Dolly's blog: The Office Christmas Party
This year was my 25th office Christmas party. Pray for me, for nothing says “Party time!” like a room full of balding lawyers doing dad dancing in a suit.
In my 20s I happily admit that the office Christmas party one of my annual highlights. In those days I knew everyone, and the hotel part of the night was really just a warm-up for the after party in some night club or other, the entire next day spent in bed recovering. The trainee solicitors performed a revue which gently (sometimes not so gently) mocked the partners and in which the only thing worse than being featured was being deemed too dull to be featured. Partners knew they’d really made it when some sort of prop denoting their character was passed from one generation of trainees to the next. Were grievances filed? Probably. But it was fun.
And then… the young children years. Less fun. By this decade people were actually getting properly dressed up (even the men) whilst (heading in the opposite direction) I hit rock bottom the year I was so exhausted that I dragged the burnt out shell of my former self to that year’s hotel in a musty suit doubtless speckled with both food and child vomit.
Things improved when I realised I’d have much more fun if I booked a last minute hotel room in town, stayed later than 9pm and saved myself the (by this stage very long) commute home. By this point the after party was me, dancing solo around my hotel bedroom, bemused by the Japanese loo, screaming when I accidentally soaked myself with it, and utterly delighted when I realised I could also use the heated seat to dry my pants (I'd forgotten to pack spares so washed them in the sink with rather nice smelling soap). That was living.
Then Covid of course. Dark times. And last year’s train strike. Grr.
And now it’s now! I’m back! Ignoring intrusive thoughts that my new dress was emitting bridesmaid vibes, I made my entrance to a swanky place on Park Lane, attempting a “worked here for years but still got it” nonchalance that was utterly destroyed when the fish tail of my new dress got stuck in the revolving door.
Styling it out, I made an urgent beeline towards a solitary familiar face in a sea of unknowns. “We’re almost the only people here in our 50s” she observed, taking a deep gulp of fizzy white wine. Glossing over the fact I’m not quite 50, I had to agree. Having once been the bright young things leading the charge, we were now officially old.
Determined to focus on the positives, I threw myself into a sit-down meal with people I’d never met before, couldn't hear over the background noise, and had no idea who I was. Three courses and a bottle or so of wine later I triumphantly finished my “And that’s why you should never marry a soldier!” diatribe. Turns out I was sat next to someone who had literally just married a soldier. Awks.
Luckily the dance floor beckoned! I’d already missed the restrained and self-conscious dancing phase. The floor was descending into carnage - the fun bit - and a guy from business services was grabbing his crotch in some sort of dance tribute to Michael Jackson. Hold my beer… my moment had come.
There was no conga line this year and, in a disappointing departure from historic childishness, no one either ripped their shirt buttons off or wrapped their tie around their head. My knees were sore and the number of times I’ve danced to Wham’s “Wake me up” must surely now be reaching four figures (I did my air stewardess smile and dug deep). There was another awks moment when the DJ started playing Run DMC, I whooped for joy and made some shapes, until the dancefloor emptied and the DJ abruptly switched to another tune I’d never heard of. Truly, I was dancing on my own.
But casting such humiliations aside, I realised that I will never, ever, tire of watching some of the greatest legal minds of their generation doing the Beyoncé shimmy.
And then they played Taylor Swift. I love her with every fibre of my being and so does everyone in my team. Linking arms in a huge circle with a team built through blood, sweat and tears, everyone was word perfect, our genuine affection for one another was palpable, and life was good.
And so this is Christmas. Am I too old to be one of the last standing on the dance floor? Probably. But if my knees hold out then I’m going to do it anyway.
After 19 years of fee earning, Dolly now works in a management role in a London law firm. Working four days a week she is supported by a wonderful (though often absent) husband as they attempt to bring up three children aged 16, 14, and 12. A lockdown puppy adds to the chaos but keeps her sane.