In the new Netflix series Russian Doll, Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) is trapped at her 36th birthday party. She shows up to her friend’s loft, smokes a joint laced with cocaine, gets drunk, takes a guy home, goes out for cigarettes, and then … dies. She wakes up to find herself back at the party, forced to live through it over and over again.
It’s a fun gimmick, bolstered by Lyonne’s kinetic energy, which makes following her through the whirlwind of the evening exciting. It is also deeply familiar: we’ve all had nights that feel interminable, or nights that just feel like you’ve done it all before.
Here, nine writers share the one memorable night they’d either hate or love to relive.
First, the bad…
“I laid down on their bathroom floor, crying about how I was going to die in some hippie stranger’s house in Vermont.”
My lapsed Catholicism leads me to view every Groundhog Day scenario as a kind of purgatory, so if there’s any night in my life I’d be most troubled to live over, it was the night that felt most like purgatory on Earth.
Sophomore year of college, my roommate and I drove five hours to visit her high-school friend at the University of Vermont. I was 19, subsisting entirely on vodka, diet Fanta, and the occasional Swedish Fish. The minute we got to our destination, I put my bags down and took several bong rips. There was a fleeting moment in between when I looked around the apartment we were in — taking in the psychedelic tapestries covering the walls, and the ample bean bag chairs — and considered that perhaps their weed was out of my league, but I quickly chased that thought away. I was 19! I was “fun!” Cut to an hour later, when my heart was pounding so fast that I was convinced it was going to burst. I laid down on their cool bathroom floor, begging my roommate to call an ambulance, crying about how I was to die in some hippie stranger’s house in fucking Vermont. I eventually calmed down enough from this freak-out to make my way back to the party, where I cracked open a beer in the kitchen and thought to myself “hey, at least the night’s almost over.” Then I looked over at the microwave clock and realized it was only 8 p.m. —Gabriella Paiella
“I texted every ex in my phone and not one of them answered.”
It was one of those evenings where alcohol and 20-something romantic desperation collided with mortifying results. My friends were meeting at a bar, and the host mentioned a guy would be there who I’d be “really great with.” I knew him casually, and knew that he was seeing someone, but just assumed things weren’t serious. I arrived to a scene of mostly couples and awkwardly flirted with this guy who was just incredibly not into it. Pride wounded, I figured he and his partner were more committed than I realized. Moments later, two girls walked in and all but threw themselves at him. Delighted, he left the bar with a highly intoxicated woman draped over him. I was equal parts devastated and furious. Not because he was cheating on his girlfriend, but because he wouldn’t cheat with me. Having to face that part of my personality was humiliating. Determined not to end the night alone, I texted every ex in my phone and not one of them answered. I went home sobbing and fell asleep in the hallway of my building, waking up with chalky mascara tear stains. After that, I started to get a handle on my chronic need for attention, but if you offered me $1,000 to do it over I’d really have to think about it. —Ali Drucker
“I ate the cheese. I drank the vodka.”
On the eve of my 21st birthday, my eight female housemates at Rutgers presented me with a gift: a block of sharp cheddar cheese and a plastic handle of vodka. “Your favorite!” they exclaimed. Unfortunately, it was.
I ate the cheese. I drank the vodka. I wore a tiara in my badly-bleached-outgrown-pixie-cut-struggle-bob hair. I wore combat boots and a white PacSun sundress out to the bars (in November!). I don’t remember if I had a jacket, but if I did, I lost it by the end of the night. I went on a bar crawl, my friends dropped like flies as I became more embarrassing at each locale. At Scarlet Pub, I took a “blowjob” shot that included whipped cream and men ogling me as I struggled to lift the thing off the bar with just my mouth.
The night ended with me struggling (and giving up on) taking off my tights as I made out with my Nice Guy neighbor, who was kind enough to stay and make sure I didn’t choke on any cheese-vodka-whipped-cream vomit. I didn’t throw up, but I did wake up to my mom knocking on my door: “It’s study abroad orientation day, Cris! Do you need help?”
Yup. My personal hell would certainly be a night of dairy, drinking, darkness, waking up to my mom, and having to do it all again. Good God. —Crissy Milazzo
Now, the good…
“I was in my early-to-mid 20s the one time I attempted sex in a bar bathroom, and I would like to go back and know why.”
The benefit of reliving a day over and over seems like the ability to just observe what the hell was going on — not even to course-correct, but just to watch from your own body. I was in my early-to-mid 20s the one time I attempted sex in a bar bathroom, and I would like to go back and know why. It was a cousin’s birthday party, or maybe a friend’s birthday party, at a bar that no longer exists, and my partner and I, overcome with the horniness of a new relationship, decided to do it in the single-occupancy bathroom instead of just getting a cab home. It didn’t work (anxiety, alcohol, people pounding on the door), so I’d like to go back and A) figure out how to do it right and B) observe this wild woman I used to be. It’s rare for me to taste the kind of confidence I must have had, but for all I know I could have just been oblivious. Or both! Anyway she seems fun. —Jaya Saxena
“This is the sort of international-date-line-crossing stupidity you are only capable of at
The worst night of my life is almost certainly one I’ve forgotten, and the same is probably true of the best. But the combination worst/best night is the one I’d pick to relive indefinitely if given a choice in the matter. It was New Year’s Eve 2002 and two days prior I had arrived in Australia chasing a guy, who picked me up from the airport, took me home, [redacted] me, and then informed me that he both had New Years plans to which I was not invited as well a serious girlfriend. This is the sort of international-date-line-crossing stupidity you are only capable of at 21, but that is also the age at which a setback like “you have just arrived in a foreign country and you have a total of $400 to your name and then only other person you know here lives in a different city” seems like something you can deal with tomorrow. So, in all my young, heartbroken, determined glory, I had him drop me off at a bar he said was fun. There I met a group of hot Swedish backpackers who took me to another one, where I danced with the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. The rest of the night was a whirlwind of strangers turned immediate friends, and by the time I watched the sun come up over Sydney I knew that I probably hadn’t left home for a guy after all. —Brandy Jensen
“I was excited for my cleavage to finally meet her idol’s cleavage.”
