Keen to expand your social circle? Maybe you’ve got a big night out planned with some new acquaintances. Charlotte’s had a few such jaunts recently. Some have gone better than others…
Forget about playdates and kids’ parties, children can usually handle their own social lives just fine – but what about us mums? If you don’t go out to work or, like me, you mainly work from home, other mums can be your salvation – they’re your colleagues, your confidantes and maybe your best friends. But if you’re planning a mums’ night out then I wish you luck! Don’t let a rare and precious night away from your mummy duties fizzle out like a damp squib.
I’m not talking about those rare and messy splurges with your dearest mates. You don’t need tips for those. (OK, if you insist: take twice as much money as you could possibly need and make sure whoever’s babysitting knows they’re not off duty until two o’clock the next afternoon.)
I’m talking about those evenings that could go either way: a tentative night on the town with school-gate acquaintances or maybe a mum-friend’s birthday drinks, where you can expect to meet every one of her NCT sisters. You’re committing yourself to join a random flock of women – a couple of whom you probably know and like; a few more you might have half-smiled at across a horde of gyrating, sugar-powered superheroes or pirates; and the rest you’ve never seen before.
The women you don’t know can be divided into two groups: 1) friends you haven’t met yet and 2) the rest – who fall somewhere on the spectrum between Hard Work or Just Not My Cup of Tea at one end and, at the other: Ghastly or Genuinely Unhinged (unhinged in a nasty way that is – I’m not talking about the endearingly unusual; that’ll be pretty much everyone I love most in the world).
So, there you are. You found a top that still fits and flatters; and replaced it with another one that does neither (following a ketchupy hug goodbye). You’ve gleefully tipped the wipes and spare knickers out of your handbag (child’s knickers that is – it isn’t that sort of night out); and you’ve made it out. And now you’re sitting in a pub, looking round the table, appraising the company.
Here are my tips:
1) Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Who knows what obstacles and torments met that ashen-faced woman gently rocking in the corner as she tried to get out of the house? She could have been guilt-tripped, sobbed on, clung to, mithered, manipulated, hassled and piddled on. Won’t these dads ever learn to just kiss their partners goodbye? (Sorry. No more of those. Strictly one formulaic joke per blog post.) The point is, she made it out. She must want to have fun. She might just need a few minutes to warm up. Buy the girl a drink.
2) Don’t sweat it if you misread the dress code.
When I’m unleashed from the chains of domesticity I go one of two ways: if it was a dogfight to get out of the door at all, then a sharp-eyed bar-tender might just be able to work out what I had for dinner. And what my children had. And what colour our cats are. And what they had for dinner. But if there’s time for preening then I’ll go the other way. I’m so keen to show I’ve still got it, I’m liable to roll into our homely village local got up like a low-budget Real Housewife of Cheshire. Only when it sinks in that a third of my fellow-drinkers are dribbling water from ceramic bowls on the floor onto their muddy paws do I realise I’ve overdone it. Anyway the point is, once you’re out and away from the mirror, the question of what you look like is everyone else’s business, not yours. Just beam out a confident smile that silently communicates: “Oh yes indeed! This look was quite, quite deliberate!” and enjoy yourself.
3) Don’t let yourself get trapped by bad seating.
These days nights out are as rare and exotic as a reasonable toddler, so you can’t waste a minute. If you’re stuck between four mums with kids at a school you know nothing about, all bitching about how Mrs Williamson doesn’t understand boys, don’t just politely wait until the topic turns to something you can contribute to – this is going to go on for hours! (And why shouldn’t it?) So just stand up. If you’re a coward like me you can fudge it with a trip to the bar or the loos and then conveniently find a different chair on your return. But if you’re the direct type, there’s really nothing wrong with “I’m just going to say hi to So-and-So…” No offence but they won’t miss you.
4) Let people tell you about their kids. A bit.
It’s a lazy conversation topic but it works. Just how much you let them go on depends on how desperate you are to be liked.
5) Be as irresponsible as the company warrants
If you’re having the time of your life and have marked down half the women you’re with as potential BBF material, then now is not the time to think about your looming to do list or how you’ll feel in the morning. Just go with the flow. You’ll regret sloping off home when the photos of everyone else’s late night shenanigans surface on Facebook tomorrow. But, if it’s stilted and hard going, and every single conversation has begun and ended with “So, how do you know the birthday girl?” or with an exchange of children’s names, sexes and ages, followed by silence – just remember there’s no shame in quitting while you’re ahead. We all react to alcohol differently but for me, an extra few drinks won’t make an awkward night fun – it’ll just give me a painful morning on top of a tiresome evening.
6) If you get stuck in a futile debate with an increasingly drunk, rude or aggressive mentalist, just walk away.
Don’t try to reason with someone who’s clinically unable to listen. You’re only hurting yourself. It’s all well and good to stay up into the small hours having a lovely natter but time’s too scarce a commodity these days to sacrifice it to a numpty. I’m all for being inclusive but don’t be a martyr for half the night. If you ignore my sage advice and do engage with such a person, don’t be surprised if your suppressed incredulity finally bursts out of you in a torrent of boozy put-downs. You know you’ll end up seeing her again. You’ve only got yourself to blame. Oh and don’t blog about the experience either. What kind of idiot would do that?