The Social Whirl

By now you must be getting lots of invitations to go out.
No?
Are married couples who used to ask you to dinner or down to the pub, trying to avoid you?
Well, you have to realise what you are now, is a relatively normal, single woman, in the same age group as all your married friends – but with latent, and possibly very powerful, unfulfilled sexual needs. You are a very dangerous guest to casually toss amongst men who have been married for maybe a decade and who are very possibly slightly bored with their own sex lives. You may not see yourself as a threat, unless you really want to ruin the marriage of a trusted friend, but your female friends might see you as a bit of a loose cannon, and prefer to keep you at arm’s length. If you do get invited out to meet a selection of eligible, single men then good luck to you, but there is every chance that you will not.
I have mentioned about avoiding formal dinner parties in the early weeks, but you may now feel ready for the odd party. Parties are easy – lots of people, dancing, food.
Wrong.
I would not wish to put you off attending social functions, because you need to get out and have a relaxing, enjoyable time every once in a while. But I must caution you that what you hope a party might be, and what it actually is, can be two completely different things.
If you go to a party on your own, you will either have to use public transport or drive yourself, and driving yourself means that you cannot drink more than a glass of wine all evening. You will get used to this over time, but being sober as opposed to happily drunk, does mean that you will remember any regrettable incidents with painful clarity the next morning.
Arriving at a party as a lone woman has to be experienced to be believed. If your hostess is a good friend then she might well meet you at the door and take you over to some nice people who will talk to you, but if it is a big party then the chances are that you will have to brazen it out alone. If the other guests are all good friends then it will be a fairly easy job to join a group and get chatting.
Hopefully this will make the start of the evening a painless affair, but even if you do know people at the party, there might still be a chance that someone might not have heard your news, and so will follow the inevitable explanation, followed by condolences and then a long, long silence as people struggle to think of something to say. At best you will change the subject with a witty aside and all will be well, at worst they will find an excuse to walk away, leaving you stranded in the middle of the room – and I’m not making this up, it has happened to me.
If you are amongst strangers, then somebody is bound to ask where your husband is. I can almost guarantee that it will happen at some stage during the evening, so you should be prepared with a stock answer to ease their embarrassment. I sometimes get bored with beating about the bush and come straight out with it – it is sometimes less painful for both parties that way. But as a rule of thumb, if you answer all questions relating to your husband with, ‘Actually, I’m a widow.’ then you should be able to cope with most eventualities.
If this is your first party as a widow, you might well be struck with an overwhelming feeling of isolation, because even if people have been keeping you company for a while, it is likely that they will drift away from you at some stage during the evening, leaving you on your own.
Looking around a room full of unfamiliar faces and wondering what to do next will induce a combination of nausea and mild panic, because there is nothing like a crowded room for making you feel totally alone. You have been cast adrift without the familiar life raft that was your partner; you may not have talked to him much during parties that you went to together, but you always knew he was there. He was there to rescue you from boring conversations, he was there to listen when you wanted to whisper some salacious gossip, and he was there to take you home when you had had enough. Having him there gave you confidence, a reference point – an anchor.
Not having him there will make you feel like drowning yourself in the punch bowl.
Parties are not just difficult – they are fraught with danger.
Consider a Christmas party that I was invited to a few years ago.
The evening started pleasantly enough, I was given a lift by a friend, which meant that I could drink. There were lots of people that I knew in attendance; I could socialise, eat nice food and dance the night away. It had all the makings of a great evening. And indeed it was a great evening until the disco started and I was asked to dance by an old friend. I had spent a while chatting to him beforehand, he had asked me how I was doing and I asked about his new baby, so it seemed entirely natural that we should dance together.
After the first record finished I turned to leave, but he asked if I wanted another dance. It seemed churlish to refuse and so we continued dancing, two feet apart and smiling at each other occasionally. And then all of a sudden I was being shoved sideways off the dance floor by his wife, who made sure that I was well clear before flinging her arms around his neck and rubbing herself up against him like some Bonobo chimpanzee.
I wasn’t sure whether to cry or throw myself into the speaker stack. I felt completely crushed and I wanted to leave – but I couldn’t because I didn’t have a lift home. And then I found that I couldn’t get a taxi either, so I had to stay at the party and act like nothing had happened.
I had to try to hold my head up and act like I didn’t care that I had been utterly humiliated. I had to share the same room with a woman who was looking at me like she’d triumphed over me in some way, like she’d won back the man that I’d been trying to steal away.
I don’t go after married men – she knew that.
Eventually I was offered a lift home by someone who turned out to be less than sober, and all I could think on the way home was,
‘This is it, I’ve just been humiliated by an inebriated trollop and now all my friends think I’m after her husband. And why would I want to go after a man who considers the height of sartorial elegance to be a purple crushed velvet suit? Why would I? And now I’m going to die in a Nissan Micra and it’s Christmas and my children will be orphans.’

But I did get home eventually and my children did enjoy Christmas.
But I didn’t forgive that woman.
And the moral of this story is – expect the unexpected. Don’t rely on lifts – always try to drive yourself, just in case something does go wrong and you need to get home in a hurry. Do watch out for jealous wives, especially if they have been drinking. And if somebody hurts you, don’t let them see they’ve hurt you.
Revenge is a dish best eaten cold. It took me two years of waiting, but I got mine eventually.