Róisín Ingle on . . . party pow-wows


W hen I think about why I don’t like parties it all comes down to this: I don’t like standing up when I can sit down. And also this: I don’t like to mingle. In my experience standing up and mingling form the basis of a lot of parties. Standing up and mingling and, lately, having chats about homophobia, that’s a party. Back when I went to quite a lot of parties it used to be property prices, so conversations about homophobia are quite a massive improvement I think.

My nickname at a previous job, when I was very much married, was Róisín Ingle She Thinks She’s Still Single. Even though that implied I was lacking in the fidelity department, I didn’t mind that as much as my other nickname, Róisín Ingle She Likes to Mingle. Because I don’t. What I like to do is to sit in one place, preferably at a table, with a glass in front of me, within arm’s reach of some nice biscuits and talk to one, maximum two people in my immediate vicinity. That’s as much mingling as I like to do. If I have to mingle, let it be with the cheeseboard. Specifically, the brie.

Nobody believes me and I can’t say I blame them but the truth is I’m a bit shy. Parties are not easy places for the shy, even the ones that come cunningly disguised as social butterflies. The other reason I don’t like parties is you never know who is going to be there and Dublin town is too small a town to avoid surprises. At this party, I was fine, having found myself a comfortable spot on the sofa, when I was introduced to someone who said “we’ve met before” with what I judged at the time was a kind of malice, but I couldn’t be sure. And all the joy I’d been feeling about having a seat and not having to mingle evaporated.

We’ve met before. Oh, brilliant. But where? Why not say, “we’ve met before, you know, in the noodle place on Amiens Street.” Or “we’ve met before, in the Hacienda, off Capel Street. You were being slaughtered at darts. And pool.” But no, she just left it hanging there in the air while I sweated it out.

I decided to stay as sober as possible to avoid any potentially awkward moments with the woman I’d “met before”. I was employing the one plain, one purl approach to alcohol, which is sort of the opposite of neknominations. You have one plain drink (water) and then one purl (wine), so that you stay relatively on top of things. But I kept getting given out to for not drinking so I was purling it more than plaining it. I realised where I knew the woman who had met me before from. Her organisation had asked me to speak at an event and I had agreed and then at horribly short notice I had backed out, causing them a big headache. I looked at her and remembered the fear I felt at the thought of standing on a stage and talking without notes about something deeply personal. I chickened out by email, didn’t have the decency to say it in person. And now she was here in front of me and I was ashamed.

I ended up sitting with her outside, not mentioning the war, enjoying her company, appreciating her not bringing up the source of my fading embarrassment. She talked about her mother who had died and we bonded and I stopped feeling ashamed of my cowardly no-show. And later I got into a heated discussion about homophobia. The word that all of a sudden dare not speak its name.

I think for all the pain and anxiety the whole surreal episode must be causing Panti Bliss/Rory O’Neill, a person who can stand on the Abbey stage without notes and speak his truth, and make the world and Madonna take notice, a person who never chickens out, I think for all the pain and the mess, the fact we’re talking about it at parties has to be a good thing.

Even if I don’t know, will never know, what homophobia really means, having not had any homophobia directed at me. We don’t need to experience racism to recognise it. Same with homophobia I reckon. It’s not that hard to spot. You get that unsettling feeling when it occurs, the feeling that people are being thought of as less than you, less worthy for a reason as arbitrary as the colour of their skin or whom they choose to kiss, and deep down in your core it just feels wrong.

Don’t get me wrong. I still prefer a nice sit down and I’m not mad about the mingling but these days people are talking about homophobia at parties and that’s a good thing. It really is.

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