A piece about Christmas parties for ES Magazine

I’ve written a piece this week for ES Magazine’s party special. When they emailed to commission me, they said ‘Could you write a piece on the seven stages of party paranoia for us?’ And I said ‘Great, love to!’ and promptly came up with double that number, largely because Christmas parties can be such unremitting hell. My grumblings are below…


There are two sorts of people in this world: those who hear the words ‘party season’ and think ‘Hurrah! Time to put on a spangly frock and crank up my Mariah Carey Christmas album,’ and those who hear the very same words and want to hibernate until January

I like parties at other times of the year. Parties where you don’t have to drink anything ‘cinnamon-infused.’ Parties where you don’t have to twerk to Here Come the Girls. Parties where you aren’t forced to snog someone under a bit of twig.

But by December, it’s as if the pressure of acting normally for the preceding 11 months of the year has made everyone collectively mad. And it’s too bad if you’re one of those sorts who’d rather stay on the sofa, sifting out the blue Quality Streets, because you can’t easily avoid the hysteria. You’ll be labelled Ebenezer. 

The only solace I can offer is that you’re not alone. And here are my 14 stages of party season anxiety to prove it:

Do I have a jazzy enough dress?

First things first: it is apparently the law that women must wear sequins at parties in December. So although your wardrobe is festooned with more party dresses than Harper Beckham, you worry about whether you’ve got anything sparkly enough and decide you must buy a new outfit. You can’t possibly wear the shimmery silver number you bought from Topshop in a similar panic last year because it’s got jager stains down the front.


The journey there

You can’t get the tube in a dress this sparkly and heels this high. You look like Danny La Rue. Instead, you’ll have to Uber to the party even though it’s surging. You then get stuck in standstill traffic on Piccadilly for half an hour. You start sweating into your new dress, worrying about being late. FFS, of course the traffic is murder. It’s December in central London. What were you even thinking? God you’re stupid. Why do you even get invited to parties?


How many kisses?

You arrive at the party and cast your eyes around the room. Someone you vaguely know catches your eye and waves, then starts walking towards you. HELP – one kiss on the cheek? Two kisses? A handshake? One kiss on the cheek and then that awkward bear hug thing? This is particular agony if you’re at a work Christmas party. If you can’t bear touching of any sort with your colleagues, tell everyone that you have a ragingly infectious cold and you don’t want to infect them. Cough a bit for good measure.


Total name amnesia

‘Hello – I didn’t know you were coming!’ says someone you’ve never seen before in your life. ‘How’s that damp problem in your flat?’ Christ, you must have met them. Then, worse still, someone else you’re certain you don’t know walks up to you. ‘Hi! I haven’t seen you for ages!’ they say, before looking enquiringly at the other person. They both look at you. Just smile back and wait for them to start introducing themselves. Listen to their names. Then say ‘Oh god, I’m so sorry, how rude of me. I’m very slow tonight. Must be this dreadful cold.’ Cough a bit more.



You can see trays of battered prawns out of the corner of your eye. You can smell them. You can’t even concentrate on the serious conversation you’re having about migrants because you can see other guests moving towards the trays and gobbling them up. Greedy bastards. You hate everyone. Suddenly there’s a tray of mini quiches at your elbow. ‘Oh no, not for me, thanks,’ says the annoyingly thin woman you’re talking to. So you smile politely and say no as well, although inside you’re screaming ‘GIVE ME TEN OF THEM BECAUSE ONE ISN’T ENOUGH TO FILL A HUNGRY MOUSE.’


Breath paranoia

One of my mother’s rules in life is that she won’t eat fish canapés at parties on the basis they give you appalling breath. I have inherited this phobia, so tend to be quite torn when I see any kind of salmon-based canapé. On the one hand, I’m so hungry I could eat my own hand. On the other hand, do I want people to flinch when I talk to them? NB. Cocktail sausage breath is similarly grim.



Obviously you have to Instagram a picture from this party. Otherwise, how will everyone know how wildly popular and social you are? You’d quite like to Instagram a picture of yourself looking fabulous in your shiny new dress, but you need to ask someone to take it. Hmm. Oh look, there’s Jeff from IT. He can take it. You get Jeff from IT to take 56 pictures of you in exactly the same pose, then spend ten minutes in the loo applying various filters. You upload it. You have to admit, your hair looks excellent. You return to the party and check your phone for Instagram likes at ten minute intervals throughout the night.


Too noisy

WHY IS THE MUSIC SO LOUD WHEN WE’RE NOT IN A CLUB? You can only hear one word in three, so nod along at whoever you’re chatting to. ‘That’s so funny!’ you say, pretending you can hear them. They look a bit confused and lean in. ‘I was just saying my dog died last week,’ they shout in your ear.


Too hot

Sequins are BOILING. Why did no-one ever tell you this? You can feel beads of sweat breaking out on your forehead and start trickling down towards your eyes. No one else looks hot.


You see someone you don’t want to

Shit, there’s your ex. They mustn’t see you all sweaty. Quick, go to the loo to hide and mop your face.


Can I go yet?

You check the time while in the loo. It’s 10pm. Is it too early to leave? You wonder whether you can sneak out without anyone noticing, but when you go to the bedroom where all the coats are piled, there’s a couple having sex on them.


Enforced shot drinking

You quickly reverse back out of the bedroom and someone forces a shot glass of brown-ish liquid into your hand. ‘What is it?’ you bellow over the music. ‘It’s called a Jingle Balls, ha ha!’ they shout. ‘Jager mixed with tequila, a dash of Kahlua, a bit of cinnamon and an egg yolk. Try it!’ You knock it back and they instantly hand you another one. ‘See? Delicious isn’t it! Come on have another one, don’t be a party pooper.’ You have another one. Then another one after that. They maybe even another one after that but you’re not quite sure, you slightly lose track.



The anxiety low point of the night. You kick off your shoes and start dancing. In your head, you’re Beyonce. What a great night! Parties are fun! Why do you worry so much about them? You really should loosen up a bit. Oh look another one of those nice shots, yes please. Wooohoooo, let’s do some slut-dropping to Slade.


Where am I? Who am I?

You wake up the next morning and grope for your phone. It’s not where it usually is. And hang on, that isn’t your bedside table. And these aren’t your pillows. And who on EARTH is that person next to you? They wake up and tell you you’re in Clapham. Right, that’s it. You are never going to another party ever, ever again.