This article appeared originally on THUMP UK. When they're done right, house parties are unbeatable. A good house party is a thing of beauty, a whirling dervish of unbridled hedonism. You get to bring your own beer! You can smoke inside! You'll probably get to sit slightly too close to someone you've fancied for ages while steadfastly refusing to speak to them! It's great!
Apart from police intervention, or a neighborly intrusion, the biggest threat to the quality of a quality house party is shit conversation. Which is why we've put this handy guide together to ensure that you know exactly what to listen out for this weekend, as you try and down the Buckfast you've just stolen from someone's fridge.
1. Introductions to Loads of People Whose Names You Will Forget Instantly
The part of the night where you say, "cool, alright, good to meet you," over and over again, shaking hand after hand after hand, only to get to the end of the line and realize that the entire time you've been thinking about the footballer Alan Smith and how he weirdly seemed to just disappear overnight and shit you don't know what anyone in this room is called.
What's the literal worst thing you can imagine taking about at a party? Politics, obviously. There you are, a blue bag stuffed to the brim in one hand, a yellow pouch of tobacco in the other, a smile on your face and a song in your heart. Everything's going well—you even got to play two songs in a row on Spotify before someone from the frisbee society slammed you out of the way and slapped on "What's a Girl to Do" to widespread cheers.
And then it happens. In the queue for the toilet—you just want a nice innocent piss, obviously, and you don't really fancy stepping into the uneven set of paving slabs outside for an al fresco attempt—you accidentally stumble into the bloke in front. He initiates conversation. Between a swig of your can and a suck on the badly rolled cig that's dangling limply between your fingers in a Poundland impression of louchness, you've somehow started talking about politics. Strap in, he's got a thing or two to tell you about proportional representation!
3. Bonus Politics Round: The Labor Party
You find yourself upstairs. The tinnies are in, the cigs are lit, the music (and fun) is going on downstairs, which can mean only one thing: time to discuss the future of the left! The words "Owen Smith" whip round your brain, endlessly, like being battered by a 29" penis. You're talking about the PLP, he's talking about John McDonell, she's calling Jeremy Corbyn "Jezza" and everyone is assuming you're aware of John Rentoul's Twitter presence. Before long it's suddenly 5AM and between increasingly thin lines you're telling strangers your theories on where post-neoliberal British politics goes next. They've lost touch with the heartlands, the idea of the 'worker' is outmoded, Dan Jarvis is probably the future, and you're one Chuka Umunna away from an early night sunshine.
4. Your Love Life
"It's just…you know how…well…it's sort of like…I guess when you're that bit older…I mean…I'm so conflicted….we just seem…."
Condensed version: your girlfriend's really bored of you and so are we.
A really important tip to remember about house parties: don't worry about the music. At all. If it's really good you won't get a chance to talk absolute fucking bollocks to whoever you plonk yourself next to in a stranger's bedroom, totally uninvited, for 45 minutes. Think about all those intimate chats you'll miss out on because you're too busy squealing with excitement at each track on 100% Galcher—how will the really tall guy who works in the SU shop and always wears dungarees ever get to know exactly why you're so dependent on the validation of others if you're doing that?
Conversely, terrible music is a great conversational in. Feel awkward and anxious in the company of people you don't know? Just slag off whoever's currently crouched behind a Macbook trying to remember how a trackpad works so they can play approximately 32 seconds of six songs on YouTube before falling over and ripping the aux out of the laptop, bringing the laptop crashing to the floor where they writhe in agony amongst a puddle of spilt beer and discarded ash.
But whatever do you, don't try and spark up a chat about the music itself. Talking about music never leads to anything good. You'll either have found someone with similar tastes (and thus have the most blandly agreeable natter imaginable, so blandly pleasant that you'll start fantasizing about defenestration) or someone who likes different music to you and is thus utterly alien.
6. Hopes and Dreams
The issue here is less: nobody cares that you want to write a novella. The issue is more: every weekend you spend at parties talking about writing a novella, is a weekend not spent writing a novella. Weekend after weekend spent not writing a novella will ultimately lead to you not ever, actually, writing a novella. That's fine, most people don't write novellas, most people go to parties instead! Only trouble is, if you spend all those parties telling everyone you're going to write a novella, a novella you will never write, then you could come out of the whole thing—the whole thing in this instance being 'your twenties'—looking like a bit of a boring prick.
