Do you know what I longed for during the pandemic with the feverish intensity usually reserved for an irresistibly sexy ex you know you’ll never get the chance to have sex with ever again?
Call it whatever you want to call it, just don’t call it “non-existent.” Especially in New York City, the glittering concrete abyss that’s held court to the most iconic, insane, fabulous, and ~scandalous~ dyke parties, since the beginning of time.
I’d even say that queer nightlife has served as the backbone of my personal life (and professional life. I’m a lesbian sex and dating writer, who am I kidding?). It’s where I salaciously made out with a woman for the first time and thought: holy-shit-this-feels-amazing-oh-wow-I-am-indeed-a-flaming-homo. It’s where I met the wild group of girls who became my chosen family. It’s where I learned how to flirt. How to mingle. How to eye-fuck. It’s where I locked eyes with the first f*ck-boi-girl I ever loved. It’s held me through heartbreak. Rejection. Pain. Longing.
But most importantly , New York City lesbian nightlife has been my home for over a decade.
There was a brief moment in the Pandemic where I feared I’d never set foot in a gay bar or queer party again. Can you blame a bitch? Depressing article after depressing article was serial posted to social media, each proclaiming that all in-person events would turn digital forever, that Zoom events were “the new normal” and that this is what the younger generation wanted anyway.
“What if this is it?” I’d roar to anyone who would listen. “ What if all the lesbian bars close down and all the parties come to a screeching halt and we just hang out on horrible, vile, vacant Zoom Doom for the rest of our days!”
“I KNOW!” They’d roar back, wide-eyes teeming with fear and dread for the bleak future.
But you know what I love about our culture? Gays are gritty, bro. When hit like a fist to the face with unexpected hardship, we don’t just throw our hands in the air and give up. We get creative in our thinking. We fight with everything we have to keep what we’ve built alive. We make room for new shit. We make shit happen. It’s in our DNA to make shit happen. No matter what.
And guess what?
The nightlife is back, babe.
The nightlife isn’t just back — she’s back and better than ever. The unrestrained energy, the beams of electricity, the dancing, the hedonism, the fashion, the unapologetic flaunting of unabashed sexuality — all feel more alive than ever.
How do I know?
Glad you asked. (Purr). So. Just last month my friends and I embarked on the unofficial, self-proclaimed “lesbian party tour.” After being scattered across the country for nearly two years and only seeing each other through the cold static screen of a laptop — we all finally found ourselves back in good ole’ New York, double vaccinated, and ready to sin with the rest of the sinful Sapphics sifting through the City.
I don’t quite know how we did it — but somehow we managed to attend four lesbian/queer parties in a skimpy five days. I know what you’re thinking: Trust fund babies. Must be nice to NOT work, you spoiled little BRATS.
Oh, honey, I wish! While I think we’d make excellent full-time party girls with plush bank accounts, we’re all workin’ girls. Workin’ girls who collectively committed to slurping down a tremendous amount of water and consuming a tremendous amount of bagels to soak up our (harrowing) hangovers before work the following morning. Plus, come on. We practically had two years of beauty rest under our belts! All those Friday nights napping on the couch made up for a lifetime of post-party fatigue.
While the unofficial lesbian party tour bore four unique stops, they shared one common theme: Connection. Pre-pandemic parties were packed with girls staring, dead-eyed into their phones, mindlessly scrolling, swiping, stalking their exes, their exes exes, their exes exes’ new love interests. But I noticed something beautiful this week in my hard-partying tenure: People are talking to each other again. Wild, amirite?!
Or maybe it’s not so wild.
Maybe this long stretch of forced isolation has made us realize how empty the digital life actually is? Maybe we’re all just tired of texting and ready to flirt in the heat of the moment? Maybe we’re sick of swiping and ready to feel the exciting sparks of in-person chemistry again? What do I know? I went to makeup school. All I know is that I’m loving how present everyone is, so, so much. It feels almost nostalgic. It catapults my brain back to ‘07 when I was an underage baby dyke, sneaking into lesbian parties through dark back entrances before being thrust into a buzzy queer underworld. It brings me back to the days before dating apps were all the rage and social media hadn’t quite begun its reign of terror, and the only place to satiate our wild lesbian desires were in-person events.
And look. A lot of you probably know what I mean. I saw a *lot* of you at these parties. A special few of you, I saw at every single party (don’t worry a party girl never tells).
But if you weren’t there — or if you want to relive the fun — throw on your leather pants and let me guide you through my week of partying like I’m going to the electric chair.
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 17th, 2021
STOP 1: Scope Tonight When The Stars Collide Party Leo X Virgo
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 17th, 2021
I’ve found myself curious about the Scope party ever since one of my best friends on the planet, Arielle, told me about it a while back.
“It’s fun!” she crooned.
