A few years ago, when I was in my early thirties, my generation’s relentless instinct for coupling and childrearing, aided and abetted by our ceaseless expattery, reduced me to my last two Fun Single Male Friends Of About My Age Who Also Lived In Sydney.
Tim and Sandy – not their real names, to add an unnecessary air of mystery – had both recently returned from stints living overseas, and they were damned if they were going to settle down just because they were back in their hometown. And I was determined to join the resistance they were so bravely leading.
I wasn’t sure whether we were dinosaurs in denial or the last fun people heroically struggling against the dying of the light, I suspect. But right when I needed them, those two guys became my last bulwarks against the onset of middle age.
Well, them and my Nintendo Wii. I don’t think genuine adults are capable of playing New Super Mario Bros for eight consecutive hours. Despite decades of feminism elsewhere, in the Mushroom Kingdom, the fairy princesses simply don’t seem to be able to save themselves.
The peril of Princess Peach notwithstanding, my two friends became invaluable. If I was out late on a Saturday night and wanted to find somewhere to kick on to, or I wanted to lure somebody to come out and dance until our joints creaked painfully (after about thirty minutes, in my case), they were my go-to guys for a “whassup?” text message.
(I didn’t ever actually text the word “whassup”. Just to be clear.)
And so, while our letterboxes continued to be stuffed with wedding invitations, and our Facebook feeds went from containing pictures of young people drinking to pictures of much younger people drinking breast milk while the adoring parents looked on, we could nevertheless amuse ourselves.
In particular, Tim and Sandy were the ones who hosted legendary parties that kicked on until dawn at residences that seemed to have been chosen specifically for their extreme party-friendliness. Tim had a pimpin’ high-rise inner-city bachelor pad, with a glorious balcony boasting panoramic harbour views, and a set of decks in his lounge room. And he even knew how to use them.
Whereas Sandy had one of those lovely terraces that brought back happy memories of student days. Even queueing for that one mildewy bathroom inspired waves of nostalgia for my early twenties. The house boasted an ample backyard for the smokers, slightly bouncy floorboards that converted perfectly into a trampoline/dance floor by the end of the night and that signature of the terrace party, the bathtub full of ice. Plus, Sandy knew how to make jelly shots and he had enough charisma to persuade everyone to try one. The night would invariably end with everybody jumping up and down and singing the lyrics to early 90s Britpop songs, and very jolly it was too.
Now, I’m not saying that parties like these were weekly occurrences. But still, theywere the red-letter days, the days to look forward to, when I knew I was guaranteed a good time, and perhaps even the chance of meeting someone new, interesting and – if I was really lucky – single. They were the days that justified ironing a shirt with extra care, and perhaps even a splash of cologne.
In my younger days, I’d been quite shy, and my preferred position at any given social function had generally been on the fringe, in deep conversation with someone I already knew. And my general approach to seduction was not to talk to women in case they thought I was trying to chat them up – especially when I was.
But through a process of sheer attrition, I had become one of the last men standing. I’d become the guy who could text nightclub managers to get my name on the door, simply because they wanted people in their thirties to come and spend a bit of money and I was one of the few who was willing to leave the house. To my surprise, I found I rather liked being One Of The Few Guys Who Still Kind Of Parties A Bit.
Then, better yet, the small bar reforms happened in NSW, giving us a whole fresh wonderland of venues to explore – and at last there were venues where you could actually have a conversation. The early Darlinghurst adopters like Doctor Pong, Ching-a-Ling’s and Pocket became our new regulars. It was a wonderful way of easing into my thirties, with a crew who were just as interested in putting off anything resembling responsibility as me.
Well, I wasn’t necessarily trying to put off responsibility. It was just that until that happened, until I managed to find someone with whom I could embark on that graceful descent into domesticity myself, I valued company.
They were good times, but with every passing month it became clearer that we were an endangered species. So, Sandy relocated to London and Tim relocated to the East Village. There, if Facebook is any guide, they’ve found a different species of thirtysomething – one that still goes out. And every so often they return to Sydney, and fun times are still to be had.
But now, at the age of 35 and deprived of the gentlemen who organized wonderful parties where all I had to do was show up, I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do when I feel like Hitting The Town. I don’t really know where to go, what to do, and in particular, which venues’ bouncers won’t turn me away. It’s quite the dilemma.
I have some new, younger friends, and they’re great but it’s hard to keep up with them, if I’m honest – and it feels strange being five or more years older than everyone else at a party. You begin to wonder whether you ought to be supervising or cleaning up or something. (Hint: you’re really not.)
Perhaps the solution is for those of us to remain to unionise, and find a way to keep having big, fun nights, until death, rheumatism or a Fair Work Australia inquiry intervenes. (Hey, I wonder if we could get one of those HSU credit cards?) Perhaps we could establish a gated community or sorts, where security guards ensure that nobody in possession of a baby can enter?
But all these measures are temporary. In the long run, if you can’t beat them – and it’s now abundantly clear that we, at least, cannot – you have to join them. And that’s fine, that’s just the way Australia is, I guess. And it’s what I want, I think. I only wish that until that joining process had concluded, there were a few more people like Tim and Sandy around.