Staying In Is The New Going Out

If you prefer to wrap yourself up in a blanket burrito with a glass of red and a book on a Friday night, know you’re not alone.

Illustration by Katie Carey

I’m impatiently tapping my chunky heels and digging in my bag for my credit card as I wait in line to pay for two bottles of wine. I text my friends “I’ll be there soon!” and reapply lipstick using my phone’s camera before I put it away.

All of this because I have big Friday-night plans: to go home … to my book club.

I’ve always been a book nerd, but I was surprised to learn how much my fellow clubbers — a mix of men and women, mostly in our late 20s and early 30s — look forward to it. I’ve hosted book club at my Fairmount house for the past two years; I thought there was no way we’d make it past two months. (I once tried to abandon book club altogether, only to have a member send a mass email out after months of silence. Subject line: “Where is Book Club?!?”)

The thing is, this isn’t that unusual. Gatherings like these — not quite parties but not not parties — are increasingly popular among younger generations. In fact, staying home in general has become the cool thing to do. We Netflix and chill, we brag about our coziest pajamas on Instagram, we play Cards Against Humanity at the kitchen table while drinking Negronis from our home bars.

If you think about it, the hermit culture that has become our social lives makes sense. First, we’re overloaded with student loans and high city rents. Second, we’re addicted to convenience, thanks to the advent of on-demand entertainment streaming and apps like GoPuff and Caviar that fetch whatever we could possibly want — from pints of Ben & Jerry’s to kale salads — for us at home. What also comes directly to us is our socializing, with texting and social media perusing keeping us “connected.” A loud bar or club scene just doesn’t have that much appeal anymore; we’re more likely to spend our hard-earned money on experiential trips, or at that new tahini milkshake place.

My friends and I like book club because we still crave all those things that make us human — real conversations and real connections — but sometimes feel, despite our constant social connectivity, that we’re missing them. One Delco member puts the appeal simply: “It makes me feel smarter.” Another, from Fishtown, notes, “I like discussing something other than politics but still getting into things on a deeper level. And the cheese plate doesn’t hurt.” We are all also grateful for a peer-mandated reason to put down our phones and read a book each month.

My Fairmount group is onto something. Girls Night In, a newish national newsletter and Instagram-driven book club aimed at millennials, recently launched its first Philly chapter, complete with an actual meet-up. It’s specifically aimed at ladies who don’t know one another but would rather get together to discuss Little Fires Everywhere than to split cocktails at the bar.

At my book club, we all shuffle in, grab a drink, and sprawl on couches or lean on counters, breaking into small groups or pairs to chat. It’s not unlike a bar — except it’s in my living room. We usually find ourselves discussing in loud voices the meaning of life and death (I’m looking at you, When Breath Becomes Air) instead of what Trump just tweeted. And we don’t have to pay $12 a drink, or even wear our shoes.

Published as “A Wild Night In” in the May 2018 issue of Philadelphia magazine.