together with others in a space. Be as catatonic as you wish.
You can have a kip whenever you like: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz