Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Christmas Party Survival Guide

What I absolutely hated most about being Single, other than not knowing why I was Single when I was so obviously a splendid catch, was going home by myself after parties. Or work. Or anywhere really. But going home alone after parties really rankled. If I had ever learned to drive, I think it would have been different. I could have had a rockin' CD to go home with, and a heater to turn on, and protection from the hooded claw. On the other hand, I guess I wouldn't have been able to drink at the party. Hmm.

The solution to this is, quite obviously, taxi cabs. I think it absolutely worth it to factor taxi cabs into your December budget, particular if you have a nice fur wool coat and want to avoid being harassed by the avengers of the mink sheep family. It is also comforting if you can get a handsome young man to see you to your cab and say "Corby Hall, driver" (or wherever) in that commanding yet amiable voice handsome young men all seem to have in films. Then you can wrap yourself in your mink serviceable wool coat and settle back with a sigh of comfort. Make sure it's a real cab, mind you, with a driver who actually knows the neighbourhood.

Then you should have something really nice waiting for you at home. Home should be tidy, first of all, as it's so nice to come back to a tidy home. And you should have a clean nightgown or pyjamas and your robe set out instead of scrunched on the bathroom floor. And there should be a tempting new DVD set out, in case it is still early enough for a DVD when you return, and a delicious pot of barszcz in the fridge or good quality cocoa on the shelf. Hopefully you have warm slippers for outside bed and a hot water bottle for inside bed. Beside this bed should be a reading lamp and an uncomplicated book. (Recently my own uncomplicated book has been Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos. I heartily recommend it.)

My experience of life is that you have to take better care of yourself when you are Single than when you are married, unless you are unhappily married. In that case you must take very, very good care of yourself indeed. But that is a subject for a different blog altogether.

I see that I have started backward, i.e. when you leave the party. Well, in my end is my beginning. The beginning of a Christmas party is you preparing for when you leave the Christmas party. Having prepared your home to receive you from the party in its warmest embrace, you can now get yourself ready for the party, which means turning yourself into your best-looking version of you. It can be difficult to gauge what this is, but although I am much older than most of you, even I have moments when the image in the mirror passes my critical gaze.

At the party you greet whoever it is who lets you in, introducing yourself if the person doesn't know you, and repeating his/her name back when he/she tells you what it is. Then you silently associate this name with something about them, e.g. if his name is David and he is very well dressed, mentally dub him Dapper David. Then you find your host or hostess, who will hopefully introduce you to whoever they are speaking to (repeat name, make up association), and take away your coat, leaving you speaking to the new people.

In general at parties you should not talk to the same people for too long at first, but circulate. Circulating is made even more easy if you grab a plate of hors d'oeuvres and take it from conversation circle to conversation circle. (This, by the way, is a good way to get out of a boring conversation, including your own. If you see the eyes of your interlocutor glaze over, say "Would you like a coconut shrimp? I myself am dying for a coconut shrimp." Then lunge for the plate of coconut shrimp and carry it around like the goodwill ambassador for coconut shrimp.)

You can also ask the host if you can do anything, and you can listen for cues from your host or hostess for things he or she might like you to do. Thus, at a party earlier this month, I found myself with a dishtowel stuffed into the top of my new-to-me 1930s evening gown making pierogi with a very interesting woman painter.

It is perfectly acceptable for you to sit by yourself on one end of the sofa or in a chair with a drink in your hand and silently watch the proceedings. If someone sits beside you, it is acceptable for you to introduce yourself and memorize their name and ask an open question like, "And how do you know our host/hostess?" But if no-one does, then it can be great fun to watch the party dynamics and try to guess who likes whom. It is kindly to keep an eye out for someone even shyer than you--the girl whose arms are crossed and whose legs are wound around each other like a pretzel, for example--and to go over and talk to her/him. If he or she bolts, it's not you; it's him or her. The body language for "shy" is remarkably like the body language for "I've just discovered my lover is cheating on me, and I don't know how to react."

I would counsel you to be particularly careful of how much you drink when you go to a party unescorted and to never, ever be alone behind closed doors with a man you have just met. Beware of any man whose chatting up technique is to insult or confuse you. If any stranger insults or confuses you, it is time for the coconut shrimp manoeuvre. You might also want to complain to the host or hostess, which gives him or her the chance to say, "I don't even know who he is. Scooter brought him." Your amount of trust in any guest uninvited by the host or hostess should be zero.

