As the Christmas party season gets into full swing, Imogen Edwards-Jones tells us how to do it if you're staying sober - without looking like a party pooper
As the party season approaches and we blow the dust off all that is red, glittering and covered in festive faux fun fir, stocking up on the milk thistle, the Nurofen and, let’s be frank, the chocolate croissants to get us through the next day; I’m going to offer up perhaps a rather shockingly alternative suggestion. How about partying sober?
I know, coming from me - a woman whose only exercise is that frantic sprint to the bar just as they turn the lights on - this might seem a little rich. But let me share this with you, for I have form.
For years I used to 'party’ for a living. For most of my twenties I was the ‘rave’ correspondent for The Independent, gracing some of the best podiums in town, sporting little more than red dungarees and a smiley face. Then, for the majority of my thirties I was “Arty Animal” for The Times (can you see what they did there? Hilarious!), where I would have to attend more openings than Gerard Depardieux’s corkscrew.
If there were a premiere, a first night or a gallery event going on in the capital, I’d be there, propping up the bar, interviewing anyone who looked remotely famous and filing some fascinating bon mots on a weekly basis. And so due to pressures of work, total recall was crucial. The idea that I could gently slither down the bar, sozzled on flutes and then remember any details for the following day was obviously a non-starter.
So I learnt to party sober. I learnt it was not necessary to be sixty-five sheets to the wind in order to have a good time. I also learnt how to do this without looking like a lemon-sucking-bore straight out of a twelve-step programme.
So if you want to get through this party season without putting on half a stone, looking like you’ve had a fight with yourself or getting a puffy, old-soak bloat face, here are a few words from the sometimes, vaguely, wise:
On first arriving at your sober party venue, one must enthusiastically embrace the drinks tray. Odd advice, I know, but pick up a drink and carry the glass around with you, look keen, like you’re right up for it. As nothing ruins a party more than someone who is ostentatiously NOT drinking. It is the ultimate downer. So hold on to that drink, use it as a prop, put it down, pick it up, shake it around. At least everyone thinks you are entering into the spirit of things. Then if it proves to be too much of a temptation, put it down and quietly go to the bar and order yourself a fizzy water with plenty of ice and a slice of lemon. It looks like a vodka and tonic and after everyone else has had a few, they won’t notice you are not imbibing.
If you can’t cope with water and fancy something ‘exotic’ then a coke in a wine glass, without the ice and a slice, looks convincing enough in the dark to pass for a spot of red. Failing that you could always go for a mocktail. Personally I can’t stand them, they’re full of sugar and look almost as miserable as an orange juice, something that should only be drunk at a children's party or a geography teacher's convention.
Having faked the drinking, the other most important thing to do is tuck into the canapés. A few passing vol au vents should do the trick. Anything to neutralise the guffs of old canapé breath that will come your way, as fellow guests slowly lose their inhibitions and lean in too closely to share the same story they bored you with only a few minutes ago. It's the canape breath that will kill you. So have a few and get through.
Breath and boozing aside, the other thing is timing. If you want to leave a party early, arrive early. Make sure the host, or hostess, sees you arrive. Make a beeline for them, engage them with two or three brilliant anecdotes, be supportive, be enthusiastic, up-beat, engaged and then honestly when the room fills up a bit, your work is done, slip out quietly with no ceremony, no needy air-kissing. Go.
And, lastly, when you wake up the next morning as smug as Gwyneth Paltrow, please don’t call up your friends to tell them quite how plastered they were. No one needs to be reminded how they photocopied their butt-crack, showed the boss their tits and interior-decorated the cab.
To the question: “Was I a bit pissed last night?”
You reply: “No, you were absolutely fine. Everyone was delighted.”
Remember it’s Christmas. The season of goodwill towards all men.