Saturday, October 27, 2007

One-night stands and domain clash

The feeling will be familiar to anyone who has ever reached morning with a one-night stand: a vague, discomforting sensation that something is out of place. This awkwardness is due to the disconcerting collision of two normally distinctly divided worlds, or in other words, the destruction of the behavioral barrier between night and day. When the nocturnal world invades its more well-lit counterpart, the result can feel uncomfortable at the least and frightening at worst. I call it “domain clash.” It is akin to seeing one’s doctor or teacher at the grocery store—suddenly we’re thrust into a situation that feels strange and uncomfortable. Certain things—bars, clubs, loud music—belong in the liberating environment of the night. If you’ve ever been inside your favorite bar outside of its open hours—empty, and with all the lights on—you’ll understand what I mean. It’s as if subconsciously the bar only exists to you in its nighttime state, and seeing it at another time can be jarring and confusing.

It’s common knowledge that people act differently when the sun goes down. This discrepancy in behavior is often explained away as an effect of alcohol, but there is no denying that darkness is conducive to certain transgressive behaviors that most of us are too shy to engage in during the day. The light of daytime exposes our actions to the view and judgment of others, but when the lights go out our actions are hidden under a cloak of anonymity. Few men would dare to grab a girl’s butt if she or others could easily see the culprit, but such a covert copping is easy in a dark and crowded nightclub. If day is the domain of our superego, subject to our internal compass of ethics and social correctness, night is ruled by the id: “I want to do it. I will do it.” After all, memory being a very visual medium, it’s exceedingly difficult to make memories of something we can’t see. Taboos can be broken and mistakes made, but these normally embarrassing acts can largely escape the notice of witnesses, or even their participants.

OK, so back to the one-night stand (with which I have pretty much no experience, FYI). Waking up next to this person feels strange. Generally night-things remain in the night, and day-things remain in the day. Mixing the two is extremely difficult, and it works both ways: it will likely be a while before you sleep over with someone you meet at the park, coffee shop, etc., whereas hanging out with a post-bar/club hook-up during the day feels very awkward to begin with. But overcoming this obstacle—bringing a significant other from one world into another—is a huge step in the progress of a relationship. It is the bridging of these two domains that is the key to revealing one’s entire self to another human being.

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