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Nightlife, Redefined

Nightlife used to mean getting dress up and hitting the town with my friends, or maybe a cute date.

We would start with drinks someplace fun, then dinner, then a bar or some live music. Maybe even a stop for breakfast on the way home, if the night was particularly good. For years I was tethered to small children, so nightlife was rare and required a babysitter. I was never out late enough to stop for breakfast. Now, just as my children are old enough to stay home alone and mind themselves, you would think I could rekindle a little nightlife of my own.

Think again.

Let me tell you what nightlife looks like when you have a houseful of teenagers, in case you don’t know yet, or in case you’ve forgotten, or in case you are in the thick of it too—because we all need to laugh (or else we will cry). Friday afternoon starts things off with a herd of oversized boys after school, restless and loud and raiding the pantry and refrigerator until wrappers, empty boxes, and soda cans litter the shoreline of my kitchen island. Backpacks, shoes, and smelly, wadded-up practice clothes line the back hallway. My daughters and their friends enter, eating the sparse remains of the first pantry attack and leaving a trail of smaller shoes and brightly colored backpacks. Phones are charging in every available outlet like parasites on wormlike white cords.

A dip in the pool yields a slippery kitchen floor, and my voice, "Hey, can y’all dry off before you come inside, please?” is lost in the bass thumping from Luke’s Beats Pill speakers, resembling a giant red suppository. "What?" they say, as they leak rivers across the floor, dropping a heap of soggy towels at the base of the stairs. I can hear Xbox games and screaming—the boys are sitting together in Luke’s room, but they’re staring at the screen, clicking controllers, or thumbing at their phones.

The temporary sating from the first feed wears off soon, and knowing this moment is upon us, I decide between nutritional choices like Chick-fil-A nugget platters, bags of P. Terry's burgers and fries, Rudy's BBQ, or boxes of pizza. I used to cook for them, but that got so thankless and messy that I gave it up for Lent a few years back. I got smarter (and cheaper) this summer, stocking the refrigerator with hamburger meat, brats, and buns and telling the boys to man up and work the grill. I bought the grill as a Mother’s Day present to myself last May, picturing relaxing family dinners and evenings grilling salmon and sipping cold Sauvignon Blanc by the pool. Alas, the grill lets me hide in the AC in my room, sipping wine and reading under my ceiling fan, so it is still the gift that keeps on giving.

“So, uh, Mom, can we have a few people over?” asks Luke in this low man voice, which still startles me at times.

I used to naively think this meant a couple of friends. Until last year when my pool was filled with 50 kids (girls and boys) after a Friday night football game, looking like the caddy pool party from Caddyshack—complete with chicken fighting and diving off the waterfall. I nearly had a heart attack. So now I ask more questions. It doesn’t always help. I am still surprised by parents who drop kids off at my house, don’t come in to meet me, say hello, or ascertain that I am indeed home (it could be a Dad weekend for all they know) or of sound mind to chaperone, and don’t respect my mommy mandate, which boldly states: Come Get Your Spawn by 10:30 So I Can Sleep.

Because I cannot just go watch a movie, read a book, drink too much wine, chat on the phone, take a long bath, or go to sleep. I have to spy on these slippery people, under the guise of perky chocolate chip cookie delivery gal, “Fresh from the oven!” or diligent hydration monitor, “Want some more Gatorade?” or friendly hotel maid, “Here are some dry towels.” I have to make sure that there are no beer bottles clanking on the bottom of the hot tub (this hasn't happened—yet—but I flash back to my own teenage hot tub and warm bottles of peppermint schnapps held under bubbling water whenever my mom came out to offer cookies), or that no couples are hiding in the shadows by the guest room or garage, or that the people confirmed to be spending the night at my house are indeed still at my house. When they cover the sofa and the floor in the family room to watch movies, I make periodic haunting appearances in the kitchen, rattling my chains like the Ghost of Virginity Past, getting a snack, more ice water, or brewing some tea (which is total bullshit because even Luke knows I hate tea.)

This is my nightlife now. The girl who liked to stay out late now just wants to go to bed. The girl who loved the music now wants them to please turn it down. The girl who loved her cocktails and kisses is now the booze and make-out police. The girl who stopped for late-night breakfast is now up early flipping pancakes and crackling bacon for the beloved bedhead boys and girls. I would not change a thing.

My nightlife used to be all about the night. Now, it’s all about life.

Credits

Illustration by Joy Gallagher

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