I’ve got my first “proper” Christmas work party coming up and, as I can tell from having to battle my way through sequin-studded dresses every time I’ve walked into a clothes shop anytime over the last six weeks, I know I’m sure as hell not alone.
Not only do I have all the usual concerns – you know, what to wear and how much alcohol is an acceptable amount to drink in front of your professional peers – but I’ve also got the added pressure of this being the first out-of-the-office event with my new work buddies, and having absolutely no preconceived ideas whatsoever to help guide me through this social obstacle course.
Whether you’ve been at your job two weeks or two years – or even if you don’t have a daunting work do to contemplate – Christmas really can bring with it a hefty dose of festive fear, especially if the words “Party Season” make you want to crawl under your duvet wishing it was “Hibernate Season” instead (side note: can we make hibernate season a thing, please? I’ll write to my local MP if you will).
We’re confronted by adverts showing gorgeous women (and men – blokes, you’re not out of the running here but I’m probably going to speak mostly from a female perspective because, you know, I am one) looking fabulous at various Christmas occasions, caressing champagne glasses with their perfectly manicured nails; dancing the night away in glamorous outfits; tweaking their immaculate make-up and flawless hair.
I don’t know about you, but most of my Christmas parties – work-related or not – start with me pre-drinking far too much before I leave the house in the hopes of keeping my social awkwardness at bay and end with me stumbling home with one shoe and no idea how I ended up with chilli sauce down my cleavage and, believe me, at no point do I resemble the women in those adverts. Not. A. Chance.
We’re almost FORCED to face up to our self-image and take stock of our appearance when we’re constantly told that this season is all about ramping up the glam 24/7, because apparently just wanting to stay indoors and wear your trackies instead of putting your best face on every time you step outside the house just isn’t allowed in December.
And, if our beauty standards aren’t being confronted, then it’s our self-worth and self-confidence being put to the test. How do I conduct myself around these people? How should I act? Is this dress too “dressy”? Is this dress “dressy” enough? Oh God, do my colleagues now think I’m a secret slag who dresses like a hooker on the weekends? What should I say? How do I get in on this conversation? I’m here as my boyfriend’s plus one, don’t want to embarrass him… Oh shit, did I just ask his boss if she’s pregnant when actually I’m pretty sure he told me last week she’s just put on a few pounds recently because at this time of year she has a bit of a weakness for mince pies and one too many pigs in blankets?
It’s a bloody minefield. Unfortunately, unless you’re oozing confidence which, let’s face it, most of us aren’t, the dreaded party season is one danger zone we just can’t avoid. Just take a second before you make that bitchy comment in the toilets, or shake your head at someone for drinking too many complimentary proseccos and getting up on the karaoke machine – they’re probably insecure as hell, just like you. So grab yourself a glass, get up there and belt out Don’t Stop Believin’ with the best of them.