Don’t you just love other people’s dinner parties? All that free food and booze; getting bored and pretending you need a wee so that you can have a good snout through their bathroom cabinet; playing stupid games into the small hours and cheating because you HAVE to win EVERYTHING – except Monopoly, which is too dull to give two shiny shits about – and finally, the best part, getting to bugger off home afterwards without so much as a backwards glance at the clearing up.
But the thing that really makes or breaks any such gathering is, of course, the people you dine with.
Sometimes a dinner party can be an excellent way to meet people and make new friends; conversation flows, maybe there’s a bit of flirting over the gravy boat, a few suggestive visual gags with the pepper mill and laughing so long and hard that only the hardiest Kegel muscles will save you from that most embarrassing of social faux pas. On the other hand, sometimes you end up being stuck for hours with people you wouldn’t wish leprosy on – because leprosy has enough to deal with already, and what did it ever do to you, you cruel bastard!
The dinner party I went to on Saturday night was somewhere between the two. The food was delicious, my wine glass was never empty and my fellow guests seemed – OK. They were all couples and I was the token single person, since I didn’t have a great deal in common with most of them, and being naturally shy anyway, I was happy to sit back and let them lead the conversation whilst I took pickling my liver to the next level.
I always think you can discover an awful lot by shutting the fuck up and observing people; and sure enough a smörgåsbord of secrets were unwittingly revealed during the course of the evening, but the main thing I discovered on Saturday night is that some women are a bit, well – smug. Smug and loud. Also, that said women are fantastic at dishing out sarcastic criticism but absolute shite at taking it.
My fellow female guests’ favourite topic of conversation seemed to be man’s inferiority, culminating in shoutily listing all the ways in which people with testicles have it so much easier than people who don’t have testicles. It was all going swimmingly, the men clearly knew their place, because besides a few wry chuckles and sheepish looks they made no effort to fight back or defend themselves, in spite of my silently willing them to do so. But then, inevitably, the bane of all women’s existence reared its ugly head – not Nigella Lawson, the other bane – menstruation, and one woman, a particularly angry redhead whose hair clashed violently with her outfit, screeched ‘Fucking men! You don’t know what it’s like, you don’t have to put up with what WE have to put up with every month!’ only for her partner to respond, with lightning speed… ‘We DO know, because you never shut the fuck up about it – and we might not have to put up with periods every month, but we DO have to put up with YOU when you’ve got ’em! Which is WAY fucking worse!’ winning him a venom-filled ‘PIG!’ from his partner and a chorus of cheers and laughter from the men that lasted precisely three seconds, which is roughly how long it took them to notice the suddenly Arctic temperature of the room.
As a ‘singleton’ I was automatically declared Switzerland in the warfare that followed, which suited me fine as I’d had enough by that stage. I like to consider myself a feminist, albeit a lazy, laid-back one with non-comfortable shoes, and I relish a bit of harmless banter between the sexes as much as the next flirt, but the conversation seemed to have gone beyond that and the men looked as uncomfortable as I felt. The women just didn’t seem to know when to quit, egging each other on further, seemingly unaware that their humour now appeared to have little to do with wit and everything to do with viciousness. I tuned out and watched as the ‘banter’ bullets flew past my head and pondered what had happened to make these women so smug and self-righteous that they were able to mistake a superiority complex for feminism.
The matter has rather stayed with me since Saturday night and I’ve had plenty of time to mull it over, and do you know who I blame? DO YOU?
Boots (the Chemist).
Well, Boots and that woman who comes into primary schools and gives girls the ‘Periods Chat’.
I blame Boots because thanks to them we’re all now living in one of their awful fucking adverts, where all women are sharp and ‘sassy’. Apparently, it doesn’t matter that the only goals these women seem to have is to look perfect whilst accruing points on their Advantage cards, and showing men up for being blithering, bumbling fuckwits. And talk about your double standards! – Get a bunch of hoodies surging through a shopping centre and they call it a riot – swap the hoodies and trainers for Dolly Perkins’ finest and some killer heels and let them sashay down a high street in threatening, glammed-up herds as the Sugababes warn us ‘here come the girls’ – and they call it female empowerment!
And then there’s Period Woman. SHE is the true root of female superiority – before HER we are simply little girls, still enchanted by small, plastic, pastel-coloured ponies, fairy cakes with sprinkles and bright pink pencils topped with psychedelic dust bunnies. Then one day you’re hustled out of the classroom in a sinister fashion, along with all the other little girls, bewildered, anxious, worried that you’re in for a double lesson of country dancing in your pants. Again.
You’re ushered into an empty classroom, and there she is, waiting for you, smiling with benign encouragement that doesn’t fool you for a second. But then you spy the little pink boxes on the table and you forget everything else, you just want one of those boxes, because they’re PINK, it doesn’t even matter what’s in them.
Twenty minutes later and EVERYTHING has changed. Because you’ve had ‘The Chat’. You left as a little girl, but by God you’re going back a WOMAN! My Little Pony can now go fuck itself, what you really need is a pair of hair straighteners and a car! You stride back to that classroom, clutching one of those precious pink boxes, nose in the air and with a new, inflated, sense of your own importance. The boys are still sitting there, curious, slightly pissed off because they’ve clearly been left out of something – and suddenly they look incredibly juvenile to your worldly woman’s eyes, with their scruffy jumpers and the chalk still on their hands from having scrawled ‘MR JEFFRIES IS A BENDER’ on the blackboard. They want to know what’s in the intriguing little pink boxes, naturally assuming it has to be something edible, still blissfully unaware of how all their fates will be shaped and driven, to lesser or greater degrees, by other little pink boxes for the majority of their adult lives. They beg you to reveal the contents of that box, but you’re relishing this new thrill of power way too much to comply. Fuelled by indignation and hunger, the boys quickly turn to hyperactivity of Jedward proportions and chaos ensues, until finally one of them gets dragged off to the deputy head for flobbing a lurgy onto Mr Jeffries’ blazer, and unwittingly kick-starts your new-found belief that all boys are lowly tosspots who smell of lies and feet. A belief that, for some women, will stay with them until death.
That’s where it all starts. Thankfully, most females quickly get over it and come to realise that sexual equality can exist and that men are just like us… well, obviously not entirely like us, there’s that whole ‘Top Gear’ thing, but close enough, with good and bad, smart and stupid, funny and… Bobby Davro. Other women discover Prozac later in life, which is effective too.
I suppose that, unfortunately, in this day and age, there are always going to be a few of those other types of women, the ones who think it’s ‘right on’ and the mark of a strong, confident woman to get laughs at the expense of men – just as there will always be a few men who are sexist and misogynistic – so can we PLEASE just agree to not invite them to dinner parties?