Handbags, gladrags and the Sambuca shot that was the one too many…

It’s Saturday night, I’ve finished work for the evening and we all know what that means. The weekly ‘Will I go out?’ decision has to be made. I’m currently awaiting a text/phone call/smoke signal to get the four-one-one and if all goes well, the fact that I was up at half six this morning notwithstanding, I should be in the pub by half ten tonight. So right now is that limbo time where the decision has to be made, and the pros and cons are being weighed up. And it occurred to me that a blog post on the tawdry world of an Irish girls’ night out might be of interest to some. Well, maybe.

First of all, we need to decide if we’re just ‘going out’, or if we’re going ‘out, out’. Just ‘going out’ implies that the pub will definitely feature during the night, and that we’ll swear blind that the nightclub is absolutely not happening. Pub, chipper, home to bed by two o’clock. If we’re really hellbent on just ‘going out’, we might even wear only a top, jeans and heels as an outward affirmation that tonight will be brief and casual. But going ‘out, out’ means that we fully intend to end up screeching our hearts out to Rihanna on the dancefloor of the club in between trips to the bar for shots and the smoking area for a cheeky social smoke. Nobody who goes ‘out, out’ gets home before four in the morning. And it also usually entails going ‘legs out’ i.e. wearing our shortest dresses and skirts and more than likely no tights unless it’s snowing. And at this point it should be noted that even the most determined of us who said we weren’t going ‘out, out’ will end up on that same dancefloor, after having our arm twisted into going ‘out, out’, now that we were ‘out’. And that’s when we learn that wearing jeans to a nightclub might result in a Ross in his leather pants moment when we get home.

For the purposes of this post, because it will illustrate the most extreme aspects of an Irish girls’ night out, I’ll write about the going ‘out, out’ nights. Once that decision has been made, the next step is to start the beautification process (sometimes a misnomer, but let’s not be cruel). If a girl is really organised, she’ll have slapped on her most mahogany fake tan that morning or even the night before. Fake tan is a staple for most Irish girls, due to milk bottle legs and mottled arms. I’m kind of lucky that I tan well, but if I haven’t seen the sun for a while then I won’t say no to a little helping hand from my friends at St Tropez. But I’m rarely organised and I often don’t know if I’ll be heading out until the eleventh hour, so if I’m reaching for the tan, it’ll be a bottle of Sally Hansen in medium. Sally Hansen is an Irish girl’s best friend. Orange paint in a spray can, to cover all but the most severe camogie bruises. It does make you look quite dirty the next day though. 

The current trend for night time hair is big, backcombed and beehived. What’s even better is if you can get your hands on some hair extensions, to add extra volume and ratty ends. They don’t even have to match your natural hair colour all that well, at least according to some sights I’ve seen. My hair is quite thick and curly, and the thought of backcombing it sends me into a cold sweat, I’d never get the knots out. So unless I’m going to the huge effort of straightening my mane, it’s staying loose and unruly. It’ll look fine after three glasses of wine. Same goes for my make-up. I pride myself on having some vague notion of how to do my face well, I like to buy good quality cosmetics and learn how to use them properly. The typical Irish female night time face has very dark, very smokey eyes, rings of black eyeliner, exaggerated Amy Winehouse flicks and furry-looking false eyelashes. I don’t bother with lashes but the rest is essential. Lips might be bright, they might be subtle, anything goes. Cheekbones are highly sculpted and heavily bronzed. Sure you’d never know we were anything other than Italian under that contouring. Nails are usually painted, more often during predrinks as an afterthought than as an integral part of the ‘getting ready’ process. If the toenails have been painted, we must be wearing peeptoe shoes as that is quite a lot of effort.

As for clothes, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. If you don’t have it, flaunt it anyway because you won’t care about your jiggly belly after the third drink. Tight and short is the way to go, because Irish girls think that Irish boys love it. And they kinda do, to be honest. Only very fashionable girls with enviable figures can get away with floaty, whimsical clothes on nights out. The rest of us tend to look like we’re hiding a food baby when we see the photos the next day. If we’re going to look fat on Facebook, we might as well look as though we weren’t ashamed of it. As for the high heels, our motto is ‘go high or go home’.

Overall, the entire dolling-up routine can take hours. Sometimes we’re still straightening our hair at predrinks or painting our nails in the taxi. It’s no wonder the lads head to the pub before us, they’ve no patience for our primping and preening.

