So, parties. Students love them, can’t get enough of them. Parties bring us together, giving a population of 10,000 students a common interest. Parties are where we leave our academic loyalties at the door and humanities, arts and sciences mix it up. Parties let us dress up, drink, dance and hopefully make a good impression.
The first few weeks back at uni after the summer holidays are always full of parties. Everyone who came of age in the break has to celebrate it, then there are housewarming parties for everyone who has moved house, welcome back parties for students returning from foreign exchanges, end of summer parties, beginning of autumn parties, Halloween parties, bonfire night parties and completion of essays/exams parties. On top of all these calendar specific events there is the constant flow of dinner parties, tea parties and trips to the pub that turn into parties.
Of course the other type of party which becomes an inevitable feature of the first few weeks back is the non-attended party. The incredible volume of plastic cups and cheap wine or cordoned-off areas of bars that are up for grabs make it near impossible to maintain a good attendance record. University is the opposite of those primary school days when the only parties available were your classmates’ birthdays.
Say there were 30 kids in your class; probably only about 18 of them will have been socially adept enough to throw a party at all, and possibly only 15 of these had the means to provide a high calibre goody bag that would ensure attendance. Give or take a couple of kids who were particularly socially precocious, that was only about 2 weeks worth of parties a year, and there were no guarantees you would be getting invited to all of them. If only 4% of your year involved parties, you did not fanny about, even if it was awkward and you had to cancel Brownies, you made time to celebrate. A seven-year-old me took Winnie the Pooh-party invitation notelets a whole lot more seriously than a 20-year-old me takes a Facebook event invitation.
Seven-year-old me, licking my wounds at home on a Saturday afternoon (that’s another thing, remember when parties weren’t at night?), because Amy Jones wouldn’t invite me to her eighth birthday – she thought I copied her book report – couldn’t have imagined staying home on a Saturday night out of sheer party exhaustion. Staying up all night drinking and, horror of horrors, smoking, can make the daytime a singularly unpleasant experience, which, in the third year of an extremely debt inducing degree, is not something I’m sure I have time for. Cutting down on parties is hard to do, however. Running around the Willow with a fake moustache, or getting drunk to the point where you start inventing fake love affairs, is more enticing than staying in with a fat book and a good conscience.
I reached the point of no return, however, the day I didn’t get dressed. I woke up on Friday morning, still wearing my dress from the night before, cuddling my laptop on which Spaceballs had been playing on repeat all night long. I had decided to watch it when I got in at 3am in the morning to prove to myself that I was perfectly sober and sensible (surely my choice of film is the first clue in exposing this as complete bollocks), and passed out before the opening shot. It hadn’t disturbed me at all but the poor girl who has the pleasure of using my ceiling as her floor, couldn’t sleep for sci fi. As the day progressed, I just didn’t get changed and that evening, I found myself drinking in the same pub I’d been in the night before, in the same clothes I’d been wearing the night before. The icing on the cake came in the fact that my fake moustache wasn’t drawn on fresh, the one from the night before just needed a little touching up and I was ready to go. Not only a 48 hour outfit, but a 48 hour eyeliner moustache too, have led me to the conclusion that non-attended parties are the new party.
The etiquette of non-attendance is a difficult one to judge. No one complains if you show up hours late, pissed, sporting a tit tattoo and have in fact not been invited at all, but not going to parties might just lose you all your friends. Student values include a clause that states no party, no friends. If you don’t go to parties, especially birthday parties, you are a rude, unsociable kill joy and a bit lame. However if I keep going to parties, might I end up hermetically sealed into a single outfit, with a full beard of eyeliner and my puckered breasts covered in ink?
Maybe the primary school percentage thing wasn’t such a bad idea. 4% seems a bit tight, and since England does have the unhappiest children in Europe I wouldn’t want to emulate their lifestyles, but 40% seems fair – parties would still be in the minority. 40% party, 60% getting dressed and reading fat books. And then it would be clear to everyone that my non-attended parties were part of a strict, scientific regime of life style improvement rather than a lack of personality, and I’d be able to have my cake and eat it too. Oh I am pleased, so pleased, I might just have to have a party.