It is the host's or hostess's job to make sure that nobody is harassed or made to feel uncomfortable at his or her party. However, not all hosts and hostesses are created equal, so if a word in the host's or hostess's ear does not result in a better time for you, then it is time to call Mr Taxi and return to the warmth and comfort of your home.

If, however, you feel you are having the opposite problem, i.e. that instead of getting too much attention, you are getting none, you can comfort yourself that there may be reasons for that beyond your control. For example, I know a beautiful woman who went to a party in a lovely black dress and opera gloves, and a young man of 24 said to their mutual friend, "Who is that girl in black?" and the mutual friend said, "That's a Married Woman", and so this young man never spoke to me her again.

Lastly, you do not have to go to every party to which you are invited. I know perfectly well that many Single girls go to parties they'd rather not go to in case this is the party in which they meet The One. Thank heavens I did not think like this, as my One was living across the ocean and never went to a party in my town until after he was engaged to me. The only point to parties, I think, is to eat and drink yummy things in the company of people you already know and like, in the expectation that you will meet other people your host or hostess knows and likes. If you have good reason to suspect that a party will be deadly dull, or that your host or hostess has spotty judgement when it comes to guests, then you can save on your cab fare and just stay home in your clean pyjamas to watch that tempting DVD and drink that yummy barszcz or chocolate.


Kate said...

Thank you for posting this today! I was invited to a party this weekend and I've been debating the pros and cons all week....Right now the lists are even, so maybe I should decide based on new DVDs (Downton Abbey!) and availability of hot cocoa (new canister!).

Something that also helps party-going is having a good wingwoman - whether she's a single friend or a married one whose new purpose in life is to marry me off.

lauren said...

Giving myself permission to a. decline the invitation if I don't want to go and b. leave early has made me enjoy parties much more than I used to. I only say yes to parties I actually want to go to, and I don't have to stay to the bitter end. When I want to go, I thank the host for a lovely evening, then leave.

Thanks, as always, for all the good advice... the coconut shrimp technique is marvelous.

Lucy said...

Seraphic, I'm one of the pretzel-legged girls! Thank you for suggesting people talk to us, for our tongues, too, are tied like pretzels and parties are like torture. One kind person can be the difference between 'this is misery' and 'this is not misery', and, if you're chronically shy, not-misery counts as a good time.

Magdalena said...

Lucy, take courage - you can grow out of the pretzel status. I don't know how old you are, but I certainly belonged to the pretzel-legged category from 15 to 28. Now (over 30) I more or less circulate, although I still have a horror of walking up to conversation circles consisting of people I don't know, with or without shrimp dish.

healthily sanguine said...

I usually refuse to relate to these kinds of posts, because it seems like it's setting an expectation that Christmas will be horrible, which it doesn't have to be . . . but I did go to a dreadful work "holiday party" last weekend that made me change my mind a wee bit. I wish I had had the tidy flat, clean pajamas, and a good DVD to watch after.

Seraphic said...

Spill the horrible, ghastly details?

healthily sanguine said...

I'd rather not, as I've now left it behind me! At the time, I came home and vented to my roommate. It is lovely to have a roommate who is a therapist, not because I get free therapy sessions, but because she vents so much to me that I feel quite justified in a rant of my own every now and then. And this party deserved on.

On to better and brighter things: tonight I'm driving to the mountains to visit the family of a couple of my dear friends. Actually, if I wanted to be provocative, I'd say I'm going to visit the parents of one of my ex-boyfriends--which is perfectly true, if ancient history--but really, I am such good friends with his sister and him and his now-wife, that I sometimes forget we ever dated. And the moral of that story is, folks, don't kiss your boyfriend till you're engaged, because if you never get engaged and thus never kissed, it's MUCH easier to get over!

Merry Christmas!

MaryJane said...

I am so very, very late to the party on this one (ha ha, no pun intended) - but I just wanted to say that the times I have forced myself to find someone to talk to - the person in the room who looks even more lost/ alone than I do! - it has always turned out really well for me. Not just pleasant conversation, but often job leads, etc., which I wasn't expressly looking for but happened to come up.