I’m sure I can spare you the details of how this pandemic has curtailed what it means to be young. Without parties, binge-drinking, clubbing, casual sex, and bars, who even are we? Many of us will have spent the past year mourning a sizable portion of our youth, time that we’ll never get back. But perhaps, in all this time, we’ve also had the chance to adapt—and I don’t mean by making perfect banana bread, mastering yoga, or learning three languages. I mean adapting to a new way of partying—one that doesn’t involve swathes of sweaty strangers crammed into tiny spaces with sticky floors and overpriced drinks. A way of partying featuring a greatly reduced guestlist, relatively clean floors, and cheap drink. Ultimately, a more intimate kind of partying.
Since last March, young people everywhere have been reinventing the party. Through three national lockdowns, countless changes in government guidance, and a lifetime supply of anxiety, we’ve found new, safe ways to keep our social lives alive. Here are some events my housemates and I organized to keep ourselves sane during these unprecedented times. Feel free to copy and paste a few of these onto your own social calendar because, let’s be honest, there’s fuck all else to do.
- The Classic Zoom Quiz
In the first lockdown, back when phrases like “self-isolation,” “COVID-19,” and “social distancing” still seemed novel, Zoom quizzes were all the rage. At this miserable point in time, they were the only way we could interact with friends as we were entrapped within the confines of family homes in our stifling hometowns. I took the liberty of honing my proficiency in PowerPoint to create an elaborate quiz for me and the three friends I’ve spent the past few years living with. It was, of course, littered with inside jokes, playful digs, and fond memories from a better time. I even included a “who’s who” round which contained images and clues pointing to iconic individuals who have briefly graced our lives—either with their sheer magnetism and charisma, or because they were shagging one of us.
It was, above all, an opportunity to get drunk and have a laugh with friends—even if it did have to happen from our respective childhood bedrooms. We all know that virtual meetings don’t come close to the real thing, but when restrictions are really tight and risks are high, I’ll take a drunken Zoom quiz any day.
2. Cheese and Wine Night
Cheese and wine evenings have always been a staple in our household’s social calendar. It’s an excuse to overspend and overindulge in an array of cheeses and way too much wine. If we’re feeling extra decadent, it’s even an excuse to get dressed up—something which seems especially poignant now that restaurants are closed and formal events are nowhere to be found. Although our kitchen can never live up to the grandeur of our college dining hall, there’s still some whimsy in teetering about in heels, washing blue cheese down with red wine amongst good friends. The major perk is that it really doesn’t matter how wine-drunk you get, or how quickly “teetering” becomes toppling—because the only people there to judge are your nearest and dearest. It’s true that there’s far less social pressure to perform and adhere to unspoken etiquette rules when the members of your party have all seen you ugly cry and endured hangovers with you. And you can dress as extravagantly, or as scantily, as you want without worrying about the creepy reception of the male gaze or the weather; there’s no rainy walk home at the end of it all to ruin your perfect eyeliner. In fact, there’s no anticlimactic, long walk home at all, as bed is but a few steps away! Pandemic parties entirely remove the “how do I get home?” stress and it’s a comfort I’m going to miss.
The slightly more niche perk is that the discretion of our little cheese and wine evening enabled a chaotic episode of sprinting around our college gardens, naked under the glow of a full moon, carrying candles to light our way. The only things keeping us warm were a threadbare synthetic blanket and one too many bottles of Merlot. It was wonderful! And those kinds of intimate, spontaneous moments are not as feasible when you have to observe the social etiquette of a run-of-the-mill night out.
3. Fake Formal
To replicate the formal dinners our college used to put on every Friday, we pushed our kitchen tables into a long line and evenly spread candles along it. (It’s never the same level of ambience, but we give it our best.) We split into small teams and made what turned out to be a very impressive three-course meal. I’ll take this moment as a chance to humble-brag about the banoffee pie my housemate and I cheffed up. It was easily the best course, so it’s a shame some of us were too wine-drunk by dessert to remember eating it.
What we lacked in ambience, we made up for in getting drunk and scream-singing “Chelsea Dagger”—something that never would’ve happened at our more refined college formals. Plus, the pleasure of cooking for friends is huge! There’s something truly gratifying about serving up a plate of carefully prepared (and nutritionally questionable) food to your pals, even if they don’t remember eating it.
4. Pub Quiz, Bingo, Bucket of Doom
Easily our most ambitious and elaborate night of organized fun yet, Pub Quiz, Bingo, Bucket of Doom will be our first official event of the third UK lockdown. We’re blessed to be back at college, so naturally we’re determined to make the most of it. Not only have we ordered a keg from a local brewery, but two of my housemates have gone to the trouble of home-brewing a stout to really go the extra mile in transforming our student-accommodation kitchen into a salubrious but classically British pub. We’ve even been on the hunt for decor in an attempt to resurrect the carefree pint of bygone days. I even created an e-vite for this event—just to make our very select guests (who live with me) feel, you know, extra special. Every party we’ve had during this pandemic has been a V.I.P, invite-only party with a tiny guest list. As much as I’m a social butterfly that thrives off the buzz of crowded rooms where we can mingle maskless and freely with semi-strangers and attractive acquaintances, these smaller parties do come with their own brand of fun.
At the time of writing, this event hasn’t happened yet. It’s in three days and, oh boy, have we been counting down. Now that letting off steam is limited to these isolated, heavily planned events, we really appreciate them—more than we ever did the weekly club nights and formals. Plus, there’s something very satisfying about organizing your own fun. If nothing else, we’ll be coming out of this pandemic experts in event management.
By Alice Garnett
Illustration by Alexa Flores