The Hirsute Route to Party Survival for the Socially Awkward

There was a time when I spent more hours of darkness frequenting sweaty basement nightclubs and live music venues than under my own roof. However, in those days I was young, and able to withstand the toll of an endless stream of late nights followed by a full day of study (yeah, right) and, in my post-student days, work. I lived in Brighton at the time, which was heaving with clubs and bars for me to fritter away my beauty sleep in.

Nowadays, what with the slowing creep of age, family responsibilities, and our relocation to a social wilderness, if you find me with a wine glass in hand on a Friday night, I’m more likely to be wearing an old dinner-stained dressing gown than a feather boa and false eyelashes. Whilst I had a ball at the time, I certainly don’t miss the buzz of the Brighton music scene, and really revel in our quieter life. The only downside is that my social skills have completely rusted from lack of use.

A recent invite to a 40th birthday party threatened to disrupt the calm of our monastic existence. My friend asked me to run a juice bar throughout the evening which I was grateful for, as I knew that having a task would at least give me a sense of purpose and belonging, like an anchor in a choppy sea of potential social faux pas. Just to be on the safe side, I decided to fashion a monumental mono-brow across my forehead with pencil, like a transcendent seagull in flight. My reasoning for this was twofold; it would make me look confident, and it would provide a fallback conversation topic if I got stuck. I was quite taken with it on my third attempt – it was a devil to get symmetrical, and thought I may as well go the whole hog by putting my hair up into two high silver buns, like a frost-bitten Frida Kahlo.

frida kahlo

I have this picture on my kitchen door and used it as the inspiration for my winning party look.

The party was a huge success. I not only avoided any social awkwardness (unless you count the moment I realised that the vaguely familiar man I was talking to was my son’s old, and daughter’s future physics teacher. There I was, having outed myself as his pupil’s parent, discussing the effects of Tory cuts on the education system, all the while wearing an obviously drawn on mono-brow), but I ended up having a fantastic conversation with a group of people huddled round the fire on the terrace. Β The by now infamous brow instigated a discussion of Frida Kahlo’s life and work, and Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful novel about Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Leo Trotsky ,’The Lacuna’. It was like a mini pop-up book club complete with a devil’s advocate – my friend’s father – who occasionally punctuated the discussion with a flourish of his hand, declaring that all fiction was rubbish before retreating into silence to watch with delight the fall out from his comment.

barbara kingsolver 'The Lacuna'

You know you’re at a great party when out of a random group of 7, 3 have read ‘The Lacuna’, 2 have it in their TBR pile, 1 is an artist and only 1 declares all fiction to be rubbish.

Thankfully the birthday boy, Jon, had a fabulous time, and the party was deemed a roaring success by all. Best of all, the fun didn’t stop there. At the school gates on Monday afternoon, one of the dads,(the artist from the fireside book chat), handed me a copy of Hayden Herrera’s ‘Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo’ to borrow. I was thrilled! I’ve been meaning to read this for ages, and it’s the perfect doorstop of a book to immerse myself in over the Christmas period.

Frida: a biography of Frida Kahlo, Hayden Herrera

So, there we have it, if you want to be a wow at parties over the festive season and have casual acquaintances bring you interesting books, the drawn on mono-brow is definitely for you.

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