I still cringe when I think about last year’s work party.
It was at a fairly small bar in town, midweek, and people started gathering around 6.30pm. I turned up ready to start drinking on an empty stomach. I knew the bar served very little in the way of food, but there was no way I was going to eat beforehand. Why would you want to slow the alcohol absorption? I wanted to have a nice time and that meant getting drunk.
I remember buying a round of drinks right at the start. We love buying rounds in the UK. Half way through my first drink, more people arrived and a friend topped up my glass of wine. Then someone I’d bought a drink for got me a drink. Then I started talking to some other people and I must have been gulping my drink because I finished before anyone else was ready to get another round in. Rather than wait for them, I went back to the bar and got a drink for myself. So greedy. I think I moved on to gin and tonics. (Doubles, obviously).
I remember the Secret Santa because I got some awful, ugly scarf as a present, but – as you have no idea who bought it – I had to make a big show of absolutely loving it. After that was over some of the tables in the centre of the bar got pushed aside, the lights dimmed and the music turned up. A few people started dancing, but it was a bit weird because the bar was too small. It was like being at a wedding reception, when everyone stands round watching two people sway awkwardly on the ‘dance floor’, ie a few square metres of laminate flooring at the end of the room.
The next thing I remember is a load of people gate crashing the party. I work in TV for quite a big broadcaster and after a while I realised the gate crashers were actually radio journalists from the building next to ours. I recognised one of them – let’s call him J – as we worked together several years ago. I knew he liked me because he’d told me so on many other drunken occasions in my early twenties. He’s alright looking but unfortunately he’s really boring and has an ego the size of the planet. Oh, and he thinks he’s God’s gift to women.
Anyway, all of sudden I think it’s a great idea to dance with him, in front of everyone. Suddenly we’re dancing really close and I’m aware people are watching. But I don’t care because wine is running through my veins and I’m so sexy, right? We start kissing, proper full on cringey snogging, just metres away from my colleagues, bosses, editors, my line manager and just about anyone that matters. Someone takes a photo and threatens to put in on Facebook.
After a while, the people J arrived with announce they’re going. He suggests we go too. Can he walk me back to my flat? Through the drunken haze I think: yes, that is probably a good idea. It’s freezing cold and all the way home J keeps saying “Wow, this is a nice surprise!” By the time we get to mine I’ve started to sober up, but when he asks if he can come in I still say yes. After more kissing and god knows what else, I realise that having sex with J is going to be a very bad idea. I tell him this and he thinks I’m joking. It takes ages to convince him that yes, I do actually want him to get dressed and walk home in the cold at 2am. Eventually he gets the message and leaves, thank goodness.
It took months for people to stop teasing me about The Christmas Party Incident and much longer for me to be able to look my boss in the eye. Journalists have a reputation for being heavy drinkers but it’s a bit of an old cliché now. No one I work with has long boozy lunches or ‘meetings’ with contacts in the pub. So my behaviour stood out and although I laughed off all the banter and jokes, privately I was mortified at being so out of control. I knew I drank too much when home alone, but this time I’d done it in public.
This year’s work Christmas party is going to be different, because a) I don’t drink anymore and b) I’m not going. It clashes with something else and to be honest I’m pleased to get out of it. As it happens, quite a few people can’t make it this year so a group of us have organised something else, a kind of alternative Christmas party night out.
It’s in a few days time and I’m looking forward to it but I also feel nervous too. I’ve been a bit of a hermit recently as sometimes going out just feels like hard work. We’re all meeting at someone’s house first, where I’m sure I’ll be offered a drink. So straightaway it’ll be hard to get a soft drink discretely. I think most people know I haven’t been drinking recently but they might be surprised that I’m still not drinking. They always seem to think it’s just a temporary thing, but maybe that’s my fault for letting them think that in the first place.
Anyway, I’ve bought a new dress and I’m getting my hair cut that day, so hopefully I will feel good and look great… and have a fun, SOBER night out.