Hold it. Before you resign yourself to nine months (and more) of spending your Saturday nights reading What to Expect While You're Expecting, remember this: While things are different now that you have a bun in the oven, you do not have to give up nightlife right away. On the contrary -- you and your FWOKs (friends without kids) will have enough challenges once your baby arrives and requires all your free time. So now's the time to enjoy your FWOKhood (with a few modifications) while you can.
First thing: As determined as you may be to maintain your freewheeling lifestyle, you probably have some nightlife habits you've got to change. You know that evening-enhancing stimulants are not currently an option, so resign yourself now to (sorry) "mocktails."
A caveat about "mocktails" (beyond the stupid nickname): Some bartenders and waiters tend to ignore requests for non-alcoholic drinks when they're busy, preferring to focus on customers who tip better as they get drunker. Tip your service person as well as -- or better than -- you would if you were ordering booze ("unleaded" drinks are cheaper anyway) and the faux bevvies will flow. Bartenders and waitstaff do tend to appreciate a good tipper who isn't sloppy, vapid or obnoxious.
But let's take a moment to consider the venue. How much fun is it to sit at a bar downing one "I'll Fake Manhattan" after another while you watch all your friends get drunk? Not very. So if your favorite hangout has a bar and that's it, you'll probably be bored. Choose a place that offers some other type of activity besides drinking, and you'll actually enjoy your nights out when you're carousing for two.
You'll need to get creative when coming up with fun things to do now that you've had to ditch your regular wine-tasting nights, but it's not as hard as you think. Lots of bars have pool tables, dart boards or the like, and you'll be amazed at how good your hand-eye coordination can be when you're not halfway through your third pitcher. Casino games are good for a distraction, too -- and without the impaired judgment that comes from too many cocktails, the chance of blowing all your phone-bill money on Turkey Shoot plummets.
A sports bar with an exciting game on TV is another way to join the party without actually partying. And, if you never bowl when you go to the Mid City Lanes Rock'n'Bowl, now's the time to start -- though you'll need to modify your bowling stance. Swinging your arm in a wide arc with a heavy ball in your hand is a no-no. Roll the ball from between your legs, like a little kid everyone will be entertained by that.
There's trivia nights and pub quizzes, held regularly in bars such as the Bulldog, O'Flaherty's, Finn McCool's, and Crown & Anchor Pub. You will have an intellectual advantage over others who are drinking, but be warned: Some of those pub-quiz regulars put Jeopardy! contestants to shame. Or stuff your stage fright and join the fun at karaoke. (Realize that everyone else is drinking, which tends to enhance your performance.) Check the events calendar in your, ahem, favorite local publication for theater events, art openings and demonstrations, and other activities you might not have considered before you were sportin' the bump.
Fortunately, our city offers good live music every night -- another source of entertainment for the social mama. Just make sure you and your FWOKs secure a table and chairs, or some other place where you can get off your feet periodically. The same is true for going out dancing. That, too, is a great nighttime activity-- it's fun and it's exercise -- but the bigger your belly, the more you'll want to take the occasional sit-down.
Keep in mind that from your second trimester on, you shouldn't be too close to a speaker. Your bambino's budding eardrums aren't ready for loud bass thumping. And, because you'll probably be sitting at times throughout the night, consider the music the DJ is playing. If you love to dance to techno, but it tends to annoy you otherwise, find a DJ who spins music you like. Personally, Saturdays at Mimi's in the Marigny has been a fun venue for a gestating girl-about-town, with DJ Soul Sister spinning obscure and infectious funk music and a not-too-smoky environment (with a balcony for periodic fresh-air breaks).
Which brings us to the topic of secondhand smoke: Remember this is bad for both of you. Sit outdoors or near an open window or fan whenever you can, and take an occasional walk (or move your chair) if people are smoking near you.
A few other notes for the partying pregosaur:
• Swallow your pride and leave your stilettos at home. Minus the painkilling properties of margaritas or mojitos, high heels get uncomfortable mighty fast. Supportive shoes are a must.
• Welcome to Designated Driverdom, but don't be a martyr. Make it clear at the beginning of the night that the Breeder Bus will be leaving at a certain time, and if people want to stay later than that, they will need to call a cab. Don't feel that you have to keep up with everyone else.
• When arriving at a club, immediately find the ladies' room. It'll be much more comforting to know exactly where the toilets are when the charming phenomenon of Tiny Pregnancy Bladder hits. Stashing your own tissue in your purse isn't a bad idea either, since some clubs don't exactly make it a priority to re-stock toilet paper.
• Ask the bartender to serve whatever you're drinking in a stemmed glass with a garnish, even if it's just juice. I don't know why this makes such a difference, but it does.
• This is one time in your life when others will be extra-considerate of your needs. Don't be afraid to make them known. Your FWOKs will be glad you're still going out with them, and keep in mind that all those designated-driver nights will score you babysitting credits among them. Also remember that having fun is good for you and your baby. When Mama's happy, everyone's happy!
Eileen Loh Harrist is due in January, which is much sooner than she thinks.