Some people are really good at parties.
They are, as some might say, ‘people’ people.
They like people. They like socialising. It comes really naturally to them and they always leave social functions feeling energised because they have spent a luxurious five hours in a room full of lovely people, without ever feeling awkward/bored/like shoving a toothpick that was previously skewered into a chilli sausage directly into their cornea.
On the other hand, some people react to people like this:
This time of year is a particularly crap time of year for these people. There are office Christmas parties, family Christmas parties, and for some unknown reason, everyone you’ve ever met wants to catch up before December 25th.
You need to be social. You need to fun. And you need to remember the difference between what you know about a person because they told you it over coffee, and what you know about a person because you spend most of your nights sitting in bed, eating cereal and stalking them on Facebook.
If you’re one of those people – *she writes, eating cereal in bed on a Friday night* – here are twelve things that might help you make it through the 2013 holiday season with your corneas (and the corneas of those around you) intact:
1. Make a confident entrance.
Okay, we’re in. Congratulate yourself on coming this far. You could have spent another evening on the couch but, no: you’re here, with the people. You’re so selfless.
Find the host. Say hello to the host. If appropriate, present the host with a gift.
(Note: If this is an office Christmas party of 200+ people and you would rather not give your millionaire boss a gift because he/she can buy their own stinking bottle of Jacob’s Creek, gauge the extent to which greeting the host is appropriate. Particularly if you feel that you would be unable to do so without committing a criminal offence.)
2. Get a party buddy.
There are two types of party buddy, both are useful for a) making you show up to the damn thing and b) making you stay at the damn thing. However, they are useful in different contexts.
The first is your party-lovin’ party buddy. They’re that friend who is out every weekend. The person, that seems to have thousands of friends and yet still manages to remember that your little sister sat her driving test last week. They are the sort of people who love this time of year. And, if you really want to make a host feel like you’re having a good time, arriving and hanging around this kind of party buddy is an excellent way to keep your spirits high for the whole evening.
The second is your bitchin’ party buddy. They’re for those Wednesday night office Christmas parties, and in-law extended family gatherings, you just know will be awful. So you need someone to deconstruct the awfulness with as you stand in front of the bathroom mirror together trying to figure out why your friend’s ex-boyfriend, tried to kiss her sister, while wearing a Santa suit.
3. When in doubt, don’t kiss/hug/hair-ruffle people you don’t know very well.
As a general rule, too much physical contact is more awkward than too little.
Standing completely still – with an endearing smile – and waiting for the other person to make their move is always a safe option.
However, I hear you ask: isn’t there is an obvious flaw in this plan? Because, if two of you just smile endearingly at one another, isn’t that more awkward?
No. The awkwardness can be easily diffused by a friendly wave and an immediate launch into conversation.
Remember: nothing is more awkward than being kissed on the grey area between your lip and your cheek by your friend’s new boyfriend or Trev from accounts.
4. Find the food and drink, and use its positioning to your advantage.
Unless you’re actually at Christmas dinner, it’s rare that parties at this time of year have a sit-down meal. This means that your strategic placement to food and drink depositories is invaluable.
If there are waitstaff going around, you want to be towards the start of their route. Ain’t, no one, got time for watching delicious-looking canapés, make their way around every group in the room that becomes an empty plate before it reaches your position in the back corner.
A food table provides an avenue for both relationship building and relationship termination.
If things are going well, you can bring someone over to the food table with you, or even ask them if they want a drink, or something to eat and bring it back to them. If things are not going too well, you can easily excuse yourself to visit the food and drink, and then, you know, visit the bathroom.
And the other bathroom.
And your car parked on the street outside.
And your bed.
5. You may ask someone to repeat their name twice. After that, you will just have to refer to them in second person for the rest of the evening/your life.
My name is ‘Mary.’ You would think that it’s the sort of common (and not to mention seasonally relevant) name that people would pick up first go. But, I have spent many a holiday social function aggressively yelling my name into someone’s ear multiple times before just accepting that I will be ‘Merry’ (a name which is, to be fair, equally festive) for the night.
Don’t put any of your fellow guests in that uncomfortable position. You get two subsequent name enquiries. After that, assume the intimacy of second person while crossing all of your digits in the hope that someone will come along and use the person’s name within earshot.
