A grown-up guide to celebrating, 2018-style

Ah, yes. Parties. 'Tis the season to be throwing them and going to them. Small ones, big ones, themed ones, office ones. Sigh. But parties are slightly different now. It's not just our age, the world has moved on. We need direction, ideas – rules, in a nutshell – tailored to those of us who think we know everything there is to know about parties (we do!), but may need a bit of a refresher.

Parties are slightly different now. It’s not just our age, the world has moved on. Credit:Stocksy

Things to remember when giving a party:

• You will need soft drinks. Yup. It is 2018. Several of your guests will be non-drinkers and they will not thank you for eye-rolling and gesturing in the direction of a tap.

• You will need vegetarian food. Once, you could slam a jamón on the table and that would be that. Now you must cater for the vegetarians, the vegans, the gluten-frees, all the frees. Failing to do so is horribly rude.

• You will need some (several) non-midlife guests. Ones who are Up For A Party; for example, younger people. They will add sparkle and prevent the midlifers from getting into a discussion about planning permission/back problems or going down the tunnel of "remember this" music selection. They can nip the 1970s boomers in the bud.

• Invite some sexy guests, the necessary injection of oomph to get you out of your comfort zone and comfy trousers. If you only ask locals and your children's friends' parents, that's not a party, that's a plastic-clean-up group.

• You will need age-appropriate booze. It's tempting to make up litres of cheap wine punch, but your guests will not forgive you. We no longer have jobs that allow you to lie on the floor of the stationery cupboard until the nausea passes, then slip out for doughnuts. Note: don't give guests prosecco. It is very 2017. Do give them the option of a cocktail, but not an instant speech-and lower-body immobiliser.

• You will need music, but this is problematic. There will be guests who believe they have just the tune to get this party started, and are prepared to storm the DJ if necessary. Ideally, this DJ will be two of the young people – one as security/interpreter of requests ("You know! He has shades, the other has a hat and the girls are naked!"), one to keep the tunes rolling.

• The host must make an effort. Appearance-wise, it's a blow-dry and One Thing Fabulous. House-wise, it's fresh flowers, candles (lit) and surfaces cleared. You'll probably want to buy cushions, rearrange your shelves so there's more at eye level than two copies of Gone Girl, and generally give the place a hygge-over. That said, beware the midlife curse of beautifying your house and leaving zero time for beautifying yourself. It will look great; you will look like the help and be slightly resentful, especially when guests turn up looking like Gisele Bündchen after a week at a spa.

• You will need eats, but don't get too ambitious. Blinis, toasted and sprinkled with … NO! Why would you do that to yourself? Cocktail sausages, maybe. Also avoid anything that requires two or more bites. That way lies serviettes and filo pastry everywhere.

Things you need to remember as a guest at a party:

• You have a presentation in the morning, your dog has just had puppies and yes, you are a midlifer with it all going on, just like everyone else. But unless you can make any of the above into a hootingly funny anecdote, park it.

• Resist bringing your dog unless you have asked (their dogs are next door for the night).

• Don't have an argument with your partner on the doorstep. If you do, don't continue in the kitchen.

• It's not good to arrive and leave an hour later. That's a duty call and will be duly noted.

• Don't run through all the TV you are watching by way of conversation. Party conversation must be wild and silly. Never ask young people, "What are you doing now?" Never say, "How's work?" or "I hear it's been a tough year." On no account suggest you sit down and "catch up". Get naughty! Keep moving! Fun will follow. Promise.



• Make an effort. Don't go and get a My Last Chance outfit, but do look 60 per cent more glam than everyday you. The "bit of lippy and add heels" days are over. Sorry.

Dress the set, up to a point. By which we mean: hide stuff. Have a smoking area outside the back door/in the garden, with a chair or two and a hurricane lamp. Smoking areas are good for taking stock/confidential chats, smoker or not.

• Talk to people. Fight the urge to fly around like a royal-wedding organiser, when really nothing needs doing. Then it will all be over and you will have spoken to no one.

Ask a couple of new friends, some incorrigible flirts and a few people you slightly fancy. Make it worth your while. Be sure to down a glass of fizz before they arrive. Then ease off for a bit.

• Make sure the "background" music isn't making your eyes water. Midlifers are less inclined to shout over Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Dim the lights. Midlifers are also likely to crumble in overhead lighting.


• Invite the woman you admire, but who also makes you feel like the coat-check girl. Or the person who possibly doesn't like you much, but likes your friend, who really wants you two to get along. You know the one.

Get your teenage children/ nephews to hand around drinks and eats and imagine that's one problem sorted. Seriously?

Wear your new, untried silver shoes. Don't wear anything untried, including that feather top, which, it will transpire, is like wearing an electric blanket.

Invite the neighbours to your party, unless they are also your friends. They will see what you did to the partition wall. They will notice the illegal bike shed. They will be appalled when you roar, "Turn it up, no one cares!"

Cut up lots of baguettes. It will look like a year 5 "meet the parents" evening. And don't push back the furniture. Same thing.

Have a plan: At midnight everyone will be dancing! I will be dancing with Geoff!

Stop people from leaving, as in block their path and thrust drinks at them (you know how you get). They don't have to stay until 3am.

Have a star-guest complex. Where are they? The party can't start without them! Sometimes the star guest never turns up.

Have a late start, then be shocked when the place is empty at 10pm.

Send a party reminder. Good idea in theory; but it feels needy.

This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale December 9.

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