The nice Christian dinner party (you know the sort) fell into horrified silence. Eight pairs of eyes trained themselves on me as I tried to reverse myself out of the conversational cul-de-sac I found myself in. But I couldn’t. Which is how I ended up sharing with the room a story about someone’s, well, ‘corrective surgery’ that I’d seen on Embarrassing Bodies:
“She had long labia. Too long. They were chafing. There’s an actual procedure you can have where you trim them down. She’d even had a bad wax. Why would you go on telly and show the world your bad wax, let alone your long labia?’
I’m still cringing. I wish it was an isolated incident, but I’ve lost count of the number of social gatherings where this kind of thing has happened. If it’s not retelling an inappropriate anecdote, it’s over-sharing, being too blunt, losing my skirt, farting, or spraying drink across the room from laughing too hard.
For me, this time of year holds more potential than usual to make a berk of myself, so, after years of waking up with my fist in my mouth from shame, I’ve sorted out a few ground rules to get me through Christmas. If this kind of stuff just doesn’t happen to you, then don’t read on. If it does, think of me as threads’ answer to Tina Brown with a handy guide to a gaffe-free party season.
– Where possible, have a wing-man – someone to kick you under the table if you start bleating about deformed body parts, but who will still love you in the morning if you can’t manage to shut up.
– Have something to say when people ask you how you are. It can just be what you’ve done that day, anything to avoid the ‘I’m fine, you?’ bounce-back-and-awkward-silence game.
Basically, don’t have too much. If you do find that you’ve had one too many lemonades and you’re still in company, observe the following:
– Do not confess anything. If you hear yourself uttering the words: “I wouldn’t normally say this…” or “I’ve always wanted to tell you this but never had the courage…”, stand up. Walk away.
– Anything you think of doing to ‘rescue’ the party, or ‘get things going’… don’t.
Again, watch the intake. People see you scarfing the last of the cheese footballs, and they judge.
Rid yourself of any notion of snogging someone because it’s Christmas and you want a snog. Unless you like your Christmas turkey served up with recrimination and regret.
– Put your phone away and focus on being in the room. It might feel like a handy prop, but too much time buried in Instagram and Twitter makes you look aloof and rude.
– Dance. If you can’t actually do it, do it ironically. Pack the shopping trolley, chop the melon, sweep the floor… just smile and do it with gusto.
– Talk to someone more awkward than you. The chap in the corner intensely studying his beer bottle could use a friendly hello.
– Do a thorough wardrobe check before you leave the house. Not for whether you look hot – but for potential malfunctions. Get a housemate to observe you in the following positions: standing, sitting, bending to get something out of a bag, stretching to reach a bottle from the fridge. If you pass this test without discovering stains, gaping, underwear on display, missing buttons, or see-through bits you hadn’t noticed before, you’re good to go.
– Be clear what the dress code actually is, especially if it’s themed. Birds and flowers party? That probably translates as wearing a flowery scarf, not three of you turning up in matching bee costumes, complete with a child’s fairy wings. I mean, who would do that…