“Let’s go to the next one!” I crooned back.
And that’s precisely how Arielle, Little Michelle, Meghan, Sam, and I ended up in an Uber to Bushwick on a warm Friday night. I spent the thirty-minute car ride sneaking swigs of champagne out of a water bottle, winging my eyeliner, and hoping no one would notice the subtle red wine stain on my new “Spank Me” baby-tee.
When our car pulled up to the venue, I felt overcome with the witch vibe telling me that the night was going to be good. The outside area was peppered with cool girls waiting to go inside. But before we get into all that, let’s talk about the actual party:
Scope Tonight is an invite-only, astrology-themed party. It is, according to their website, “The galaxy’s hottest party for queer women & non-binary individuals in NYC.” And let me tell you — it was most definitely — a hot party. The hottest in the galaxy, babes.
At the door, we were all given wristbands revealing our astrological sign. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my decade-long tenure as a lesbian sex and dating writer, it’s this: My people live for astrology. They want to know your sign more than they want to know if you’re a vegetarian or what you think of The L Word reboot. Mixing astrology with sophisticated cocktails, lust-y lighting, killer music, and queer babes, galore? G-e-n-i-u-s. What the culture needs!
Also — if you’re a shy little minx like yours truly — the astrology wristband is a perfect ice-breaker, don’t you think? Even socially awkward writers like me can purr: “Oh wow. What is it like being a Virgo?” to the girl who catches our eye.
I saddled up to the bar and ordered a delicious specialty cocktail and did what I do best: Watch people party.
Here’s what I observed: The crowd was my favorite kind of crowd in that it consisted of a healthy mix of age ranges. I don’t know about you, but I like to rub elbows with dykes from a variety of generations — it makes for interesting conversation and provides a more dynamic ambiance. The fashion was sick, too — lots of crop tops and hats and black denim. There was a definite flirtatious, sexually charged energy radiating through the perfectly lit bar — but also a slew of dancing and lively conversation. My friends and I had the time of our lives swilling drinks around, meeting new people, catching up with old friends, and basking in the gorgeous gay galaxy. The scene reminded me of a hotter, queerer, Delia’s catalog from ‘99 suddenly sprung to life. I knew a bunch of people from carousing the bars over the years, but also met extremely cool, new people as well. It was a great combination of friendly and shiny new and sultry sexy.
We left drunk, giggly, and wildly enthusiastic about this ~new~ party (and the fabulous people who run it!) at 3 a.m. I think.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18th, 2021
Stop 2: Hot Rabbit & Honey Burlesque Present, Hot Honey
Venue: Baby’s All Right
I’ve been attending Hot Rabbit events in this town for what feels like my whole life. Regardless of the venue, it’s always a guaranteed good time, packed with interesting people, and a fierce DJ to boot.
I also adore Honey Burlesque. They are “the embodiment of LGBTQIA women’s empowerment, as their website states, made up of queer babes seeking to build up our communities, reinforce sexual power, and slash burlesque stereotypes one hair flip and booty pop at a time.” Founded and spearheaded by the famous, beautiful, and hyper-talented Scarlett Snow, Honey Burlesque isn’t just a force of queer nightlife in New York but also in LA (meow!). Hot Honey — the second stop of the lesbian party tour is a sexy collaboration between Hot Rabbit and Honey Burlesque.
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To be perfectly honest, I almost didn’t make it to this party. I was laden with an apocalyptic hangover from the Scope party (not their fault, just the result of my inability to say “no” to shot).
“Dayna! Arielle! Meghan! Stacy!” I howled at my friends when they came to collect me.
“What?” They eye-rolled.
“I don’t feel well! I need to stay in.”
“Zara you’re lowkey annoying,” Dayna said, twirling a lock of (fake) hair.
“Fine,” I pouted, twirling a lock of (fake) hair.
After a freezing cold shower and some ice-rolling of the face, I was depuffed and ready to party.
As soon as we shuffled our way into the club, we saw some brilliant burlesque on the sprawling stage. The mash-up of high art and sexual prowess was perfection. We all silently watched the performance as we cradled our vodka sodas. Then we all silently watched two gorgeous people meet, flirt, and kiss.
“Awwwww,” we hummed in unison.
We wound up watching burlesque and dancing beneath a disco ball raining glitter over our sweaty bodies until 4 a.m. It was a stunning night. All the babes dancing in their tiny shirts and loose pants felt like a mid-‘90s queer time capsule: a gorgeous mix of glam and grunge, salaciousness and sultriness, beauty and bad-bitchness.
When we all left together, we told everyone we were going back to my place to have a “foursome” which wasn’t true but whatever; a girl can dream, amirite?
