My Nightwatch column from last Friday's Day and Night magazine...
GUILT is an unwelcome guest on a night out. It is an emotion best saved for the morning after. It's going to come unannounced anyway, letting itself in with the key you meant to get back from your ex.
It will sneak up the stairs, stand drooling over your pillow for a moment and then yell in your earhole: 'I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST NIGHT!'
Ah yes, guilt. The horrors, the shakes, the frantic scramble for the Solpadeine followed by a grab for the phone to see who was texted, what was texted and what planet of inappropriateness you were on at the time.
It ain't nice, but it's like penance for throwing caution and all three sheets to the wind the previous evening. It helps us to say, hand on heart, 'Never again' and mean it for at least four working days.
What is pointless is feeling guilt before you've actually done something wrong. I get it when I throw up a deadline for a dinner date. It makes the crème brulee stick in the throat. (Ed: What?! You told me you had to rush your pregnant friend to Holles Street that time you were late last week.)
Ahem, I mean, I can imagine that kind of thing might make one feel guilty. Please don't fire me. Then there is the particular type of seasonal guilt that comes into play about the time my hayfever kicks in every year.
The nights, theoretically, are balmier. The risk of developing frostbite or being hailstoned to death is, theoretically, negligible. It's that wonderful time when al fresco drinking becomes de rigueur.
This also means that the chances of being asked for spare change five times in an hour are pretty high.
A friend more cynical than I describes it thus: in summer, in Dublin, each pub has two bars. There is the one inside and the one outside, which my friend calls the sushi bar.
Apparently, you see the exact same people pass in the exact same order at regular 20-minute intervals, asking for change or a cigarette. It's like watching the same bit of tuna go past on loop, and you're trying not to catch the tuna's eye.
As my friend is one of these sad old gits who insists on sticking to the same pub in a city full of watering holes, I'll have to take his kerbside observations as reliable.
My friend is somewhat hardened to these regular appeals to his benevolence. He has decided to give money only to the old lady with the shopping cart and a polite but firm 'No' to the others.
Me on the other hand? I take my gin with a rather large slice of guilt in it. I don't want to be hassled, but then I feel bad for not wanting to be hassled. I can't blame some down-on-their-luck person for noticing how many drinks I have in the space of an hour and how I could well afford to spare them the price of one.
Oh I know, poor me, what a dilemma for the person who does actually have a bed to go home to. Seriously though, what do you do?
I just holidayed in Italy -- again, doesn't your heart bleed for me -- and spent a night in Milan watching the beautiful people at a bar so cool I thought I was going to be thrown out any second for parting my hair on the wrong side.
These hipsters had an 'interesting' way of dealing with unwanted approaches from outside the velvet rope -- scream at them until they went away. Clearly, that's not the way to go.
Nor is staying inside the pub an option. That would just make me feel guiltier still.
I guess the only thing for it is to either give with good grace or stop feeling bad about saying no. Alternatively, I might spend the rest of the summer hiding behind my friend.
FIRST PUBLISHED HERE: http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/day-and-night/columnists/nightwatch-guilt-tripped-by-the-human-sushi-bar-2225704.html