Ahhh, party season! What do you mean, you hadn't noticed? Sure, it may be dressed up cunningly as flu season, skint season and 'vowing never to use Amazon then guiltily remembering you've still got 12 Christmas present boxsets to buy' season, but it's really party season. PARTY. Are you partying as we speak? Is there tinsel in your hair and a mini crispy duck burger pavlova parfait canapé in your hand? Good.
I know it's party season because every year, at around this time, I buy a thoroughly ill-judged dress. I buy ill-judged garments all year round (lace-trimmed cycling shorts, anyone?) but this mistake I re-make annually, without fail. "You need a Christmas party frock!" shout the magazines. "I need a Christmas party frock!" I shout to myself, and dash to Oxford Street to dive headfirst into a pile of sequins.
Then, after an afternoon winching my flesh into various forms against its own will and gravity, I come home with something that looks like Liberace's less tasteful sister. It will have glitter bits, sheer bits, static-prone fabric and be completely impossible to wear a bra in. Swishing round my bedroom, I'll imagine myself walking into imaginary cocktail parties, turning heads, dancing seductively and eating mince pies without getting crumbs down my cleavage. Bing Crosby will be singing in a corner. It will be lovely.
But it won't actually happen, and here's why - the Christmas party frock is a lie. You don't need one. You didn't need the seven already festering in your wardrobe, like the ghosts of Christmases past.
I'm keen to know: who actually goes to Christmas parties, really? Apart from one work do, which, let's face it, is more likely to be a karaoke sesh with Carol from accounts than the Ambassador's reception, I can't think of a single social function I attend at Christmas where it wouldn't be appropriate to wear a jumper and a bobble hat. The pub, the ice rink, the pub again, a carol concert, my Granny's house. When are all the parties we're meant to be wearing these frocks to? Are you having them all without me?
Maybe there's a handful of people (probably the Made in Chelsea cast and Tamara Ecclestone) who skew the graph by spending their yuletide quaffing champagne in ballrooms wearing slinky designer things. Thanks, Those People, for making the rest of us feel like our nice festive trip to the garden centre just isn't good enough.
Let it be noted now, I don't object to the spangly frocks themselves. The spangly frocks, I love. If it was socially acceptable for me to take the bins out in a spangly frock, I'd be tempted. But who decided looking foxy was the chief aim of Advent?
As with so many myths of modern femininity, we can blame that unholy trinity of magazines, TV and advertisers for fooling us into thinking we've got to be sexy at Christmas - when all we really need to do is find a good pair of thermal socks and a generous waistband.
They're also busy peddling the notion that Christmas is yet another time of year when we need to be skinny (as far as I can discern there are only two occasions left that we're not required to get thin for - Remembrance Sunday and Pancake Day) with pre-Christmas diets as ubiquitous as the spangly frocks themselves. "Slim down for Christmas!" they shriek from the shelves. "Put down that marzipan, you've got a backless LBD to get into!"
The overriding trouble is that the magazines in question seem never to have experienced Christmas as we know it. You know, Christmas. The one where we wear three jumpers because the boiler's on the blip, and watch Home Alone under a slanket with one hand resting in a tin of Quality Street. The one where the most people gaze at you all season is when it's your turn in charades (I still maintain my knicker-themed take on Brief Encounter is inspired).
The one where we're actively invited to eat ourselves into a brandy-laced coma. That Christmas. Lovely, comfy Christmas. In fact if there's one time of year where you decidedly do not need to be skinny, Christmas is probably it. Think of the bonus insulation for draughty December nights; the extra padding for going arse-over-tit on icy pavements ("I'm FINE thanks, just having a little sit on the ground. Nothing to see here. Keep on walking."). The magical, warm feeling in your heart when a small child points at you in Debenhams and asks "Mummy, is that Santa's wife?".
Yes guys, I've checked, and it turns out neither baby Jesus, Rudolph nor Noddy Holder care if you can zip yourself into a metallic size 8 cocktail dress. Have a turkey sandwich and chill - at least until January, when we can talk about how you don't really need a Davina McCall workout DVD either.
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This young boy didn't get what he wanted for Christmas, but decided that maybe Santa got his order wrong.
Note to parents - don't buy your children DVDs next Christmas!
While it all started well, this little girl decided that this present was not good enough (cue the tears...)
This boy was so unimpressed with his gift, he decided to take it for a kick around the room instead.
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