Call me old fashioned but social events are not what they used to be.
I've been to a fair few in my time from high society, well to-do affairs to slick city corporate entertainment and country parties where you can dazzle and dance.
Recently though, I've witnessed the nation's social events mutating from something fun, buzzy and life-enhancing to formulaic affairs which are predictable and slightly dull.
Let's examine the evidence...
I love a good party. The opportunity to dress up and go out to something entertaining, an occasion, a bit different from the run of the mill, and preferably with a large dash of glamour.
So, when an invitation arrived asking me to attend the 'headline social event' of a major British fund-raising organisation at a major London art gallery I thought back to what this would have meant twenty years ago.
It would have meant an invitation on crisp white card, beautifully designed and thoughtful. It would have meant dressing up, walking up grand steps into a gallery hung with beautiful paintings. The paintings wouldn't be the only grand thing in the room. The guests would have been fashionably dressed and there would be a buzz of expectation in the air of who you might meet and be introduced to. I would come away having met lots of new and interesting people engaged in a variety of spheres. I would feel rejuvenated and inspired and just a little bit special.
That was then, fast forward twenty years....
The invitation generally lands in my inbox rather than on the door mat. A fundraiser is promoted as a 'private view'. I might have to pay seventy-five pounds which will get me a glass of champagne, and some canapés. It's quite a lot to see an exhibition that would cost a little over a tenner as a member of the public... I don't mind this if it's a night to remember and worth the outing...
But sadly I know I'll be disappointed for it won't be all glitz and glamour. It will leave me cold and let down.
Why? because twenty years ago I would have been invited by people I know and introduced to people I didn't know, and then I would know them, and they would invite me to something, and I would invite them to something, and a virtuous circle of pleasure would go round and round, enhancing the lives of all those in it.
Nowadays, the private view invitees are people from a marketing list who don't know each other, who are given a drink and left to fend for themselves. People will either turn to their phone as an emotional crutch, maybe busy themselves taking pictures of the paintings or shuffle around the room with an occasional nod to others present at this, er, 'headline social event'.
I find this bizarre: the private view is now so private that we're only expected to talk to the person we've come with, which is like having an extra hour or two at the office or another evening at home with the telly and our dearest one, to add to the 3,000 we've already had.
I am a professional introducer so of course yes, I do have the competence to approach strangers but, crucially, I don't have permission. It's unspoken. No-one else is doing it. I can't just approach strangers, as I love to do, and say hello. I can't just allow a whole new world of new opportunities and interest to open up on the spot. It's just not done. Of course if I'm at an event working and have been employed to Introduce then that's a different matter.
So, today when I'm invited to a 'private view' or 'headline social event' I consider the options. I could go with a friend.That would be £150 for the two of us to have a glass of champagne, squish up in front of the pictures with everyone else, talk to each other - which we did yesterday, and the day before actually - and post a selfie to show we've been there. In my book that's not being social. I know I won't be introduced to anyone so really, is there any point in going? My other option is to politely decline and stay at home and enjoy my own company.
The latter option does depress me. My dream of a fabulous social occasion is smashed to smithereens. Imagine if there's hundreds of other social animals thinking and experiencing the same thing all victims of 'social occasions' mutating into pitiful events, which may tick a box for the organiser but leaves the guests feeling unfulfilled.
Take me back 20 years and I would accept every 'private view' or 'headline social event' which landed on my doormat.
For now though I politely reply thank you the invitation, but unfortunately I can't come. It's a shame but I know there won't be anyone there to introduce me and make it what if could be - a headline social event.