The first titters can be heard in early November: “The year is just slipping away, isn’t it? Let’s try and catch up… well, before Christmas at least.”
By December there is more urgency to the request: “We WILL catch up before Christmas, won’t we?”
And by mid-December, when the festive hysteria has well and truly descended, the invitation is delivered with a twitch of the eye and a slight shudder: “Ok, let’s try – try – and see each other before Christmas.”
It’s madness, people, pure madness. My normally humdrum weekly schedule has exploded with inconvenient coffee dates, annoying mid-week dinners, and bleary Sunday morning breakfast catch-ups.
Friends I have literally not seen all year are emailing me all like, “BUT WILL WE SEE EACH OTHER BEFORE CHRISTMAS?”
Guys, chill. There is life beyond Christmas.
I mean, you do realise this is the most impossible time of the year to catch up, yeah?
This is the time of year that (on top of our usual commitments) we are attempting to squeeze in Christmas shopping, party planning, gift wrapping, work celebrations, and extra gym sessions to try and mediate the excessive amounts of emergency wine we're consuming to cope with all of the above.
So here's a suggestion: the next time somebody airily throws out the suggestion you catch up before Christmas, say no.
With a smile, of course. But still -- say no. Explain that you would rather wait until the New Year, when your inner Grinch has retreated back into its cave, and your holiday glow has settled in.
By January, the wrapping paper nightmare has passed, a normal ham-less diet has resumed, and the risk of gout has passed. You will be fatter, happier, and generally less likely to bite if someone tries to suggest visiting a Westfield for late night shopping.
So here's my parting party-season advice: use the next few weeks to try and maintain some normality in your otherwise deranged festive season routine.
Get a quiet Monday night? Hide from humanity in a dark Netflix cave and watch seven hours of Sex And The City.
Have a Saturday morning off? Avoid the shops and lie in the sun with a book.
Working from home? Try and ignore the pile of unwrapped gifts in the corner, and perch on the back steps with a cup of tea.
Quiet weekend? JUST PULL YOUR DOONA OVER YOUR HEAD AND SOB SOFTLY AT THE PROSPECT OF CATERING TO YOUR 40-STRONG FAMILY IN LESS THAN THREE WEEKS TIME!
So, shall we catch up before Christmas?
... 'tis the season for structural seasonal agoraphobic hibernation, after all.