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21st, 2021
STOP 3: Ani Difranco x The Indigo Girls
Venue: Central Park Summer Stage
After staying up till 4 a.m. two nights in a row, we were all looking a bit “haggard” to say the least. (Let’s just say my face was so puffy I could move it around like pizza dough). Arielle and Dayna were staying with us in Brooklyn for the week (it’s called severe codependency) so we decided to cozy up and binge-watch Transparent in lieu of going out for a little while. And by “a little while” I mean we stayed in for two whole nights. Gasp. I know.
By Tuesday we were chomping at the bit to see two of our favorite artists: Ani Difranco and The Indigo Girls. This would be my 11th Ani Difranco concert and my second time seeing her at The Central Park Summer Stage. The last time I saw her I was in high school and waited in the pouring rain for eight hours so I could get a good spot. I also had a boyfriend, a lip ring, an eating disorder, and was sixteen.
I was excited to be a properly medicated and out lesbian this time around, if you know what I mean. Around 5 p.m. we ducked out of work and took the F train to Manhattan. We guzzled tequila cocktails out of water bottles as we made our way to Central Park.
“Did you know the last time I saw Ani Difranco at this venue I was sixteen and had a boyfriend?” I exclaimed.
“We know,” my friends sighed patiently.
“You already told us. Three hundred times.” Meghan muttered under her breath. I ignored her and skipped into the park. No one is going to dull my sparkle at an Ani Difranco/Indigo Girls concert, babe.
Before I get into how earth-shatteringly, mind-blowingly, incredible the concert was let me tell you: This was the holy grail New York City lesbian event of all events. This concert separated the dedicated dykes — dykes who spent their isolated youths memorizing Ani lyrics and blasting “Closer To Fine” in their headphones as they slumped in the cafeteria — from the riff-raff. I felt a deep kinship with every woman I ran into, made friends with, or simply clutched in a raw moment of musical passion. “I know,” I’d think to myself as I gazed into a stranger’s eye. “I get it.”
The concert housed lesbians/queers of all ages — but there was definitely a large influx of women who came of age in the ‘90s and worshipped at the altar of these artists. It reminded me of 2004 right after George Bush got elected for the second time and we all sought solace by going to concerts where we knew everyone would be on the same page as us.
By the time the Indigo Girls took to the stage for their encore, a beautiful, light, rainfall descended upon us. We were all high from watching our idols on stage so we relished in the rain and swayed our soaking-wet bodies back and forth like hippies. Ani Difranco and Bitch (who I love) joined and a life-changing, historical performance of “Closer To Fine” broke out on stage. I sobbed and linked arms with my friends until the very last possible moment.
We left looking like drowned lesbian rats but it was so worth it.
Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021
STOP 4: MISSTER Venue: The Woods
We didn’t go that hard with the booze during Tuesday night’s concert because we were mega buzzed from the musical prowess we witnessed, but we were still frazzled and bleary-eyed come Wednesday morning. I woke up late with rain-swept hair and struggled through my workday. At 6 p.m. Arielle tried to leave.
“I’m going home. I’ve hit my breaking point,” she rasped.
“No. You’re not. We’re going to The Woods tonight,” I clipped.
“Yeah. When was the last time you went to The Woods on a Wednesday?” Dayna asked bitchily.
“Don’t ditch us now! We’re on the last stop of the tour,” Meghan hissed.
“Ugh. Fine.” Arielle poured herself a glass of wine, slung on some skinny wax-coated jeans, and soon enough was ready for the final party.
We got to The Woods just after 10 p.m. for the iconic MISSTER Wednesday party (DJ’d by Amber Valentine, the icon) — another girl event that I’ve been attending since the last supper. I love it. It’s always packed, has amazing music, and hot people.
But this night was different. It was The Woods on steroids. Everything was elevated. The number of familiar faces. The number of unfamiliar faces. The rips in the jeans. The tattoos on the ribcages. The passionate dance floor make-outs. The music. But mainly the girls. The ~bad~ girls.
The Woods was teeming with bad girls. Bad girls in flannel smoking (real, non-vape) cigarettes. Bad girls with short hair. Bad girls staying out till 3 a.m. on a school night. Bad girls keeping the scene alive. This is what I hoped lesbian culture would look like when I was kid in the suburbs. I’m going to say this was a very early 90s skater-girl, slacker-chic era party. Sort of like a Mary Gaitskill book if her books were about complicated, hard-partying queer girls.
We stayed at The Woods until 2 a.m. and then crawled back to my apartment and fell into a dreamless slumber. We woke up with pounding heads, bitching about how badly we need a night in, laughing our heads off as we gabbed about our sinful, lovely, wild lesbian party tour.
And you know what? I think the tour was successful. In a few weeks, we’ll do round two. And maybe you can join? Because all are welcome on the beautiful, banged-up ride through Lesbian Nightlife in New York.