Goodness me. I found myself crawling into bed after 2:30 AM yet again. It's a Christmas Party Marathon. Christmas Eve. Christmas. Feast of St. Stephen. Feast of St. John. Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, but I don't think B.A. and I are going to any parties. I'm going instead to my favourite cocktail bar for a Girl Drink.
Squinting back into the past, I am absolutely sure my parents did not go to many parties (or any cocktail bars), so I think all this partying--at least at my age--is an offshoot of being childless. (I'm mentioning childlessness again as it is something most of my Single readers and I still share and, indeed, something that you do risk if you wait past the age of 35 for The One--although how much worse if you marry The Zero at 25 and still don't have kids?)
Christmas is apparently a time of great gloom for many, so I think the best things anyone can do are to (A) plan ahead to ensure oneself and those under one's influence a happy, emotionally supported Christmas and (B) concentrate on what you have instead of on what you lack.
I have a lot of parties.
Not to be a Smug Scot, but parties are more fun here than they were in North America. I think this is because they have structure. The usual, North American stuff-everyone-in-the-same-room-and-pour-drink-into-them model just didn't work for me. What really work are dinner parties. Dinner parties involve a clear plan, easy rituals, procession, recession, a three part structure.
For example, dinner parties at the Historical House involve aperatifs in the sitting-room, then a procession to the dining-room for supper, and finally a recession back to the sitting-room, sometimes in two parts: if dinner conversation has been terrifically male-dominated, the ladies leave first, to be joined by the gentlemen when they have finally grown tired of what it was they were talking about and are curious to know what the ladies are talking about. Otherwise, we all leave for the sitting-room together.
Personally, I like to end a dinner party with a film, which breaks up the very long after-dinner drink fest, and adds something to think about.
Another wonderful after-dinner activity is to sing around the piano. There was singing around the piano after a dinner party I went to yesterday, and as we sang Christmas carols, this was particularly enjoyable, for us, if not for the neighbours.
I hasten to mention that life in North America and, indeed, Single Life, is perfectly suited to dinner parties. I had occasional dinner parties when I was in my early and mid-twenties, living with Mum and Dad: all I had to do to secure permission was say, "May I have a dinner party, Mum and Dad?" and make sure dining-room and kitchen were left cleaner than I found them. These dinner parties started at a later hour (say 8), which gave my family a chance to eat their own dinner.
As I had a large family, family dinners were arguably dinner parties in themselves. And this in itself is an incentive to those, like me, who grew up with a lot of people and now find themselves living with only one or two. It's a return to the normal life of childhood, with a lot more drink.
Update: The research on gender differences in conversation is incredibly interesting. The more women there are in a group, the more comfortable women feel speaking, apparently, and one Harvard study revealed that women students at Harvard were more likely to speak up in class if their lecturer was a woman.
What this suggests to me is that at work and school, women should do our best to assert ourselves in conversations and classroom discussions, but in private life to take more of a conversational back seat and become famous good listeners. It strikes me that the centuries-old libel that women talk too much is bandied about by some of the men who want to talk even more than they do and feel frustrated and hurt when they don't feel sufficiently listened to. Bless their little hearts.
Incidentally, we already know how useless it is to talk to 90% of the men of the world about their feelings, right? Just remember this is not because they don't have any; it's just that male feelings are not that connected to male knowledge and male speech, especially when the males are young.
Non-Reader: But how do you FEEL?
Honest Young Male: I don't know.
Non-Reader: What do you mean you don't know? How can you not know?
Honest Young Male: I don't know.
Non-Reader: But that's crazy! Meanwhile I NEED to KNOW how you FEEL!!!
Honest Young Male (extremely uncomfortable): I'm leaving.
Very often, the least helpful way to figure out how young men feel is to ask them.* It's a better idea to pay attention to both their body language and then what they do. I remember one young man getting dead drunk at a wedding while punching his male pals boisterously and glaring at the pretty girls and yelling "I'll never put my head in a noose!" Dear, dear, dear. What a lonely soul.
*I suspect this is much more true in dating relationships than in friendships. Although men are usually reluctant to tell you exactly how they feel about you, they often have no problem telling you how they feel about other girls, at least if they have no reason to believe you will get mad at them for it.