Dating expert James Preece advises: 'Don't wear clothes to the work Christmas party you wouldn't wear to the office. You will be judged by your workmates.' It's December, which means it's time for social anthropologists to dispense advice on how we (usually women) should navigate what is often referred to as the 'minefield' of the office Christmas party.
My own suggestion would be, if you regard a party as a minefield, it might be a good idea not to go to it. Generally people who cross minefields do so either without awareness of their nature, or because tackling them is a matter of life and death. You might regard showing your face at the annual festive get-together to be beneficial to your career prospects, but unless you're a spy, I can't imagine that the risks of not attending include being killed.
If however, you're in the majority camp of telling your family that you hate the office Christmas do – the enforced jollity, the rubbishy music, the fear of being cornered by Russell the glazed-eyed, just-divorced sorrow-spiller – when really you love an excuse to get dolled up and binge on booze and gossip, you may welcome the guidance handed out by the likes of Mr Preece. For me though, such counsel is often at odds with what I would call 'the whole point' of a party.
Don't wear anything you wouldn't wear to work? Seriously? Surely this is a once in a year time to dress in absolute opposition to what you usually wear to work. When you're free to express your creative, thrilling, sensual and possibly sinning side. If there is no hint of a Dionysian atmosphere, one has to surmise that the event is less a party and more an extended office meeting, with cashews and Slade thrown in as a reluctant nod to the season. As for your workmates judging you – well, isn't that the idea? That they judge you as someone they stupidly overlooked, underestimated, were blind to the potential dazzle of? The five inch heels, the leather mini-skirt, the glitter eye-liner and ruby red lips; aren't they our way of saying, you thought you knew me – what a blind fool you were. The next time you stand behind me in queue for the photocopier, this is the image which will flood your thoughts so overwhelmingly that you won't even notice if I use up the last bit of A4.
Mr Preece's other suggestions: eat some 'granary bread or low fat hummus with vegetable sticks' before commencing on (not too much) alcohol. This is sounding a little too much like pre-Olympics training for me, ie, not in any way fun. The opposite of fun. I think fat chips from the nearest chippy is a better way to begin the evening, which might well, happily, end, just as Preece fears, with a detour to the local kebab shop.
Preece also advises that we 'read the news' before we go 'to have a few topics to talk about'. No James. Bashes are for scurrilous gossip and the revelation of long held personal secrets which can be utilised for future blackmailing. Have you ever been to an actual party?
My own nuggets are few, but, I think, crucial. Wear 24-hour mascara and immovable lipstick. Only allow photographs during the first 15 minutes. Ensure children are locked in their room upon your return (you can never re-earn respect.) Don't double book with a night at a friend's house set aside for watching old Larry Grayson Generation Game DVDs (you know who you are.) And don't invite any dating experts. They're no fun.
'Bashes are for scurrilous gossip and long held personal secrets for future blackmailing'