Monday, October 29, 2007

The House Party Gene

Why do blokes believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that having a house party is a good idea?

And it is essentially blokes I'm talking about here. Not chaps. Or men. And certainly not ladies. Blokes. Or possibly lads, as that seems to be the current vernacular.

I don't get invited to blokes' house parties any more as I'm over 40. But I did. Oh yes. And I hosted them too. And, looking back through my Rosé-tinted glasses they look like fun. The photos accompanying this post are testament to that. Yes, that's me out in the snow in my pants, and wearing a flatcap and - horror of horrors - a cravat (it was a bad taste party, honest). But were those house parties really as much fun as I recall? Now I come to think about it, there were some, shall we say, less than classy incidents. Like the time we had a beerglass crushing contest and one of my friends wound up wounded in casualty having first sprayed my walls and curtains a vivid crimson. Or the time I woke up in a kilt - No idea how or why. And who removed my pants? Or the time I woke up trapped inside a sofa bed while a couple were making out on top. Or the time I got inside an industrial tumble dryer to see how long I could last before either my brain cooked or I threw up. You see? It wasn't all dips and pate, fine wines and intelligent discourse about the Gold Standard. And hearing my 20-something kids talk about the parties they've been to recently just makes me realise that nothing has changed.

House parties always seem to result in damage or loss of personal property, permanent stains on carpets and furniture and broken relationships. They are often the catalyst for long-running feuds to erupt and for lovers’ tiffs to move from the smouldering to the volcanic. And someone – maybe it was you once - always does something so embarrassing that they will regret it for years to come. So why do we keep having them? Is it some kind of bizarre, self-destructive lemming thing? Are house parties programmed into a bloke’s genetic code?

Richard Dawkins once made the startling claim that our genes are the true rulers of the Earth and that we, like all living things on this planet, are merely vehicles for getting our genes together with other genes because a gene’s sole purpose is to make more genes. Virtually every animal ‘knows’ how to swim. Most plants ‘know’ that they should grow towards a light source. Newly hatched turtles head for the sea despite the fact they’ve never seen it and don't know what it does. Dogs turn around before they lie down to sleep, trampling down grass that isn’t there. Spiders spin geometrically perfect webs. Birds fly. Dolphins sing. None of this is learned behaviour. It’s unconscious behaviour. It’s instinct. It is knowledge that’s locked inside our genes and inherited from one generation to the next. Gene. Genetic. Generation. Get it? Instructions are hard-wired into us.

My parents didn’t give me a ‘birds and bees’ talk, because they assumed that school biology lessons would take care of that. As it happens, I’d already worked a lot of the details out for myself (with a little help from a girl called XXXX and pages torn from Health and Efficiency). The point is, I didn’t need their talk because my instincts had already shown me the way.

I have no idea when the ‘house party imperative’ got hard-wired into the human bloke genome but it’s there and it looks like it’s there to stay. The proof of this lies in the fact that all house parties are identical.

Now, my parents didn’t give me a ‘birds and beers’ talk either, but I know instinctively what the form is:

  • You invite all of your mates and tell them to bring a bottle. You then invite four times as many women.
  • You buy some dips, crisps and peanuts or, if you’re feeling adventurous, some samosas, bhajis or mini pizzas.
  • You have a shower and put on your lucky scoring pants.
  • You wait for someone to arrive.
  • You panic because no one’s turned up and it’s now an hour after the time you specified on your invites.
  • You wait for someone to arrive.
  • You start phoning your friends only to be greeted by voicemail.
  • You wait for someone to arrive.
  • Your mates eventually arrive three hours after the party was supposed to have started. They are horribly pissed having been down the pub/club. They bring either a bottle of crap wine or four cans of lager each. Everyone drinks the lager. No one touches the wine.
  • The food is eaten, thrown and stamped into the carpet.
  • A quarter of the women you invited actually turn up. Half of them bring their boyfriends.
  • The men lose the ability to aim.
  • Everyone drinks the wine. And then the strangely-shaped bottles of day-glo alcoholic drink that you've accumulated from the last three holidays.
  • People start to dance.
  • People start to be sick.
  • People start to get leery or, at worst, fight.
  • Everyone gathers in the kitchen (especially if the kitchen is really small).
  • Someone shags someone else under the pile of coats on your bed.
  • The toilet floor becomes a quagmire.
  • The police are called and arrive to tellyou to turn the music down.
  • Everyone drifts away into the night, leaving you to go to bed, satisfied that the party was great success.
  • 47 pizzas that someone else ordered arrive. They've gone home. You pay for the pizzas.
  • You wake in the morning with a hammer-wielding maniac inside your skull and someone else's used condom stuck to your shoulder. Your carpet is composed entirely of broken glass, crushed peanuts and lurid pizza-coloured vomit. Five complete strangers are asleep in your lounge and there is a traffic cone and a bra on top of the television. Your CD collection has been used for beer mats and every cup, glass and plate in the house is covered in cigarette dimps. Your toilet smells like a herring fleet.
  • You promise yourself that you will never, ever, ever have another house party.
  • Every six months you repeat this process until you get a steady girlfriend who then shows you the folly of your repetitive and childish behaviour.

Tell me I’m wrong.

Perhaps the house party is the bloke’s way of attracting a mate - like a bower bird’s nest or a scorpion’s dance? Then, once the female is within his power, he can ply her with offerings of cheap wine and nibbles. After all, alcohol has long been known as a method for lowering some people’s inhibitions and a drunken grope can often be a prelude to the mating ritual. Unfortunately, it’s also a great method for lowering the IQ and too much of it will turn your average bloke into something slobbering and smelly that no self-respecting girl would look twice at. But maybe that’s the idea. Because, from my experience, it was always the not-particularly-self-respecting girl who ended up under the pile of coats on my bed and who, nine months later, I'd see pushing a buggy around Tesco containing a brand new set of genes wrapped up in a fleshy parcel called Wayne or Paige.

The selfish gene has had its wicked way again. A whole new generation of genes has been created. And every one of them carries the genetic instructions to tell their blokes to have a house party.

It's a self-perpetuating nightmare.

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