Short rounds of tepid light,
Impervious to pain, I desecrate our lasting vow;
Spotted fleas break shape at embankment and the rush of fate splits my hair.
You are coiled empathy,
Little more than whispered memories and empty cans of Ting.
I wish to live off the fat of the land,
And put acid in my father's coffee.
Someone just spoke that in your ear, uninvited, leaving about ten seconds between each line.
Paying rent is bad. No one likes paying rent because paying rent means you have less money to spend on pints of Shipyard IPA and bowls of chips. Unfortunately though, you do have to pay rent and talking about rent won't change that. Oddly, I'm not actually that arsed about what a bargain you've got now you've moved back to Leeds, or how you had to live off sawdust and rainwater to afford the dilapidated dwelling in deepest Deptford.
You will, of course, be at said house party with your friends. If you are at a party with your friends, you will get fucked with your friends, and you will talk with your friends; so far, so good. What will inevitably happen though, eventually, is that talking with friends becomes talking about friends…to friends. The soup of spirits and white lines will draw you into the same cycle of chats you have every time. You'll tell your mate who's just broken up with his girlfriend that he didn't need her. You'll tell your newest mate that even though you haven't known them as long they are still one of your best mates. You'll tell your mate who isn't enjoying their job that they should quit because they can achieve anything they want to. You will tell your mate you spend too much time with that you couldn't live without them.
And you will tell everyone, everyone you see, all who will listen, that they are absolutely smashing it at the moment. You don't really know what they are smashing, what 'it' is, whether it's a reference to their professional or personal life, you know only that they are smashing it, and you must remind them of this.
One of the most awful people you could meet at a party is a guy who really likes films. Like, really likes them. He's not into arthouse ones about French abattoirs or Venezualen tap dancers dealing with the aftermath of a familial tragedy, though. No. What he likes is Hollywood films. He really fucking loves Hollywood films with Leonardo DiCaprio or Mark Wahlberg or Jonah Hill in them. He calls them movies. He collects steelbooks. He's got framed Shutter Island poster above his bed, and he's not afraid to call Christopher Nolan a "friggin' genius."
If you and your mates are unlucky enough to encounter this snapback-clad bore, wittering on about the latest issue of Empire to nobody in particular, run. Run away. If for some reason that's not an option, and you find yourself trapped in the social perimeter of a man who voluntarily watched Prometheus the day before and now is very, very up for a good long chat about it, maintain eye contact. Like really intense eye contact. The kind of eye contact you save for a magic moment with a lover. Then, slowly, very slowly, close your eyes. With your eyes shut as tight as you can tell him that you think Spielberg is a crap director. Let five seconds pass. Open your eyes. He's gone. You can hear the sobs from here. You've won.
Ever been so bored at a house party, so stupefyingly disinterested in the recreational habits of the morons you've got to shove past in the kitchen to get to the tinnies you stuck in the back of the fridge on arrival, that you've found yourself peering at the books on someone's shelf? It's a bit more fun than it sounds, actually. Not because you'll wake up the next day to a series of notes in your phone that miss out the important letters in the titles of books you reckon you'll read one day, but because you can get at least two minutes of stilted banter about the person in question's taste in literature out of it. And that's all that matters.
You might, at some grey and dismal point, find yourself entering into the rancid waters of bookchat with a well meaning English student who thinks that the best place to dissect poststructuralism is at 2am. In a bathroom. Now, there's nothing wrong with that per se, but when you're in the grips of coming up and can feel a tingle spreading through every millimeter of your body, the last fucking thing you want to be doing is trying to remember what poststructuralism is let alone trying to engage with a 28 year old who lives in halls about it.
12. How Much You've Drunk
"Well we started at Spoons for Tom's birthday had about two pints there, then we ended up having a boozy picnic which was, what? Four bottles of prosecco between us? Then we went back to pick up our keys, and Bethany and Rudy had just got home so we ended up getting a bit squiffy with them, probably three Bloody Marys each, then a bit of pubbage before we came here, a few Jaegers, so yeah, basically, I've drunk a lot of ruddy drinks today. Sorry what was your question?"
13. Shall We Get More Beers/Pills/Coke In?
Here's an easy, reliable, life-saving formula: if your answer to the above question is anything other than "YES DEFINITELY" then it is time to go home. Do not go another £50 down, lose another 4 hours of patchy sleep, over an "um, yeah, maybe?" Otherwise, restock, refuel, scroll back to the top of this article, and repeat the whole thing, all over again.