The first stage of a night out is borne out of the recession: predrinks. Young Irish people do not have enough money to arrive at the pub in the early evening and keep drinking until closing time. In Ireland, drinking is expensive. So we pick up a cheap bottle of wine or vodka or a six pack of lager earlier that day to bring to someone’s house for a  few bevvies before we hit the town. Us girls totter around the house in our heels, veering from gossiping in the kitchen to a game of Kings in the living room to smoking in the garden to reassuring our friend upstairs that she doesn’t have cellulite and that she should go ‘legs out’. For the record, I don’t like Kings. It’s fun for like half an hour until I get pretty drunk because I was the idiot who put wine in the Kings cup and I get so distracted that I forget all the rules and end up having to drink the damn Kings cup anyway. The Kings Rules Enforcer is the bane of any predrinks; one is advised to escape them by sneaking out to the fridge and not coming back.

Finally around midnight, some bright-and-not-so-drunk spark reminds everyone that we need to get a taxi, like, now if we want to get into the nightclub. So the ‘girlies’, as we shall henceforth shall be known, pile into a taxi and head into town, shouting at the poor driver to ‘put on some tunes’. Most drivers astutely stick on Beat FM so we can bop around in the taxi, ignoring general taxi etiquette.

By the time we reach the nightclub, after a woozy trip to the ATM to withdraw far more money than we ought to, we are ‘well on it’ (as they say). We hand over ten euro to the lady at the door of the club, pester the bouncer for a wrist stamp that might disappear sometime around next Thursday, and head straight for the toilet. Because everyone knows that’s where the gossip is to be found, and our bladders are really struggling at this point. Irish girls’ nights out have taught me the importance of stuffing my handbag with toilet paper during the first toilet trip, because there is no guarantee that there’ll be any left later.

Next stop is the bar, where we will try to haggle with the barman on the price of Jagerbombs and wince through a Sambuca shot. A friend of mine is known to purchase two Jagerbombs and a shot of Tequila, knock them all back within seconds and move on. A true tank of a lady. The less wealthy among us will take a vodka and white lemonade with us to the smoking area for a slurred chat with someone we went to school with and the single ladies will attempt to reel in a man by asking for a lighter and engaging in some form of conversation. It’s not sophisticated but I have seen it work.

Sooner or later, the battle cry will come; ‘OH MY GOD, I LOVE THIS SONG’ and the girlies will be dragged back to the dancefloor to shake our thang to Avicii or something. We’re dancing like we’re fucking Shakira, because we are fucking Shakira. My most fun nights have been the ones where I haven’t wanted to leave the dancefloor. If the DJ puts on some classic nineties pop songs, I actually can’t contain myself.

The night will continue on in this toilet-smoking-bar-dancefloor loop, interspersed with cringey photographs with wet floor signs and some guy’s hat (when was I talking to him?). More shots will be drunk and more secrets will be let slip over a Marlborough Light. Eventually the cues to leave start to appear; you’ve found your friend weeping in the bathroom over that guy she slept with two years ago, or you’ve been targeted by the 2am desperadoes. I never get hit on before 2am; hence I must be rather unattractive by drunk Irish man standards. I’m cut up about it, naturally.

Despite all promises and best intentions, we’re lucky to leave the club with everyone we arrived with, if we manage to leave with any of them at all. Onwards to the chipper, once we surrender the five inch heels so we have a hope of walking there without spraining an ankle. I’ve often done that walk barefoot, in the rain. Classy. 

If we saw a video the next day of ourselves in the chipper, we’d swear off it for life. Munching chips, garlic mayonnaise smeared on cheeks, melted cheese on dresses…it’s not a pretty picture. But all we want after the club is a good feed, right? Right. Once we’ve left the chipper, it’s onwards to the taxi rank. By this stage, I for one am certainly cranky and longing for my bed. Taxi rank queue skippers are my worst enemy at four o’clock on a Sunday morning. But eventually, a saviour in a Toyota Corolla agrees to drive me home for a fiver and I snooze in the backseat for five minutes. If I’m staying with my boyfriend, I let him handle the transaction as I’m already in the early stages of sleep by now.

Getting into the house involves quite a level of stealthiness to avoid waking everyone else up. But I’m not all that stealthy when I’m sober so someone will inevitably hear me rummaging for Panadol in the medicine cabinet. But it’s all okay because I’m home, I’m in bed, and I can worry about taking my dress off in the morning. Well, that and the photographs that will appear on Facebook the next day….

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