You must miss parties so much,” said a friend of mine a few days ago. She knows how much I love them because she does too. That was where we always saw each other; that was our thing, always running into one another in noisy, boozy, echo chambers of excitement. Gossipy London nights that never ended where they were supposed to. Yet I couldn’t decide how to answer her question. Am I missing them? Um. Sort of, yes? Well more like, honestly, no? It was one of those strange moments where you don’t know quite what the truth is, or if you dare to share it.
It’s not that I don’t feel great pangs for socialising, or my friends, or that I don’t long to sing and dance my heart out to power ballads in a crowded room — because I do. I really do. The thing is, I’m just not sure I actually know how to do it any more, or if I’ll ever do it again. Have I just eaten a lot of Deliveroo and got a bit lazy, or is this actual social paranoia — SoPo, let’s call it — that I’m feeling? And is it just me, or do you think you might have SoPo too?
OK, let’s take a check: which stages of grief did YOU experience upon hearing about Rita Ora’s illicit birthday party? Because for me, the first one was wide-eyed amazement that she did it, swiftly followed by bosom-hoiking judgement that she shouldn’t have. Followed by annoyance that she didn’t invite me, followed by the begrudging admittance that she doesn’t actually know me. But then I just dwelled and dwelled in the fifth stage: the one where you can’t stop staring at the photos, in which she is clearly dressed up in some sparkly half naked leotard things that you’d wear to do a cha-cha on Strictly and — are people really still doing that? The whole clothes and body thing? Personally, I can barely imagine wearing a shoe with a heel that isn’t a hiking boot ever again. I live as a Land Girl now. That’s just the way it is.
And yet, I suppose, it will all start up again at some point, the new cycle of excitement at the invitation, turning to sheer dread at the thought of actually leaving the house after 6pm to go somewhere further than the off-licence. Let’s face facts: people are going to start having parties again at some point soon. Not just famous people — normal people. People I don’t know. People I do. Or has everyone been partying without me this whole time, and I’m just the last to know?
Wondering if everyone has in fact been breaking the rules all along, I call Fat Tony, London’s favourite party DJ and friend of the fabulous, to see if it’s true.
“Listen,” he says, “if everyone was partying without me, I wouldn’t be doing my job right. People AREN’T partying, and they’re still not partying now that the second lockdown has just ended. After the first lockdown ended in the summer everyone went mental, but I’m sat in a restaurant in Westbourne Grove on its first day of re-opening and there’s only two other tables with people at them. It’s empty.”
Well that’s a relief I think, the joy of not missing out! I can stay in my house like a loser and know that nobody else is having any fun without me! Hold on — then he tells me that he has “been DJing in a shop every Saturday, and 3,500 people have been coming down to see me. The police had to come and disperse the crowds! People really want to listen to music and enjoy themselves.”
Oh for god’s sake — now I’ve got FOMO about a shop.
So I try the fashion designer Henry Holland, who has not been raving in supermarkets, and he says that lockdown has made him realise that maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t actually miss “the social anxiety of three parties in one night. I really have been forced to realise how good I have it at home”. Sure, he misses his friends, “as much as the next person does — but I’m not looking forward to the re-ignited guilt I would usually feel after watching a whole series of The Crown in one sitting”.
And then there’s the dressing up — oh but come on, surely this is his thing, practically his raison d’être? If Henry doesn’t want to go big for Crimble costumery then we might as well all give up.
Yes, he concedes that December is “usually the time for girding your loins and getting your party pants on — but I’m really starting to panic about leaving the comfort of my elasticated waists. The social paranoia is real”.