Recently, I needed to find a particular photo in my trunk of keepsakes, and was taken aback when I realised that practically every picture of me from the ages of about 16 to 30 is taken after dark. And not just at night, but at parties. Photo after photo of me, in various sparkly frocks, with my arm around friends, boyfriends, and several people I couldn’t name at all.
This was the woman my husband fell in love with. Jack Daniel’s-swigging, spliff-puffing, table-dancing, chaotic, but generally laughing, never crying. I was a pretty good drunk, I think. Always one of the last to leave, but never the one slumped in the corner, sobbing.
Where is that woman now? Has she gone forever? I peer into the photos, scrutinising my hippie market clothes and pre-children figure. Analysing my face, checking to see if I had crow’s feet back then. You know what? I look fun. I wonder if I still am…
It got me thinking. What’s changed? Well, my age, for one thing. Falling out of a taxi because you overdid the mojitos is funny when you’re 20. It’s still funny-ish when you’re 30. But as time marches on, it starts to look a bit undignified.
Then there’s good old responsibility, which can come in several guises. Work is one of them, children are another. Then there's The Fear – the horrible, ‘What did I say?’ ‘Do all my friends hate me?’ ‘What on earth was I doing with that guy?’ feeling that you get the next day if you really overdid it the night before.
So I’m older, more responsible and less keen to wake up feeling like everyone loathes me. But do I still have the desire to forget the day-to-day now and again, to step outside of life, just for one evening – and feel a night full of promise and the unknown stretching out ahead of me like I used to? Depending on how long I’ve got a babysitter booked for, I would say yes.
After all, it’s on nights when wine flows and nobody looks at the clock that the laughter rings the loudest and we all open up a bit more. Have you ever said, ‘I didn’t think I liked her until the party’? Maybe we all need that release; that distance from the office or the supermarket or the school run, to have exchanges that mean a bit more, that reveal a little more of our emotions than we’re willing to give away in the lunchtime queue at the sandwich shop.
Last week, I went out with some women I didn’t know that well – I moved house in the last year and made some new friends. It was exciting: I had a late pass (a wonderful feeling when you have small children), and no plans the next day. Did I wake up on a living room floor? No. Did I feel terrible? No. (The Fear, it seems, doesn’t get you every time.) Did I have an amazing time? Yes. I laughed, I sang (badly), I danced, and had the kind of conversations you can never have in daylight hours.
That party girl in the photos, she’s still around. She doesn’t come out that often, but I love it when she does.
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