“C’mon, it will be fun!”, Nancy exclaimed, as I reluctantly said okay to going out for a girls night. It was one of those Friday evenings when I'd come home from work exhausted, and the last thing I wanted to do was head out with my friends. The thought of snuggling up at home with my cat, Samantha, while toasty and warm in my sweats and slippers watching HBO was more appealing than figuring out what outfit to wear to a nightclub.
Should I call Nancy back to cancel, I pondered. Should I invite her and her sister over for a girls-night-in? Then I remembered, my old motto: Sometimes the best times happen when you least want to go. I’ve had the most meticulously planned nights result in some of the worst outcomes and, ironically, some of worst planned nights result in the best! Though I didn’t know it yet, this would become one of my most memorable girls nights’ ever.
From an outsider’s perspective, Detroit isn’t on most anyone’s destination for a vacation; but as a native Michigander, Detroit-born suburban, and 20-something, it was proudly my home and offered some very dynamic nightlife.
My girlfriend Nancy and her sister, Emily, and I were dressed and ready for fun. Smoldering black liner and shadow with what Nancy liked to refer to as her doll face; her eyes loaded with three coats of Maybelline black mascara resulting in lashes that looked more like spider legs than human features; but awesome, all the same! She had wide-set eyes and blond hair so her eyes were captivating in the subtle dim light of an evening adventure. In fact, guys usually approached her at the nightclubs and her eyes gave her the upper hand when it came to attracting men.
Myself, I wore my favorite black, thigh-high boots I’d purchased in Toronto the previous year. Toronto is accessible via train from Windsor, Ontario, just a stone’s throw across the river from Detroit where murders are almost unheard of, a sharp contrast from the stats of Detroit.
Still, Detroit had my heart. The Detroit River, a passage to the Great Lakes, United States on one side, Canada on the other, carried a lineage I share with relatively few but still fascinating all the same. My great uncle, known as Polar Bear Gus, swam that river every year in the middle of winter. Some say he had a fondness for drinking beforehand but, having been cold my entire life living in Michigan, and barely able to tolerate alcohol with an incredibly sensitive stomach, we obviously didn’t share all the same genes.
The nightclub was typical. We danced, had fun, laughed and talked. Toward the end of the evening we met two guys and, though sparks didn’t fly for any potential dating opportunities, they seemed similar to us: simply ready for a fun, spontaneous evening! The guys, Jon and Dave, asked us to join them on their boat docked at a club adjacent to the Detroit River.
Now, though Michigan is known in the U.S. to have the most boat owners due to the great lakes and many surrounding lakes, it wasn’t common for a 20-something to necessarily own one. Our guard was up, but our sense of adventure stronger that particular evening. In the bathroom, before we left, we girlfriends huddled together like a Detroit Lion football pack strategizing a game play. Emily said she was carrying scissors, should anything go awry (don’t ask; I have no idea why she was carrying scissors). We outnumbered them, so that was a plus. They seemed like decent guys having spent some time talking to them and we ended up knowing mutual friends. Plus, over the evening we learned where they lived and worked.
So we went for it. We drove to the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club and entered the boat. It was an awesome boat, large enough to party, fast enough to cruise a river of waves. By this time the nightclub had closed, Detroit lights were lit bright but only for the few brave enough to venture out past the peak nighttime crowds and not worry what was lingering around vacant buildings. Grosse Pointe, however, was safer. In fact, though it borders Detroit, it’s one of the safest cities in Michigan.
As the wind rushed through our hair, the ease of the night and spontaneity became the forefront of our adventure. The boat hit the gentle waves of the river while we admired the city lines of Detroit and Canada alike, all in one visual scene. Never, just earlier in the evening, could I have imagined the freedom and thrill we would be encountering. None of the guys hit on us so we never felt awkward. They were gentlemen, laughing along with us, as what seemed like a minute, turned into hours. The music blasted as the throttle thrust forward; we danced until the Detroit lights dimmed and the skies began to lighten.
Upon parting, we all knew this time would never happen again, nor would we all see each other together another time. Yet, the night would be etched in our minds forever. It was the adventure, the spontaneity, the laughter and the sense of freedom shared with our new, albeit temporary, friends that all came together to create one awesome night. And just think, had I stayed home to watch HBO, I would have missed it all.
Unbeknownst to me, and with familiar traits I could never have guessed, apparently Uncle Gus and I do share some of the same genes for adventure. Whether it's freezing cold or steamy hot outside, it seems the Detroit River has bonded us through generations.
Go Detroit Girls Night!
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