Nights to remember are what youth should be made of, or so the youth are told, by the confident boasts of the buxom set at school, the wild parties shown in music videos and movies as we grow up, and the promo fliers left in our lecture theatres every morning through four years of college. Facebook event pages and other people’s pictures serve as a constant reminder that, in the words of Neil Young “Everybody/is going out/and having fun/I’m a fool/for staying home/and having none.”
My mission to get myself the world’s sexiest pair of cat eyes started out with an attempt to just make myself look a bit less tired after work. Ten minutes later one eye looked like it was the victim of a particularly vicious assault, and the other eye didn’t look like an eye at all. I decided to go out au naturelle, because, I realised, I didn’t have the energy and didn’t care enough to try and summon it. Where was the buzz? That feeling I used to get as I packed away my things in the library, or as we put our curry chip containers from the student bar into the bin and waited for the bus, surrounded by hundreds of other chattering students, or as we got ready together in the toilets in the science hub before heading into town? I was going out but even when my eyes no longer looked like I was practicing for the Dublin Zombie Walk, even when everything was ready and I was gliding towards town on the slick silver LUAS, surrounded by bubbly students on their way out, I still just didn’t feel anything apart from a strange sense of duty to see a plan through.
The sight of the neon pink teacup suspended as if by magic over the door on the bottom of George’s Street cheered me up. The unlikely acceptance of my out-of-date student card, saving me a fiver – the cost of food in Charlie’s later – also cheered me up and I felt quite lively as I climbed the steps to the cloakroom and walked out over the dark and empty first floor to look down on the stage and dancefloor below. The top floor was deserted, empty wooden tables and large, hulking statues of the naked male form shrouded in darkness. The bar was backlit with subdued, purple lights, which given the emptiness of the space, came across as somewhat eerie.
Downstairs, a quiet hum had already started that would build up to a vibrant buzz later. Every seat along the bar was occupied and people were sittiing on the couches just in front of the stage. I could see Amy and our friend Toni relaxing on one of the couches in front of the stage, chatting animatedly with Tess Tosterone, one of the resident drag queens. She was beautiful tonight, in a short red cocktail dress, red wig and a pair of towering black stiletto thigh-high boots. No wonder she was sitting down before the show. I felt my face break into a smile as I pushed my way through the crowd to join my friends. I had missed this place – missed the complete escape it offered from reality, missed the beautiful insanity of its own parallel universe place, the feeling that anything goes.
Toni and Amy were in good form, and we had a great chat, discussing gender equality and setting the world to rights with the fabulous drag queen, before she excused herself to “drag my lovely companion out from under something icky in time for our show.”
People had started to crush around us, pressing close to the stage just ahead of the show. I looked around the crowd and was surprised to see no familiar faces. In college we almost felt like we owned the George on Wednesday nights – you would know, or at least recognise, 90% of the people there. Toni used to say the George on student night was “1/3 people you’ve already scored, 1/3 people you wish you never had to see again, 1/3 fair game.” But the place was crowded with strangers tonight. And…why did they all look so young? I scanned the crowd again, seeing baby face after baby face after baby face. I’m the only adult in a teenage disco, I realised with a sense of mild self-disgust. I’ve somehow become that person who comes to a place, like a university, that should be a temporary halting site and tries to build a home there forever.
Our lady in red graciously ascended the wooden steps to the low stage, sashayed across it and twirled, her short red dress fanning out, as she waited for her partner, who, with her dark skin and ebony wig, normally looks stunning in a white cocktail dress. But not tonight – something was wrong with Miss Labelled, and Tess was only too happy to tell us what it was. “Ladies and gentlemen, bitches and darlings,” she cooed, swishing her crimson hair over bare shoulders that were just that little bit too defined for the strappy dress “I am sorry to say that one of us lovely ladies tonight is VERY hungover – and the other one is in a red wig.” Hungover was a mild word. For their opening number, she could barely move, while her companion desperately pumped all she had into Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, even doing a very impressive thirty seconds jumping up on down on her impossible stilettos. But as the show went on, even Tess seemed to expire. Rihanna worst offerings sound no better in drag than they do from Rihanna. A lot of the songs I didn’t know – and I soon realised I didn’t like them. The younger audience members laughed at the jokes, but we’d heard them all before. “Love in a lorry,” Toni muttered, quietly, as Tess Tosterone told us about her confusion when a handsome bachelor had taken her out for dinner and ordered coq-au-vin. Yeah, yeah, she’s a bitch, and she’ll find you, I thought, unimpressed, before she came out with the punchline to follow “I have PMS – and a GPS!”
Were the shows always like this? I wondered. Were they always so mediocre, when we used to think that they were so enthralling? Was it always easy to impress people when they were young and naïve, and would things always lose their thrill when they weren’t new anymore?
Cinderella was home, back in her shoebox flat and quarter-life crisis, well before midnight. Reggie didn’t have the greatest night out either. Overweight, and scaly skin starting to wrinkle, Reggie stretches an old t-shirt across his monstrous torso, and stands, looking dejected, in front of a mirror, seeing all the ways it just doesn’t fit him anymore. On the wall behind him is a framed photograph of a younger, lighter, fiercer Reggie surrounded by other tyrannosaurs, wearing the very same t-shirt. When I drew it the picture made me sad, so I put it away.
When I rediscovered it before moving away, my first impulse was to tear it up, like a mistake. But when I looked at it again I saw that in that picture, Reggie himself looks particularly beautiful. There’s something to him that touches you. It’s now one of my most successful, in demand pieces. Reggie was fine – he just needed to find the t-shirt and the scene that suited his needs now.