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How to survive party season

How to survive party season

Like the flu, parties are unavoidable at this time of year. Unfortunately, those that are hardest to swerve are also the ones with the worse symptoms. Miss the office do and you'll spend the next 12 hours being introduced as 'the party pooper' to every new starter. But turn up and you're also guaranteed to get into a dance-off with your boss or misjudge the free bar.

Domestic shindigs can be equally perilous. From indecipherable dress codes to unbearable hangovers, the sheer density of events at this time of year puts your body and brain through the kind of punishment normally only permitted during wartime. Party season is not just a marathon, it is a series of marathons, slung back-to-back with limited rest in between. Which means you need to pace yourself, however hard that seems when you're being bored on at by someone you've never met about why you simply must try a digital detox.

To help, we've distilled our own hard-won advice into some simple steps that will ensure you both enjoy the next few weeks and live to see the New Year. Consider them your party season Lemsip, to be taken as needed whenever you feel festive flu encroaching.

Pick your battles

You do not need to attend everything you're invited to. Unless you have the social circle of Tom from MySpace, you're only going to see the same faces at each party anyway, so turn down at least half of what's on offer. You'll develop an air of mystique, save your liver, and avoid running dry on anecdotes two weeks before Boxing Day.

Plan your blow-outs

There are parties at which a glass of mulled wine and some small-talk is plenty, and there are those that offer a once-a-year chance to channel your inner student with people you've not seen since you were in halls together. Do not ruin your old friends reunion because you 'accidentally' uncorked the single malt at the village carol service the night before.

Know when to avoid cameras

Social media has made every party – but especially the office party – a minefield after midnight. Selfies that seemed hilarious in the small hours transform in daylight, as quickly as Cinderella's carriage, into something you'll regret until the next office shindig. When phones come out, slink out of shot. Or at least make sure you're in the back row.

Avoid bores

When approaching a new group, it's often impossible to tell if you're about to meet people you'll one day be happy to offer a kidney, or endure conversation as painful as having one kidney removed. So go armed with an extra drink. If they're scintillating, you won't have to leave the flow of conversation for a refill. If they're not, you've got an excuse to move on: you're holding that glass for a friend, who must be out of the bathroom by now.

Outflank close-talkers

If you’ve ever felt the need to step back from someone when they’re talking to you, only to find they step into the space you've left as if you're both performing on Strictly, then you’ve been on the receiving end of a close-talker. For reasons best known to themselves, the close-talker will instinctively move to fill any gap left between your bodies, so try something drastic; step in. They should shift back, setting a new and more comfortable boundary. If this backfires, try holding your drink at arm's length.

Step down from soapboxes

There are two types of inebriated orator: those who don’t know what they’re talking about, and those who do, but don't know no one cares. Odds are, you've been one yourself (all the more reason to shun brown liquids until later in the evening). To deal with a wannabe pundit, either interrupt with as many Points of Information as you can, or introduce other people to the conversation. The lecturer will repeat their argument to dazzle a fresh audience, freeing you to refresh your glass.

Care for those in need

Handling drunks largely depends on how well you know them and what type of drunk they are. If it’s someone you've shared maybe three words with over the course of the financial year, offer a drink of water. If they’re someone with whom you’re reasonably well acquainted, you have an obligation to Step Up To The Plate. First, offer hydration. Then carbohydrates. Then an Uber. You may need to go with them to ensure they make it to the front door. This is the price of friendship.

Know when to tap out

The expert party-goer is neither the first to leave, nor the last. Head home when you're still having fun and the event will go down in your memory as a rosy, glowy evening. And your hosts will remember you as neither rude, nor unshiftable. In the paraphrased words of Rudyard Kipling:


“If you can talk with bores and keep your virtue,

   Or discuss Brexit – without using alcohol as a crutch,

If neither in-laws nor drunk colleagues can annoy you,

   If you can order a round without going Dutch;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

  With sixty seconds’ worth of small talk done,   

Yours is the party and everything that’s in it,   

   And – which is more – you can go home, my son!”

Words: Theresa Harold
Illustration: Jim Stoten