How bookclubs became the nightclubs for people over 30

I'm under no illusion that my clubbing days are over. The cologne has been packed away, the 'good shoes' are now just 'shoes' and I no longer care about seeing obscure DJ's play even more obscure clubs. 

A combination of factors has led me to this juncture. You can blame the lockout laws, or the fact I'm thirty now, which is basically middle-age in Millennial years. There's also the reality that a hangover takes five days to bounce back from and I do my best drinking during the day, not the early hours of the morning.

But despite my best efforts to slink towards the sweet embrace of old age, turns out I am still clubbing. Book clubbing.

"Yeah, but don't you reckon the Mum character was a bit two dimensional?" shouts my friend Ryan, the music drowning out any chance of a proper conversation. 

"This is such good Pinot, where is it from?" 

Booked up

A few months ago I convinced my two friends, Ryan and Caitlin, that we should form a book club. We were all reading the same novel, so why not meet up and talk about it while also drinking? 

While the first few meetups were tinged with a mutual suspicion that it was super awkward, since then the monthly book club has really kicked off. 

The last meeting saw my lounge room transformed into the dance floors of our youth. What started off as an afternoon of polite book chat and expensive cheese descended into a night of chaos. The music was loud and obnoxious and amazing, we danced around the room, drank anything in sight and constantly told each other how much fun we were having. At one point, I ordered cigarettes (hahaha) from Jimmy Brings, paying an absolute premium, smoked two, and then tossed the rest.
This really is like clubbing. 

A new chapter

When I first mentioned book club to my mates, I braced myself for the inevitable banter, but they barely batted an eye because they were all pseudo-clubbing too. Half of them belong to a weekly run club, but from all accounts, it's thirty per cent jogging, seventy per cent schooners. 

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Then there's the Friday Fishing club, Monday movie club; any excuse to meet up with like-minded people and possibly get day drunk. 

The funniest part is that joining these kinds of groups still requires a degree of social bravery because we hate to admit that we want the company. Even though we're lonelier than ever before. You enter with an appropriate amount of cynicism, enough to protect yourself should it fail, but in most cases, it ends up being the exact thing you didn't know you needed. 

Eventually, your membership to the club no longer requires a sheepish "Yeah, they're actually decent guys" disclaimer. Instead, you're proudly hanging out because that's precisely the type of club you want to be seen at these days.

Need to know basis

Like all the hottest clubs mine has benefited massively from word of mouth. I'm now receiving pictures of friends reading books on the bus, hoping to score an invite to the next loose literary meeting. My own sister wants in, but unfortunately, she listens to audiobooks, and we're for purists only. Again, like all the best clubs, we only want to attract the premium clientele.

Of course, my move into the book clubbing scene had proved the perfect age-related fodder for Jack, my 22-year-old brother in law. "What happened to you?" he asked as I nursed my most recent book club hangover. I explained the (obviously foreign) concept to him while his jaw slowly made its way to the floor.

"Were there any girls here, though?"  Yes. Sally Rooney, Rachel Cusk and Lisa Toddeo were all here. "But if you want to get drunk, why don't you just go out?" 

Because going out is now for you, Jack, not for me. I've done my time in real clubs, and while the memories remain golden, that's only because the bad bits don't make the highlights reel. 

So you can keep your aggressive bouncers, expensive cab rides home (alone), and the horror of club toilets and the rest of us will find new ways to scratch that itch. 

We've turned a page, literally, and it feels right.

After continually being told to "use his words" as a young boy, Thomas Mitchell took that advice on board and never looked back. Since then his words appeared all over the place, including in the Sydney Morning Herald, Time Out, The Huffington Post and GQ. Thomas spends his days observing the unique behaviour of the Australian male, while trying not to overstay his welcome at the local cafe.

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Illustration by Tia Alisha courtesy of Another Colour.

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