We didn’t get to do the Cyndi Lauper hit ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ but we did sing our hearts out to Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ and also did an appalling rendition of Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’. Great song but definitely one that’s better left to the professionals. This all happened at a Japanese karaoke bar somewhere in New York City. I couldn’t tell you where. The party bus had driven us around town and dropped us off at its door. Yes, the party bus. It was a dear friend’s bachelorette party (as they say in the States – that’s a hen party for us Brits) on Saturday night and we’d hired a party bus. Now, on many occasions I have looked on in judgement and with derision as a stretch limo has passed by me in London, packed with screaming girls wearing sparkly headgear and waving bottles of champagne. (I’ve never seen the bus version in London but I’m sure it exists). “How uncool,” I’ve thought to myself, with a superior air. “You’d never catch me doing that”. But on Saturday night, I discovered it’s a completely different story when you’re on the inside.
Ours wasn’t a stretch limo but a converted old-style school bus, decked out with leather sofas, strobe lights, a bar, and, most importantly, a pole – as in a pole dancer’s pole. Hilarious. The bar was packed with champagne, mixers and an industrial sized bottle of Vodka. The bride-to-be wore a pink cowgirl hat and we all wore pink beads. I even wore high heels for the occasion, which doesn’t happen very often due to the dodgy ankle.
I’d looked ahead to Saturday evening with excitement at seeing my friends and at the prospect of a night out in New York City, but also, I confess, with a little bit of dread. I’m not much of a drinker these days. Half a glass of champagne or a little red wine is generally my limit. After drinking and partying hard from the age of 14 to my early 30s, I decided I was better off, happier even, without booze. Alcohol generally brings my mood down and makes me want to overeat – either on the night or the morning after – and I don’t need any extra help with low moods or overeating.
Since I gave up drinking to excess, I’ve never really had a problem having fun without the booze but I often imagine I will, which was the case with Saturday night. How was I going to party like it’s 1999 if I wasn’t sloshed? I’m pleased to report, however, that my party spirit is alive and well, kicking even. With little more than a half a glass of champagne over the course of the evening, I found myself swinging around the pole, jumping up and down, dancing, screaming in true hen party style and generally loving our trip around NYC on a converted school bus. I admit the last stop of the night – the bull ring at Johnny Utah’s where revellers, in various stages of inebriation, rode a mechanical bull until they were flung off (I’d only ever seen this on Sex and the City, the episode in which Miranda whips her top off while riding the bull) – was a little bit much for me but by then I’d had plenty of fun and was ready to call it a night.
Inevitably, however, the tiredness and the small amount of alcohol I consumed lowered my mood on Sunday morning. Melancholy kicked in. But I’m learning, with a little help from my friends, that it’s OK to feel a little low and I don’t have to try and do anything about it. In my earlier years, I really couldn’t cope with a low mood or sad feelings. I thought I had to change them immediately, which I did to great effect with a variety of stimulants – excess food, sugar, compulsive exercise or by simply carrying on the party. I thought I had to be ecstatic or at least very happy every day. And there’s a part of me that obviously still feels that. Thankfully, though, I’m slowly learning that ups and downs are just part of life, that feelings won’t kill me and I don’t have to find a way to change them. They can just be, and they’ll pass, on their own. I think knowing and understanding that will help me to have more fun. I think I’d been a little afraid of the lows that follow the highs – afraid I’ll pick up on food or resort to some other compulsive behaviour (I admit I’m still prone to overeat when feeling blue or overly tired). And that fear makes me wary of letting my hair down too much or missing out on sleep. While balance is important to me and I like being on an even keel after so many years of not being on one, it’s good to know that, every now and then, I can take the risk of spending some time off keel.
That’s just one of the things I learned on Saturday night, along with the fact that ‘Single Ladies’ is a disastrous karaoke choice, the Black Eyed Peas’ song ‘I Gotta Feeling’ is a fantastic dance track, particularly if you’re dancing around a pole on a moving bus in New York City, and that girls may want to fulfil their professional dreams, love, nurture, mother and so on, but they also want to have fun.
Before I head off for a walk in beautiful Central Park, a note on fear and control. I’ve been pondering those words over the last few days after hearing them on Sunday at a really inspiring service at Trinity Grace Church here in New York. Fear and control are the reasons I do so many of the unhealthy things I do. They’re the reasons I struggle with my relationships with myself and with other people. But it’s great to be able to name what’s behind some of those difficulties. Awareness is the first step to change.
And finally, I was heartened to receive a comment from a 36-year-old man on my Baby Conundrum post. It’s great to get some male perspective on babies, relationships and commitment and it’s great to know there are some men reading this site, despite all the flowers. As I wrote in my equally flowery Just As I Am body image blog, men are very much welcome here.