This weekend has seen me enjoy an unprecedented amount of socialising in the Pip.* Boozy meet up in Gordon’s Wine Bar on Thursday, house warming in Brixton on Friday and birthday party in Greenwich on Saturday – somebody stop me! (No seriously, I’ve maxed out my Oyster card and run out of evening wear).
It hasn’t always been this way, oh-ho-ho no – believe it or not there was a time when I would shy away from a social gathering like a pescatarian from a butcher’s. Nevertheless, as someone who was described as ‘trendy’ at a recent event (read into that what you will), it seems I have finally stepped onto the first rung of the social ladder. So, from one socially awkward person to another (no offence), I thought I’d share my way of making a good impression at a party, or, at the very least, ending the night with one’s dignity in tact.
First things first, and crucial if you are to maintain face at any event – know when you’ve had enough nibbles. I know, I know, the buffet is free and eating is a far easier use of your mouth than making small talk, but seriously – did anyone else get a look in on those sweet chilli sensations? Make one satisfactory trip to the buffet (we’re talking bread, we’re talking cous cous salad and a slice of quiche) and then do not return, unless you want your bodycon dress (or chinos boys) to be uncomfortably tight and to not have any room for drink (I speak from painful experience). You may be able to forge a bond with a fellow guest over the range of sandwich fillings or dubious crisp flavours – but once that’s cemented be on your way.
On the subject of small talk, let’s brainstorm some appropriate topics. What you do for a living and general interests? All fine. A specific gripe with someone who may or may not be in attendance at the party? Not OK. (Once again, I speak from past me’s drunken experience – please let me believe that I have gone through this process so that you don’t have to. Like a socialite Jesus.) Another handy hint: talking is a two way street: you ABSOLUTELY MUST respond in reference to what someone has just said to you. I think I’m bad at conversation, then I come across those buffoons who pursue their own agenda no matter what comes their way, like Simpsons Hit and Run when you accidentally swerve onto the pavement. Do not be the verbal version of the Plow King.
Dancing, as far as I’m concerned, is a somewhat taboo issue. Those faux wooden signs you hang on doors will tell you to ‘dance like no one’s watching’ – this may be worth taking with a pinch of salt. I dance like no one’s watching when no one is watching for a reason, and when people are watching I make at least a moderate effort to not look like a baboon in the climax of an elaborate mating dance. If, like me, you suffer from over-enthusiasm on the dance floor, my advice would be to dial it down a notch at least until the disco area is suitably crowded. Once everyone has a beer or two behind them and has reached an acceptable level of flailing, then you boogie like the dance goddess you are. Similarly, I have been known to throw an almighty sulk when other people choose not to dance, which has managed to put a considerable dampener on the night. If the diva streak runs strong through you too, may I suggest that this is something to save for closer friends, and in the meantime to purchase a dance mat?
Reading this back, I have come to the somewhat dispiriting conclusion that making a good impression involves displaying a somewhat watered down version of your true self. Rather than considering this a horrifying defeat, I like to think of it as a tantalising whetting of your audience’s (/future friends’) appetites for what’s to come. Because, really, where can you go if you pull out the Beyoncé moves and ‘look how many cherry tomatoes I can fit in my mouth’ trick on the first night?
Begin with a glimmer, and people will want to see you shine.
* Do you think this will take off as a pet name for London? Like the Big Apple but cuter and more approachable.