Simply put, Cindies is a Cambridge institution. Every Wednesday night (and Tuesday, if you’re feeling really keen), hundreds of students shiftily try to cut into the massive queue snaking around Eat. For what reason? In order to ascend Cindies’ hallowed steps and pay five pounds to get their fix of near-paralytic drunkenness, shit music and moral turpitude.
Gay men (myself included) are not exactly known for their aversion to any of these three things. That said, it’s also full of rugby ‘lads’ and the aftermath of swaps, whilst the sheer naffness of the whole thing means that it could only be enjoyed non-ironically by straight men. I guess the question this week shouldn’t be whether we can feel comfortable at Cindies; it ought to be why we’d ever want to.
As a result, Cindies causes me something of a dilemma. I mean, I inevitably go – everyone does – but after countless trips, I’m still not sure what to make of it. I wouldn’t exactly describe Cindies as a conventional clubbing experience: no-one really stays on the dancefloor that long (even though it literally has barriers to keep you in), and when they do it’s only to sing along to childhood favourites. Everyone knows that the real point of Cindies is the smoking area. This outdoor pen is where you’ll bump into all your friends and stumble across that one person you really didn’t want to see, all whilst inhaling a toxic cloud of cigarette smoke, sweat and desperation.
The undisputed highlight of my week.
But let’s get back inside (it’s Cindies so it’s probably raining) and back to that undercurrent of straight-maleness. In addition to the overall atmosphere, there are the couples violently chewing each other’s faces off. They do make me feel uncomfortable, but I don’t reckon that’s because it’s imposing an unwanted heteronormative matrix upon me, or anything so political. It’s just a bit grim for everyone, to be honest. And in any case, some of these sloppily kissing pairs are same-sex!
Yes, we’re as partial as our straight counterparts to engage in some passionate snogging on the dancefloor as the Lion King remix drops in the background. So then is Cindies an all-inclusive and tolerant pit of Bacchanalian excess? I’ve certainly never seen anyone hassled by a bouncer for kissing someone of the same sex there, which isn’t something we can take for granted everywhere. Personally, the only time Cindies have ever thrown me out was for necking vodka in the toilets. I’m not even sorry.
Neither have I ever got heat from anyone else in the club, but then again they might have just been too drunk to be aware of anything, let alone to be homophobic. In any case, I wouldn’t feel particularly threatened by most of the guys in Cindies, given that most of them are wearing ridiculous swap-theme outfits and holding childishly fluorescent VKs.
It seems that through an accidental combination of copious alcohol, a sociable outside space and hedonistic moral standards, Cindies has become a space where no queer person needs to ‘fake it’. The only thing you may have to fake is that you’re actually enjoying yourself.
Ethan Axelrod (GR. Columnist)
(to read Ethan’s column last week click here)