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Lucy Mangan: “Party invitations are a passive aggressive exercise”

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OH GOD, IT’S HERE AGAIN . I know it shouldn’t come as such a shock to me – after all, I am aware Christmas arrives around the 25th of December almost every year – but where party season is concerned I’m not so much in denial as in a fugue state. I convince myself it won’t happen, can’t happen, not this time, not again.

But it will and it does and it has. From now until the far side of 2012 it is parties, parties, parties all the way. I could cry just typing that sentence. Because what does a party actually mean? Attendance-wise, I mean. Other than my wedding, I have never organised or thrown a party in my life. I think those who do should all be awarded Victoria Cross medals for bravery. Or sectioned. I’m not sure which. It means stress. It means effort. It means drink. It means hangovers. It frequently means the ill-judged swapping of various bodily fluids and weeks of mockery from your friends, enemies and the mixture of not-quite either party that comprises your work colleagues.

Every year things are worse. I end up holding one-sided conversations with the invitations that arrive in the post, by email, by Facebook and, I’m sure one day when some smart alec conceives the notion, holly-sprigged pigeon. ‘What does “smart casual” mean in this day and age?’ I hiss. ‘That’s not an invitation, it’s an exercise in passive-aggression, you sh*tbag of a putative host.’ ‘Does “black tie” seriously mean black tie? And even if it does, what does it mean for the women? Is it long dress or cocktail? Long dress is very rare and yet I have another invitation stipulating “cocktail” so if you meant “cocktail” you would have said “cocktail”, wouldn’t you? Or would you, you bastard?’ ‘“Dress to impress”? That’s a code Bletchley Park couldn’t crack. Oh, you have gone too far this time, my friend. Much, much too far.’

‘Why are we stipulating any kind of dress code anyway?’ I used to cry to the unheeding heavens. ‘We live in a democracy! I’m taking this “smart casual” malarkey to Strasbourg – someone’s got to be infringing something.’ Used to cry, that is, until I got an invitation to a ‘Come as you are’ party, which I consider an entirely hostile move that should really be RS VPd with small arms fire.

I’m taking this ‘smart casual’ malarkey to Strasbourg

We must seek to streamline this very stressful process. Here’s what I really need to know from an invitation:

1. What should I wear? No, not in broad terms. You want to dictate what people wear? Then dictate properly. I’m going to send you a picture of the three dresses I own – six if I have time to get the others washed and ironed, which I won’t – and you either pick one (also specifying right bra, shoes, tights colour and handbag) or veto the lot so I can stay home in a onesie accessorised with cat fur and Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer crumbs watching The Walking Dead and we can all be happy.

2. How do I get there? Again, not in broad terms. Not with a little Google map or link. I could get lost in a matchbox. I need every turn, corner, bus stop, landmark, train time and compass point between my front door and yours laid out. And a text reminder three minutes before I leave to put my shoes in my bag and wear flats till I get there.

3. How do I get back? Please arrange the options – last train, cab, lift, walking – according to price, cross-referenced by time of farewell, predicted levels of drunkenness and whether I remembered my flats or not.

4. Will I know anyone? Just be honest.

5. Will any of my exes be there? Be even more honest. And I hope you’ve given me good bra advice.

6. Will there be food? I don’t know where people get the idea that once you’re grown-up you don’t need to eat. My house is in the very furthest corner of south-east London. By the time I’ve travelled to anywhere in the capital that people actually live, said hello, had a drink and realised I’m in the wrong frock, I’m starving. FEED ME before I have to make the 18-hour journey home. Oh, and don’t tell me to Please Bring A Bottle. I don’t have time to guess whether you’re wine buffs or a bunch of drunks who’d stick a straw in a petrol tank and drain it dry, so just tell me how much I’m expected to spend on a bottle. Thank you.”

Do you agree with Lucy? Share your views by commenting below, or tweet us @StylistMagazine with the hashtag #lucymangan.

Picture credit: Getty Images

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