I Went to a Wonderful Party
July 17, 2011 § 8 Comments
Here’s a thing. I just went to a wonderful party. It was the kind I get asked to perhaps once every ten years. Perhaps 300 people. I was thrilled to be asked. Incredible generosity on the part of the hosts of whom I am exceeding fond – marquee and fabulous food and amazing booze and wild flowers and loads of what I call historic friends and dancing till dawn, except I didn’t dance.
All the elements were there, that special merriment and affection of old friends and comfort and joy and kindness and I did enjoy it, I did… Well, without wanting to sound ungrateful, sort of.
It was the first proper party I have been to since the decree absolute. I am good at going to parties on my own. Years of them as a single girl; and years more when my husband was working away. When you’re young and single you have got girlfriends in the same boat, you’ve got pert tits and hope, so parties can be OK. I remember one, in Clapham, when a tall, handsome Irishman looked at me across the room and his eyes begged me upstairs and, never saying a word, we miraculously made out on the bed of coats. (I saw him at a party a few weeks ago, and he remembers the occasion as fondly as I do, how thrilling! He is rich now. And married, with a score of kids.) When you’re married at parties, even if your husband is in Timbuktu, you have a husband and theoretical companionship. But when you are a Plankton, you are alone.
The hosts had already apologised to me that the only non-married men coming to the party were SFARs (Single For A Reason). There were quite four.
One I didn’t meet. He was probably just a rumour.
One known divorced dodgy one now has a girlfriend although she wasn’t with him so he had rung another plankton friend of mine whom he had got off with two years ago and hadn’t texted since and a year ago when out walking in the park with the girlfriend had cut her (my friend) dead and the day before the party had moved himself to text her after all to ask her if she was coming (presumably with a view to screwing her perfunctorally) and she hadn’t responded so he was ripping.
The other two I already know. The hairy Wiltshire one talked to me as he always does, as though I have a medical condition and he is just being polite, but the politeness has a very short shelf life, about a minute and a half, after which he turns into the complete jerk he really is. He wants to fuck me as much as I want to fuck a seasoned football boot, but he doesn’t bother to disguise it which feels a little insulting. The Lincolnshire one has a House and therefore the pick of the generation of women a good couple of layers beneath me though none of them has proved quite good enough. He was wearing a glittery suit and reminds me of a seaside town magician. Enough said.
We ate the sublime supper and listened to the best speech I have ever heard at an event by the funniest man I know who is married to a close girlfriend and should have been a comedian, and I chatted to a few dear friends who are married men, but most of the time I spent with a whole lot of women. Lovely middle-aged women like me, only married, can always be relied upon to be friendly at parties. They are the ones who know my default sartorial position is head to foot black tantamount to a burka. So they were the ones who loyally told me I looked sensational in my highlighter-pen orange £46 Top Shop online nylon body con dress even though I was poured into it and, frankly, don’t have the legs. Bless them. None of the men said a word. Hairy Wiltshire just looked at me as if to say, there, there, loser, may I call you Mutton?
The seating plan was touching. A lot of thought and effort had gone into it and it was not at fault. The hosts had done their level, but a plankton secretly really only wants to be put next to two intelligent, lovely, available men who both fall in love with her over the soup. Alas, there is not a host in the world, however gorgeous, who can pull off that fantasy feat. So it is every placement is going to seem wanting. I had a gentle (married) man on my left, great company, and was flattered to have been put next to a kindly, beloved relation of the hostess on my right. He was 86 and charming and well known in his youth for having fulsomely delighted in a little breezy buggery.
The next day I had a debrief with the two other planktons who’d been at the party. One had been put next to an overseas queen of about 23 who was there with his middle-aged husband and love of his life whom he banged on about and, on her right, a shrink who turned his back on her. The other plankton had been put at the end of a very long table indeed, all the better to commune with the sides of the marquee.
After dinner, I wandered round the tent a lot pretending to look for someone, but with no one, really, to look for. I made a lingering trip to the loo and experimented with the luxury hand washing and softening products on offer.
When I did O’level art a million years ago, the subject for the painting was “Alone in a Crowd”. I remember, at fourteen, having not heard the expression before, thinking it was very clever. Now at forty-something and having heard it and lived it an awful lot, I think it is inspired.