About ten years ago I got tickets to a screening of Elvira’s classic film Mistress of the Dark, with the horror legend herself being in attendance for a signing. I was excited for my cleavage to finally meet her idol’s cleavage. As luck would have it, one of my friends knew Elvira’s niece and asked us to be in charge of the guest list. My friend Shaun and I dressed in our Sunday best — he, in a black turtleneck with a large Celtic cross necklace, I, in a goth Lolita look. While waiting for the festivities to begin, I decided to venture to the bar next door and proceeded to get wasted on whiskey. By the time I got back to the theater, Shaun was manning the line, and I drunkenly began calling him Father O’Malley due to his priestlike outfit. The next thing I knew, Elvira pulled up in her ’58 Thunderbird, and we met and took pictures with her. However, at some point I lost my camera — a pink Sony Cybershot (so 2000s) — and was bummed. Cut to a few days later, it had been found, by none other than Elvira! (Apparently I left it in the theater bathroom.) I was worried about nudes being on it, as any of us would be, but hoped I would get it back with surprise photos of Elvira doing MySpace poses. Sadly it did not. And yes, I would live that night over again and again. —Marie Lodi
“Four hours was not enough to enjoy it thoroughly.”
It was my fault that my fiancé and I gave a C+ rendition of “It’s Tricky” at our joint bachelor/bachelorette party at Littlefield in Gowanus. There was so much on my mind — the room was full of friends, I was trying to be a good hostess, it was an open bar. Run-D.M.C. karaoke was not top priority.
Josh and I had created what might be my ideal environment: we’d rented out the bar for the night, functionally turning it into an extra-large private karaoke room with 100 of our favorite people, plus flowing pizza and drinks. Four hours was not enough to enjoy it thoroughly. If I could relive this beautiful blur of a night perpetually, I would eat and drink and have intimate, meaningful conversations with every single one of the guests. I would nail the Nicki Minaj verses on Ciara’s “I’m Out,” perform my favorite bops from Miss Saigon and Chess, and provide supportive backing vocals or “wooooo!”s for other performers. My D.M.C. would be on point for Josh’s Jam Master Jay, even if every now and then I’d invoke our original sloppy version, which had its own charms. —Maris Kreizman
“I thought I looked cool but after a few drinks one of the girls told me I looked like Peter Pan.”
In 2010, I rang in my 21st birthday in France. I went to a nightclub with a group of girls from my study abroad cohort. I was wearing a belted tunic, leggings, and little ankle boots that I bought earlier that day. I thought I looked cool but after a few drinks one of the girls told me I looked like Peter Pan. All night I kept getting handed free shots of bright green liqueur from well-wishers who understood the significance of an American 21st birthday. I didn’t really know that these were meant to be more of sip-and-enjoy shots than “SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS!” shots.
At one point, the music stopped and the DJ came over the microphone announcing that there was une fille americaine celebrating her 21st birthday. There were cheers from the crowd, and the DJ insisted that I come to the center of the dance floor. Pretending I hated it, I slinked through the crowd with my friends. The DJ handed me another shot of green liqueur and dedicated the next song to me. He proceeded to play Shakira’s iconic World Cup anthem, “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa).” We all stood at the front of the dance floor and did the entire routine of hip-slinging Shakira choreography from the music video. It was such a bizarre and wonderful snapshot in time, and I would be okay with reliving this night on loop for all eternity. However, I would leave out the part where I got home and barfed up neon green for an hour. —Hayley Schueneman
“Within an hour of arriving at Blob, eight 18-year-olds had inadvertently begun a whirling makeout mob.”
My freshman year of college I lived in Florence, Italy, which is the home of the Uffizi, Michelangelo’s David, and a considerable amount of bars that offered five limoncello shots for six euros. I was 18 and felt invincible. One night, not wanting to pay for any overpriced drinks, about eight of my friends and I decided to bring water bottles filled with Keglivich with us for our walk to our favorite place, Blob. Blob was a tiny two-level night club with a stripper pole, a foosball table, a small dance floor, and lots of graffiti. It smelled like sweat and cleaning products. Since my friends and I had already consumed about seven ounces of vodka each before we entered, what happened next is not surprising. Our dancing slowly became less rhythmic motion and more leaning onto each other. The leaning became hugging. The hugging became kissing.
Within an hour of arriving at Blob, eight 18-year-olds had inadvertently begun a whirling makeout mob. We kissed each other. We kissed everyone else in the bar. We kissed so much that nearly all other activity ended. This went on for about an hour (or at least that’s how it felt) before the eight of us decided we’d had enough and it was time to go home. From that night on, we were referred to as the “American tornado.” While reliving this night in my current body sounds positively unbearable, I’d give anything to feel as young and reckless and dumb as I did that night — and also capable of drinking any amount of cheap vodka without feeling like death. —Opheli Garcia-Lawler