I wondered if I’m allowed to ask if I’m allowed

Walking through the city centre a few Saturdays ago, I made eye contact with a thin young blonde girl wearing a huge camouflage army coat and when I did the vague acknowledgment smile thing she murmured something to me which of course I didn’t really hear. I took out my earphones or earbuds or whatever they’re called now, and asked what she said. She was promoting a party thing at a nightclub and, in a strong northern accent, asked if I liked house music. I said I don’t really know, that I’ve heard it before but I don’t really know if I like it. She asked what kind of music I like. I said I don’t know.

“I used to be hip but I’m not anymore,” I said.

“Well, you look pretty hip,” she said.

“Oh cool, thanks,” I said, looking down at myself thinking “hipster insurrectionary” and wondering if I would ever grow out of it but feeling like no probably not despite, or because, it is a bit absurd to dress in black bloc working at a computer all day.

She said it’s like techno but something something different about beats dropping more or less. I said oh, cool. I neglected to mention that in a previous life, in a faraway land, I was once engaged in a bitter social war against all DJs, against the monopoly they held and continue to hold on the libidinal resources of the youth. She gave me a card thing that would get me in for £5 instead of £7.50, and I said oh cool, thanks. I also said with uncertainty but perfect sincerity—which I was surprised to feel—that maybe I would go. She asked if I wanted a second one for a friend. I awkwardly said, uh no that’s OK, thanks.

“Well look, here’s a ticket so you can get in for free. I can get you free drinks, too,” she said. I couldn’t tell how old she was, seemed probably between 16 and 27. I didn’t really care about her age so much as the main issue. I asked, “You’re not a student here, are you?” No, she was from Leeds, never went to university, just into house music and stuff. Oh OK cool, I said, that’s cool. Nonetheless unsure exactly why she was being so nice, when she handed me the ticket I said, “Oh wow, cool.”

Before returning to her party-promoting group about ten feet away, she said to me in a tutorly voice, “Take my number and text me when you get there, and I’ll show you how it works,” as if I had never been to a nightclub ever. Then it dawned on me that she probably just felt bad for me and wanted to help me, this American guy in a minor British city who doesn’t know what kind of music he likes and apparently has nobody to bring along to a nightclub and does not in any part of his self-presentation really appear to be a member of any recognizable milieu but who, now amused and relaxed, says “OK yea, I think I’ll come.”

Walking away, I wondered to myself if I was going to do drugs that night, then I wondered if university lecturers are allowed to do drugs. Then I wondered if I’m allowed to ask if I’m allowed to do drugs, like if I asked someone higher up in the university if I’m allowed to drugs and the answer was no then I would be judged and punished just as much as if they found me on Instagram snorting a line of coke hashtag #idodrugs. I imagined someone later in the night handing me drugs, and me asking them to confirm they are not a student before I quickly strongly thought “this is not going to work.” But then I thought “Timothy Leary” and that made me calm enough to decide I would play it by ear.

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Murphy, Justin. 2014. "I wondered if I’m allowed to ask if I’m allowed," https://jmrphy.net/blog/2014/12/17/a-few-saturdays-ago/ (December 14, 2018).