Sophie Morris has had enough of finding childcare only to stand in hot, noisy rooms with strangers

Pretty woman in Santa hat rolling her eyes.

For someone who hates parties, is it strange that I find leaving the most excruciating bit? There I am, coat on, caressing the door, having located the host, said my thank yous and goodbyes and wasn’t the cake delicious, or whatever.

Quite possibly, there’s a taxi driver outside sending reminders every 10 seconds that he, too, is ready and waiting for my imminent departure. Everything, it seems, is in celestial alignment for my deliverance to my own home, where I can enjoy a nightcap without the accompaniment of someone else’s burger breath or the need for a pair of ear defenders.

Alas, as I’m about to open the door, my husband slips back into the fray. He begins doing the rounds of the entire party, as if a panel of judges is watching on to score his farewells out of 10. Why is he re-engaging with people he’s spent the evening chatting to? Has he not adequately grazed the beige buffet? Is he really agreeing to a house tour? Right now?

It’s sometimes hard to remember why I hate parties, because I can count on one hand the number I’ve been to this year. After years of pitiful peoplepleasing, I’ve realised that me plus a party is a problem combination.

It’s not only that I don’t like parties, or the people who are constantly giving the damned things, but the fallout has become simply too much to manage. Where some people feel energised after moving around a function room as if they’re speed dating rather than acknowledging a baby’s first birthday, the expectation to socialise with scores of unknowns empties me out. I am simply too tired to attend your party.

Curiously, I am not too tired to attend other kinds of events. But the mounting efforts of thinking about the party, getting ready for the party, attending the party, and finally - hopefully - extracting myself from the party, tend to combine into an energy-shattering dose of exhaustion.

I always drink too much, for starters. And I’ve come to understand that I don’t drink too much at parties because I am a desperate lush (that’s a different story). I drink too much at parties because I don’t want to be there. I’m not antisocial, even if I am an introvert. I fill my life with social activities. Some are the sort we’re told are enriching and fulfilling, like wild swimming (sorry), beach walks with my best friend (Penny the Irish terrier) and coffee in caf├ęs (sometimes with other people).

I go out at night, too. I’d eat every other meal in a restaurant if I could. I adore the feeling of being cooked for and cared for in someone else’s kitchen. I’ll do cultural things and occasionally even spontaneous things. I’m always open to meeting new people, even if I take a bit of warming up. Just don’t expect me to turn up to your party. Random people, random food, warm drinks, indeterminate end times. Not for me. Most people say they don’t like small talk, so why spend so many hours of your life engaging in it? Let’s have lunch, instead, and get into the deep stuff.

It’s not easy being such a killjoy. Why do I bother? Selfishness, for one. Though it’s now known as self-care. As the years tick on, I notice each glorious week of my life on Earthy as it passes by. I don’t want to spend any more of my finite moments standing in a hot, noisy room unable to hear what 30 or 50 or a 100 people I don’t know are yelling at each other.

I guess my second reason is equally selfish, but my gawd, the prep! Maybe I need to get a present or something new to wear. Can I walk in those shoes? God forbid it’s sodding fancy dress. “Oh,” announces a close friend a week before the event. “Please record your video tributes and send them to me by morning.” “Let’s do a secret Santa!” someone screams the day before the annual mulled wine event you’ve been trying to wriggle out of for a decade.

This year I will not wriggle out of these things - I will say no in the first place. But you can’t give up parties in the way you can give up alcohol.

There will always be people I love who want to throw celebrations. If

I know it’s the right thing, I will go. And I will strive to have a good time. I said no to one wedding this year, because I’d never met the people throwing it. But there was another I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

I don’t find it easy to say no (see earlier note about people pleasing). I was brought up to be grateful, to say yes, to stick to plans and heed timings.

But, too often, I’ve found myself resenting the fact I need to find childcare and dog care and travel across the country to hang out with drunk strangers. The only solution I’ve come up with is to free myself from this resentment, and stay home instead.

Don’t get me started on those people who missed a significant birthday party to Covid and keep saying they’re going to reschedule. Mate, we all lost a birthday, if not a granny, to Covid. There’s a system for celebrating major life events that only functions if you stay in your lane. Who wants to attend a rash of stale 40ths?

Maybe I’ll party when I retire. But in my forties, after seven years of interrupted sleep, it’s not my time. I often wish it was. I’ll never quite let go of wanting to be the party girl. But I now accept I’m not her. What’s more, the phrase is so often used in a derogatory, throwaway manner, when a party girl is supposed to delight and amuse. Look at her, with her cocktail and her repartee, her fresh fillers and her Peletoned body. Being a party girl is a full-time job. Therefore one which anyone with another full-time job isn’t cut out for.

Do I still want to be invited to your party? Probably. But please don’t take it personally when I don’t come.