In your teens and twenties, parties are simple and require no more preparation than an extra spritz of deodorant. ‘I’m going to a party’ means, ‘I’m going to have such a good time that I will weave home in an ambulance at five in the morning, memory banks wiped, underpants on my head.’
Once you have kids, the meaning changes slightly. ‘I’m going to a party’ now translates as, ‘I will accompany a toddler to the draughty hall at the leisure centre, where she will eat two thousand hula-hoops and leap on the bouncy castle till she goes right over the Puking Plimsoll Line. Meanwhile I will drink extra-dilute orange squash and, via the power of mime, help the host ensure that every child has their turn in a game of Push the Immensely Heavy Parcel Because There’s a Gift in Every Layer Not Like When I was a Child Just Opening the Wrapping Was Fun Enough For Us.’
There are years of this to look forward to, but gradually, parents start finding baby-sitters and learn how to stay awake long enough to contemplate going to grown-up parties. Now is the time to brush up your student party skills, because the ones you’ve developed more recently won’t do. You’ll have to kick such habits as cramming eight chocolate fingers into your mouth so the kids can’t get them. Your dancing needs to be more sophisticated than the moves which brought down the house during Musical Statues.
However, there are some pre-child party tactics which you don't need to re-visit. For instance, you won’t need to stand at the door brandishing a bottle of Blue Nun, muttering, ‘Friends of Dave. No, hang on, Steve.’ At a grown-up party, the hosts will have invited you, and will let you in. Unless you’ve brought Blue Nun, obviously.
And once in, you won’t need to lean enticingly against the wall saying things like, ‘Oh god yes the White Stripes are awesome’ because you’re not trying to get off with anyone. Unless you get invited to different sorts of parties to me, in which case, go and swing smugly somewhere else.
Cycle Girl had a party last week. It was going to be perfect: within walking distance, proper cocktails, cheesy music, loads of drunk friendly people. For the first time in ages, Man of the House and I were ready to PARD-EEEE! We dressed up. We practised talking about something other than our children. We swapped the Blue Nun for Piat D'Or. In short, we were fired up. Amped. Buzzing.
Then our baby-sitter arrived, and said she was going out clubbing later, so could we be home by 11.30? This was a blow. Most of our partying comrades stayed till three o’clock, claiming to remember nothing after they’d put their pants on their heads. Yet in fact it was the perfect grown-up party compromise. We went out and had a great time, but were still fresh enough to stagger downstairs at seven next morning and turn on CBeebies.
Beth Miller, 17th November 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com and in Viva Lewes magazine, December 2009. Photo by Alex Leith