Socialising and an insight into society

I’ve had some fairly triumphant social weekends lately. I say triumphant because for me, social outings can be a bit hit and miss. I imagine this to be the case for many people, but I’ve had too many nights where I’ve come home cringing internally, a real life socially awkward penguin.

Not so now! A couple of weekends ago we had Simon’s dad’s 60th birthday party. It was a surprise party, and hearing his dad’s exclamations of joy when he discovered the people who had come along (some from far away) was wonderful. For me, it was the first big family event I’d been to with Simon. I love Simon, and really wanted to make a good impression on his family at large. I shopped for a new dress, and asked his sister Amy to do my makeup. She’s just completed a makeup artistry course and is very talented. I felt like a canvas as she mixed colours like an oil painter and layered my face. I don’t generally wear makeup. Only on the very rare special occasion or when on stage (dancing and school productions when I was a teen). So it was quite the ordeal for me – I focussed every ounce of my energy on sitting still and looking up/down/at the plant outside when told to do so. Simon’s mum Jane had the best time watching me transformed, laughing at my inexperience and delighting in her daughter’s work.

The hour in the makeup chair was well worth it though. I got to spend some quality time with Amy, which continued through the night, and we went from her referring to me as her brother’s woman (affectionately) to calling me a part of the family. And she did an absolutely amazing job on my face. I’m happy with the genetics life handed me, but to see myself all done up like that was almost overwhelming. She’d gone for the 50s pin up girl look, as the dress I’d bought was very 50s (it’s all that works on my shape). Once I was in my full outfit I felt almost too fancy and worried I’d overdone it. Apparently, as Simon told me later in the night, there’s no way for a woman to overdress.

I was completely unprepared for the compliments I received that night. I don’t write about this to gloat in a pretty-girl-drawing-attention-to-herself kind of way. I was genuinely touched and amazed at the impact a bit of (well, a lot of specially applied) makeup and a pretty dress can have on people. I know we’re a very visually stimulated species, but to me what’s inside someone really is more important. That’s not to say there are some physical attributes I find attractive or off putting, but I’ve never really placed great importance on appearance. After flustering some men, being asked for photos and being told I was the ‘prettiest girl at the party’, I’ve started to think about it a bit more. I doubt I’m ever going to become one of the many who hop out of bed and straight into their ‘face’, but I am thinking a bit more about the image I project to the world.

One interesting thing that came out of it was a conversation I had a few days later with Simon. He was saying that he found it odd that every time he introduced me to someone as his girlfriend they gave him a look like ‘well done, son!’. We were laughing about that, and then he realised no one did that to me about him. I said that people come up to me more quietly to say he was lovely or they were happy for me. The contrast between the two standard responses to a couple really piqued my interest. I mentioned it to my mum, and she said that men are judged on their career, financial stability etc. So possibly if I’d introduced him as my boyfriend and said he was a lawyer, we’d get the same results. That disgruntles me. It doesn’t do justice to either gender. Why are women judged on their looks and men looked upon favourably only because of what they do to earn money? I could be the most beautiful woman in the world but be a horrible person, and people would still look at Simon like he’d done well. Simon could be a multi-millionaire but never come home, and people would say I had hooked a good one. These little ways that so many people categorise the world, and that rely so much on external appearance, are what has put me off valuing physical presentation for so long. I’m toning that back now – everything has grey areas, no black and white, after all. But I don’t think I will ever be able to embrace being a ‘trophy girlfriend’. Even when I do have a ‘successful’ lawyer boyfriend. To me, he’s already successful. He’s happy, he’s found what interests him in life and he’s grown through some really tough times and come out just as lovely on the other side as I’m sure he always was. And there are many things more valuable about me than just my physical appearance. Faces change, outfits come and go. Who you are as a person stays forever.

We also hosted our first BBQ last weekend, and it was a great success. What started out as a quiet dinner with my best friend Lauren and her husband Simon (the 70s murder party folk) quickly grew into a gathering of about 10 from Simon’s group of friends, my friends and our shared friends. We were a little worried about blending the groups – you never can tell if someone’s going to react badly to someone, and we have a quite diverse bunch of friends in terms of lifestyle preferences. And it’s also a bit of a test as a couple – will our worlds combine well? But it all went off without a hitch! We had far too much food, but we had a lot of fun preparing for it. I was actually a little amazed how much fun we had getting ready. Hosting events has always been very stressful for me, but I made up my mind to try to relax and Simon did an equal share of the preparations so it went really smoothly. By the time people started arriving we were nearly ready, and all I had left was preparing the salads. I received my first lady-of-the-house bunch of flowers, which made me feel very grown up. On a side note – when do you start feeling constantly like an adult? I’m 28 now and I still feel so young inside most of the time! It was a lot of fun sitting around with mates, and bringing them mountains of food. Most people left around 11pm, some more at 1am and then Simon, his mate Dan and I stayed up. I collapsed into bed around 3am and have vague memories of Simon coming to bed sometime later and offering me part of a jam sandwich he’d made (I declined…).

Sunday felt just as laid back as we ate some more BBQ munchies and chilled out in the sun. Once Dan had left and Amy had picked up her car, Simon and I collapsed on the couch and gorged on Mad Men. That’s pretty much my ideal Sunday afternoon. I was so glad our first couple hosting event went so well. I know things would have been fine if it had been a complete disaster – we would look back in years to come and laugh, just as his Uncles Jim & John laugh about a dinner party they had once where the guests fought from the first moment and all the food shrivelled or burned. But I’d much rather the pleasant feeling I get when I look back on how well we worked together and how our friends got to just sit back and relax in our yard. All in all – triumphant social weekends!