I’ve always enjoyed a party. When I was a child, I was only allowed six people as our house was small and I always made everyone dress up. Notable costumes of mine include The Poppy Fairy, the Popple (both hand-made by my mum) and the year I wore a bin bag, back-combed my hair and went as a punk. I think I was eight. I know people who can’t stand the idea of making a fuss, but for me a birthday has always been an excuse for games, music, cake and friends.
As I got older, it only expanded. I tend to have disparate groups of friends that belong to different hobbies, so I’d celebrate my birthday on two or three nights over a couple of weeks (dinner with close friends and family, drinks and karaoke with musical friends, drinks and dancing with Uni friends). On some occasions I took the plunge of actually hosting a party myself. The Forest Hill birthday parties are now the stuff of legend and I’m sure the neighbours very much appreciated how they didn’t finish until the early hours of the morning. The final one saw the death of my iPod in a pool of spilt liquid around the stereo. Both of those electronic items betray my age. Today, I’m 41.
But now, I’m in the middle of a pandemic as well as living in a new country where I have no friends (yet). With no possibility of a party, I’m wondering what it is I miss about big groups of people? It certainly doesn’t fit with what people assume about writers. If anything I should be the one hiding in the corner or leaving early, not the one turning up the music and dragging other people onto the dance floor.
There’s something about feeling connected, even if you can’t actually talk to those people. Something about the proximity of bodies gathered for a purpose no more highbrow than having fun. I remember one year I went to Reading Festival with my sisters and we saw The Prodigy. On every side of us was a mass of people. If I’d stopped and thought about how long it would take me to get to the edge of this throng, perhaps I would have panicked. As it was, the ground was vibrating to the beat of the songs they were playing and, as one, we bounced. A sea of heads, bobbing rhythmically to sounds and words. I was euphoric.
I also remember my twentyomething self being absolutely sure that, no matter what, I would still be clubbing at any future age, simply because it was the most fun thing I could think of doing. Now, of course, my tastes have changed to the extent that walking on sticky floors in dark rooms filled with ear-straining noise is not my idea of a fun night out.
But the appeal of groups, of connection, of dancing in dark places, is still there. Perhaps I can put the music on loud on my earphones and turn some lights off – my own personal silent disco. Whenever I am able to be around people for frivolous reasons again, that will be birthday brilliance.
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