6. If you can’t remember if you learned something about the person on the Internet, don’t mention it.
Just don’t. Even if you’re friends with the person on Facebook, or connected to them on LinkedIn, there is nothing creepier than someone telling you something about your past that you didn’t think they knew.
Case in point: I was once at a party where someone told me my ATAR. Like, as in the score that you get given at the end of high school.
I had finished school over a year ago, did not receive a exceptionally memorable number, and had never met this person before in my life.
7. Small talk is ‘small’ for a reason.
Acceptable topics: the weather, holiday plans and what the food is like. Unacceptable topics: bodily functions, a solution for Israel and Palestine, and the person in the room you plan on having sex with tonight.
Note: if you have no Christmas plans to talk about, here is a list of fake ones:
– “Just spending time with the family, it’ll be good to get everyone back together again.” You can then make up various family members and explain their various feuds. Brownie points if you manage to do this by recounting a plot-line of The Bold and the Beautiful.
– “Oh, I’m just going up the coast for a few days.” Obviously, this can become ‘down the coast’ if you live so far ‘up the coast’ that going ‘up the coast’ would mean swimming to Indonesia.
– “I’ve got my partner’s family staying with us. I’m really looking forward to it.” This is best used with a touch of sarcasm, otherwise it loses its authenticity.
(Sub-note: “I’m staying at home watching Love, Actually and weeping to myself” is not an appropriate response, even if it is an accurate one.)
8. Little people are the best people.
Kids are the best Christmas party guests. Hands down. If you’re at a function with kids, you might find that they are your saving grace.
Small talk with kids is a cinch. There’s no discussion of who used to work with who at that consulting firm that used to be on that street but relocated becaus- Ugh. I’m bored already.
Over at the kids table it’s all presents, and school holidays, and fun times. In fact, the following three questions will provide you plenty of enjoyable party conversation:
“Are you excited for Christmas Eve?”
“Have you asked Santa for something special?”
“Do you think you’ve been good for your parents this year?” (Ask this one in front of the child’s sibling/s; hours of entertainment.)
Seriously, if you’re sick of talking to Uncle Joe about the birdie he recently scored at his golf social club, head on down to the kids table.
(Plus: they’ve probably got fairy bread down there. And we all know that fairy bread is the Marilyn to fruit cake’s Jackie.)
And while we’re talking about kids…
9. Santa is ‘Santa’, not ‘Mark from IT’.
I know. It’s really funny that someone from your work/social circle/family has dressed up as Santa. And you probably have a lot of questions to ask them about the series of events that got them to this point. But surely you can text them afterwards, or even talk to them after they’ve retired to the bathroom to rid themselves of those 20kg of sweaty red velvet.
Let the kids get their candy canes and sanitarily wrapped lollies without Santa being heckled by his mates.
10. Be the drunk everyone loves, not the drunk everyone has to fund a cab home for.
There is nothing wrong with a couple of glasses of wine at your office Christmas party, and there’s nothing wrong with making it through a bottle with a group of girlfriends at your end of year catch up.
In contrast, there are lots of things wrong with being so drunk at any Christmas event that you end up embarrassing yourself, your mates or your host. Be responsible. And, if you think that a solo performance of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ at the karaoke booth is the direction you should take your life right now, have a glass of water.
11. No one cares about your wardrobe malfunction as much as you do.
In fact, they probably didn’t even notice it.
Wine on your dress? Ladder in your stockings? Lipstick smeared by overzealous mistletoe-induced encounter? Make a trip to the ladies, clean yourself up as best you can, and move on. Everyone else already has.
Which brings us to…
12. Remember: it’s Christmas.
It’s the holidays. Sure, your family parties might always be really painful, and you would rather do a thousand due diligence reports than see your co-workers out of office hours, but it’s Christmas, you guys! These people are having you at their social functions. They liked you enough to invite you, so surely you can repay the favour by showing up and being a good guest.
You need to be sociable for three weeks, max.
And then you can spend the last week of your holiday leave in your pyjamas watching reruns of Keeping up with the Kardashians with a box of discounted festive shortbread.
What helps you to survive Christmas party season?