Eight years ago next week, I wrote my first blog on High Heels. I was living in a studio flat in West London, depressed, profoundly lonely and recovering from the lacerations of a broken heart. None of this was alluded to at the time. I’d made a pact with myself never to do online confessionals and, as my chief philosophy was that parties were a panacea for all ills, I choose instead to write about one I’d recently attended. It felt apt. I was wearing high heels and the room was packed with reprobates.
I’d turned up in a hot pink wrap dress in the style of Diane Von Furstenberg, hoping to woo back my ex-boyfriend but instead attracted the unwanted – and fortunately harmless – attention of Rolf Harris who was there to play his wobble board for the irony-loving Shoreditch crowd. In those days, this was merely embarrassing.
There’s been more than a few embarrassing party moments over the years. Running full pelt after a taxi I thought still had my clutch bag on the back seat would probably be on the list. At the time I was wearing a Gloria Swanson headdress, corset and floor length velvet cape and moved so fast the cape was horizontal. People I’d never met before had applauded. Later, one of our group had trumped me by being neatly sick into her empty high ball glass. She’d placed it thoughtfully onto the (very ritzy) bar and retired graciously because it had been that kind of night.
Then there was the other kind of night with Jay the transvestite who owned his own London cab and taxied me about; him in rubber, me in sequins. He’d roll down the window onto a floodlit suburban garage forecourt and trill ‘Tranny Cabs!’ before stepping out, six foot five in heels, and striding into the shop to buy a can of Coke. To me, this is still what courage looks like.
I’ve learnt a lot about human nature from going out. It’s taught me things that I value like resilience, empathy and the ability to listen and entertain. If I think about what’s changed most over the past eight years – apart from my career and owning my own home – it’s that now I go to less parties. I still love going out, but I’ve found my tribe now and I know there’s not much that’s new under the sun.
Whilst we are no longer living in optimistic times, we don’t need to lose our mirth or take ourselves too seriously. In fact, the more we hurtle towards hell in a handbag the more we should remember that sometimes it’s just about experiencing it. I may not own diamonds but I could string these nights together and they’d all be like jewels. Here is some advice and observations from years of dedication to the cause:
- Be a contribution. The best party piece I ever saw was a man diving into a swimming pool clutching two lit fireworks. If you must have a party piece, it needs to be this good.
- An arsenal of anecdotes is a bonus. The man with the two lit fireworks told me the best one I’ve heard. The day of his Dad’s funeral, he discovered two things. The first was that his octogenarian father had had a twenty two year old Chinese mistress called Pinkie Chin and the second was he was now responsible for one million Chinese silk ties which were en-route to London with no particular forwarding address. ‘And Sarah Jane, I don’t know if you can envisage what a million ties look like….’
- Parties are the greatest leveller. They divide people into two camps – boring and not boring. If it’s about how big your job is you’re in the wrong room.
- Some of the most confident appearing people I’ve ever met are incapable of walking into a party alone. Good to remember when someone is being overbearing or patronising.
- Alpha females have no idea how to enjoy themselves. Better be a Tango female. Your only agenda is to dance and be merry.
- There’s nothing more gratifying than looking expensive in cheap places.
- Never go out hoping you might meet someone. Go out thinking someone would be lucky to meet you.
- The perfect party drink is a classic champagne cocktail. Two will boost your allure, three will lower it.
- Nothing attracts attention like a red dress.
- When faced with a lack of gallantry ask yourself this simple question. Would Elizabeth Taylor put up with this crap?
- Wham’s I’m Your Man remains the greatest ever floor filler.
- Don’t get cornered by strangers who want you to listen to their problems. This is a party, not a charity gig.
- Being rude to people who are serving you is the height of bad manners. The waiter is your friend and will bring you sustenance.
- Foam has no place on food.
- Overtly charming people who focus on you in an intense manner and pursue you like locusts are sociopaths.
- Musicians are WAY more fun than actors.
- If you need to resume the recovery position, Pretty Woman and a plate of Turkish eggs will get you through it.
I am thinking of perhaps retiring High Heels. Although I imagine it will probably return like Liza Minelli on a come back tour…..