Elizabeth Day: Sorry, can’t make your party; I’m on the sofa in my PJs

There is nothing more dull than someone complaining about how busy they are. Unless, of course, the person you’re talking to then moves on from dissecting their jam-packed schedule and decides to tell you, in intimate detail, about the extraordinary dream they had last night, which turns out not to be extraordinary at all but something really boring about taking an exam while being chased by a man in a balaclava.

So in this column I am not going to complain about how busy and important I am. I have to work in order to pay the rent, and I’m grateful that I get to do something I love. If it occasionally causes me a bit of stress and diary-juggling, then so be it. You do not need to hear me wang on about it.

Jenny Brough

But I’ve come to realise that my busy-ness is not just work-related. In fact, it is made infinitely worse by enforced socialising. There isn’t one night this week where I’m not doing something: a friend’s birthday drinks, a catch-up with a work contact over cocktails, a dinner with former colleagues, a beer with a loved one who is in town having flown in from America, and so on and so forth.

Fitting all of this in is like trying to complete a Rubik’s cube while blindfolded, knowing that if you don’t manage it a kitten will be drowned in a canal. By which I mean: it’s borderline impossible and yet you feel terribly guilty if you don’t manage it.

Modern friendship has, like everything else over the past 50 years, become increasingly connected. We’re constantly texting and phoning each other because we can, and this prompts an expectation that we should see each other more often too. In the past, arranging a meeting took effort. You had to set it up over the landline or in person, write it in your paper diary, and then ensure that you were at the allotted rendezvous on time because you’d have no way of letting the other person know if you were running late.

This meant that when you met up with a friend it had a value that you both respected. It also meant meet-ups were less frequent so you probably had more to talk about. Also, if you accepted an invitation to a party you didn’t really want to go to, you could later excuse yourself by saying you weren’t feeling well or were suddenly being sent to Russia on a cultural exchange programme, and no one would be any the wiser. These days, we can be constantly tracked on social media, running the risk of being found out when someone tags you in an Instagram photo or you accidentally reveal your location on Facebook.

It’s not that I want to be a hermit. I’m lucky to have lovely friends who I want to see. But my time appears to be sucked up by social obligations rather than slobbing out on the sofa watching Netflix, which is actually what I want to do.

Plus there’s the enforced social drinking. To say you’re not drinking leads to raised eyebrows and disappointed looks, as though you’re judging your friends’ life choices. So I knock back the wine and end up with a mild hangover just to avoid looking like a killjoy.

I’ve come to believe that lots of people have children so that they can swerve the pointless socialising. They can’t drink while pregnant and then, once the child is born, they can blame the difficulty of securing a babysitter for the next 16 years. It’s the perfect excuse for self-imposed exile.

In the absence of my own child, perhaps I just need to start booking in evenings with myself. I won’t drink. I’ll watch TV in my pyjamas. And I’ll tell myself in excruciating detail all about my boring dreams.

This week I’m…

Shielding

My face with Murad City Skin Age Defense: an excellent moisturiser that manages to be both light and contain SPF 50.

Drinking

The Cliveden 66. I did an event at the legendary hotel recently and tried this cocktail; flecked with gold and super strong.

Wearing

Anna Mason’s green striped Bardot dress to get me through the summer. Cool, striking – and it has pockets!