The main concept: should we attend additional parties?
Last week, I found myself at the front door of an old friend’s house, dressed in my nicest coat and holding a bottle of champagne from the supermarket. I could hear voices and movement inside – scarves being taken off, music playing, and the kitchen door opening and closing. As I stood there, my hand hesitated over the doorbell and I smoothed down my hair. Suddenly, an alternative thought crossed my mind – staying on the couch with my family and dog, watching another episode of Fisk on Netflix. This caused me to feel anxious. Was my hair still looking good? What was the name of the host’s new girlfriend again? Do I even remember how to act at parties?
Parties are the very last garrison of the pre-digital world. Almost every other facet of our lives has been changed beyond all recognition by the internet. We work from home instead of the office, we buy groceries on our phones instead of pushing a trolley around the aisles. Networking, keeping up with friends, dating, flirting, even the way we have sex. Everything is different, except for parties, which are exactly the same as they always were: a roulette wheel of human-on-human interaction, with no screens to hide behind.
In current times, parties make us feel uneasy due to the fear of contracting Covid. This pandemic has made us view others as unclean. We can never go back to the carefree days before 2020 when we were unaware that blowing out candles on a birthday cake could spread germs. The Partygate scandal has tainted the idea of parties, painting them as something only bad people partake in. The trend of hygge has romanticized winter living, idealizing cozy socks and drinking warm beverages from a beloved mug, often in a secluded log cabin. Personal space has become a priority, even if it means being isolated.
Parties are not self-centered, but rather a display of generosity. Partying is not solely focused on pleasure, but rather a positive activity that we engage in together for one another. In fact, there is an evolutionary justification for hosting festive gatherings. In early human history, we were outnumbered by other animals and in order to survive, we needed to form strong bonds. The rituals of togetherness served as a social technology, rewiring our brains to think collectively. According to Nick Hopkins, a professor of social psychology at the University of Dundee, participating in collective celebrations transforms our experience of a crowd. Instead of viewing ourselves as individuals separate from the rest, we become part of a united “us”. The term “collective effervescence” was coined by French sociologist Émile Durkheim in 1912 to describe the energy and sense of harmony that arises when people come together to share an experience. This can occur in religious settings, as well as on a dance floor, in a football stadium, or even while singing happy birthday in a crowded kitchen. Engaging in collective activities triggers a euphoric response, releasing a mental elixir that connects everyone who experienced the event together. Durkheim described this as “a sort of electricity” that fundamentally alters our consciousness. Sharing in a celebration or ritual activates the social part of our brain, diminishing individual concerns and emphasizing shared ones. Ultimately, partying together strengthens the bonds of community and society.
I believe I understand your thoughts. You may think that it’s easy for me, as I am most likely an extrovert. However, I am not entirely sure of that myself. Although, I do enjoy dressing up, which makes it easier to attend social events. But being an introvert doesn’t mean that one does not desire social connections. It simply means that they may not actively seek them out. The assumption that introverts thrive during lockdown was proven false during the pandemic. It was actually introverts, not extroverts, who reported higher levels of depression, anxiety, stress, and loneliness. When an introvert’s “social battery” is drained, it is being around people, not spending a night alone scrolling through their phone in front of the TV, that can recharge it.
In a newsletter two years ago, Leandra Medine Cohen, a fashion writer, shared a memorable story about a party she attended. Despite the lack of a dress code, she chose to wear jeans and a white T-shirt. However, when her close friend arrived wearing a bold fire-engine-red dress with sheer black tights and lace-up stiletto sandals, Cohen felt grateful for the reminder to not doubt herself. This story has stuck with me ever since.
The suppression of uncertainty addresses the root of why a social gathering can initially evoke fear, yet ultimately bring joy. Parties can be daunting – you may be caught off guard while eating, or embarrass yourself while dancing. However, studies have revealed that we tend to anticipate more stress in social interactions with unfamiliar individuals than what we actually experience. This means that, based on factual data, you are likely to have a better time than you anticipate.
It is evident that we understand, on a deeper level, the significance of parties in our society. The work Christmas party has become a cherished holiday tradition, alongside stir-up Sunday and Carols from King’s. During this month, stepping into any clothing store will transport you into a dazzling world of sequined dresses and shiny party shirts. The amount of attention given to party attire in store windows and advertisements, and even in our own wardrobes, far outweighs the actual time spent at these events compared to other obligations such as work or childcare. Despite our fascination with the fantasy of parties, many of us (myself included) may feel hesitant when it comes to actually attending one. It is interesting to note that the word “glamour” originated from the Scottish term “glamer”, meaning “a magic spell”.
It appears that a touch of enchantment could be helpful at this moment. Social gatherings may have contributed to the challenges of maintaining social distance, but now they have the potential to aid in finding a solution. Parties have the power to strengthen our weakened connections to one another and our shared values. We are living in a time where the world feels more divided than ever before. However, at a party, we can envision ourselves as united, even if only for a short while.
I pressed the doorbell, wore a grin, and raised the bottle to greet them. The door opened and as it closed, we were all united.
Has this information been kept from me until now? The author of this book is Dr Julie Smith and it is published by Penguin, with a price of £16.99.
The novel Mrs Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf and published by HarperCollins, costs £7.99.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is available for £4.99 from Alma.