Love in this (Asian) Club.

Posted by JSYL on Tuesday, August 05, 2008 in ,
Aw, look at that. Back in 04. First year uni. Finally, drinking could be done legally, and we could walk into a club and look a bouncer right in the eye without fear of being turned away. Born in 1986 baby, and don't you forget it!

Clubbing was definitely a rite of passage for me and many of my friends. If we'd been taking a crash course in becoming independent adults, clubbing provided us with chapters 1, 2 and 3 of the mannual: how to get drunk, how to pick up, and how to cure a painful hangover. It used to be a whole-week affair, from choosing a venue to figuring out how we were getting there and back (in the days when all of us had learner's permits and were forced to use public transport).

Back then, our idea of getting dressed up was picking out a nice top, a pair of jeans, and some black eyeliner. 'Friday night' would be the subject of every phone conversation we had throughout the week, particularly if what's-his-name was going, and he was bringing his friend, whom we were hoping to set up with what's-her-face. The cool kids (really, the most attractive ones) got their pictures snapped for the club event's promotional website, which everyone scanned eagerly at some point in the following week.

But by the end of the year we had had our fill of the clubbing experience. Somehow- lining up for an hour to get in, paying astronomical prices for drinks if we weren't still tipsy from cheap vodka mixers at one of the packed out bars nearby, running to the bathroom and sticking one finger in an ear while yelling into the phone "YES MUM, I'M COMING HOME SOON I PROMISE!", and sitting in McDonalds on George Street at 3am waiting for the trains to start running again with the smell of stale vomit in the air - lost their initial appeal.

Every now and then we'd run out of other ways to amuse ourselves, forget how bad our last stretch of clubbing weekends really was and venture out again, ever hopeful that this time would be different. And sometimes we'd get lucky with a good DJ and a fun crowd. But now that we've all pretty much graduated, the people we push and shove past to get to the bar or to the exit no longer look cool. They just look really young.

On my first weekend back to Sydney, I ignored all of this and headed out to what is one of the worst examples of an Asian club. I'm almost ashamed to admit it. The night only confirmed for me what I already knew: that there is no reason why any self-respecting 22 year old should be at Martin Place Bar - yes, for Bamboo- on any given Saturday, no matter how bored, (or indeed desperate) they are. Yet, that's where I found myself last weekend. Cringing all the way to the front of the line, through the red rope barriers and past the metal detectors.

A lot of things have changed about Asian RnB clubs since "my day". The girls, for one, are much skankier. Or maybe I just notice it more now than I would've before. You're also far more likely to get shot (I was at UN the week after the notorious drive-by, and screamed along with everyone else in the queue when a car outside backfired...I went inside later regardless). But some things never change. We are still the most modestly dressed in the joint (thank God). And the main elements of the practice that we were once so in awe of now feel routine. Here are some of them, so you can save yourself the trouble of experiencing it for yourself if you haven't already:

1. The entrance: Walking into the club feels and looks just like any video clip by Usher would, if all the people in it were Asian. If you're a group of girls, even more so. It's usually just starting to fill up, and the ratio of guys to girls is probably 2:1. The ones checking your friends out are a mixture of the overt admirers and the ones who think they're subtle, but are just as bad- they tend to stare, then pretend they were looking at the opposite end of the room once you've noticed them staring. We always walk past them in a straight line, one after the other, heading for the cloakroom, with, I'll admit, a little defiant strut. (Who wouldn't? It's an Usher video, after all.)

2. The podium dancers: Around the middle of the night out, the 'entertainment' will inevitably begin. At some places it can be a live MC (once one of the original members of Blackstreet even came out to perform 'No Diggity'), at others, a breakdancing troupe. But at Bamboo, it's always customary to have a 'dancer' writhe around in the spotlight for a good 15 minutes. As soon as the lights come on, signalling the start of the show, every guy (except the ones who've picked up by now, if they're smart) will flock to that stage, camera phones on the ready. They will stand there, mouths slightly agape, watching her. The girls will hang behind, the slutty ones carefully keeping note of some of her 'moves' for later in the night, the less slutty ones bitching that she's far TOO slutty, ugly, and can't dance. And as for us? We generally just stand there awkwardly, trying to continue dancing on our own, but eventually head to the bar to take advantage of the temporarily short queue. It's always at this point that I ask myself if we're in an RnB club, or a strip bar in which we, and every other girl here, are part of that 'entertainment'. And then I wonder if there's much difference between the two, and kick myself for coming, yet again.

3. The 'talent':
The short answer is this- there is none. After our first three clubbing experiences, we all knew this to be the case. There are generally only about two decent looking guys in an Asian RnB club. The first has his arm permanently attached to his equally decent looking girlfriend. They will either end up making out in a corner, or screaming at each other because some guy tried to buy her a drink (by leaning down and yelling in her ear, disguised as an intimate whisper), or some girl tried to dance with him. The second will probably be found in the gym the next morning pumping weights, wearing the same t-shirt, and with just as much gel in his hair as the night before. You can bet that when he's not in the club, that's where he lives most other nights.

4. The mating dance: Let's not be coy, people. If you're 18, and you're in an RnB club, you're there to pick up, or at least flirt with the idea. It's okay to admit it! After all, it's hard to dance in any other way but 'provocative' to mysognistic/suggestive lyrics like: 'Get low, get low', 'Doncha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?' and 'The sweat drips down my balls, all these females crawl'. And just like on the Discovery channel, there's an identifiable silent ritual of courtship involved.

In Asian RnB clubs, friends dance in tight circles, in a weird way somewhat reminescent of the heel and toe, remixed by Timbaland. While shameless guys will shun more tactful methods, and push their way into the circle flailing their arms around like their lives depended on it and smiling energetically at their target (before making a hasty exit upon being just as blatantly rejected), the more seasoned clubbers prefer to sidle closer and closer to the circle, and ultimately, end up with their arms around the waist of the object of the hunt. Girls do their part. Some dance seductively with each other in plain sight of potential suitors, others just walk right up to a guy and the rest is history. And still others play the 'eye contact' game until someone makes a move.

I learned this the hard way. A friend of mine, a guy and regular clubber, once confirmed my suspicions: 'If you look any guy in the eye at at a club, he's going to think you're interested.' Which is fine, it just makes walking around a little inconvenient- you're sure to bash into anyone within a 5m radius of you on your way to the bathroom while you concentrate on keeping your eyes on the floor.

5. Our Entertainment: I'm not going to lie. I did have a little fun that night, as I almost always seem to when clubbing, because my friends and I are different. We've never spent hours lining up for bathroom mirrors so we can touch up our makeup, nor have we ever needed to constantly tug on mini skirts to make sure they're at least partly doing their job of covering our asses, and we definitely still don't bother scanning the room for talent. We've always been too busy dancing self-consciously, or, (as is more the case nowadays) like idiots with our hands waving around to the beat, warily shielding each other from sleazy would-bes and laughing at the guys who dance funny.

When I spotted the night's first fresh puddle of vomit in the girls' bathroom, I knew it was about time we left. But not before we posed like celebrities for the club's roving photographer.
"Do you think we'll get on the Internet?" my friend asked me in the afterglow of the flash.
"I hope so," I replied instinctively.

Yeah, some things never change.



Anonymous says:

i like the way u write!

Thank you (whoever you are)! (Stefan??) :)

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