by Jessica Montgomery
Where are you stood when the music starts?
Are you a Jona Lewie sympathiser, lingering by the makeshift bar in the kitchen? Do you prefer the ‘fresh air’ of the smoking patio, a small sofa in the corner of the room perhaps? Like a horoscope chart, house parties tend to set us all on a scale, our position on it revealing a higher truth. Even if that higher truth is just that we are avoiding our ex in the other room.
Growing up in the age of Skins and the first inkling of the internet, house parties and all the revelry that went with them were a core part of my teenage years. I still remember to this day a clear vignette of myself, redoing my makeup in a strange bathroom whilst wearing an oversized hoody, my school leaving date stamped on the back. Back then – at least for me – boys, MSN and Apple Sourz were the best mediums of self-discovery.
“In a teenage life full of milestones, decisions and continual assessments, coming together to dance and drink was for nothing but sheer discovery and pleasure”
How formative those gatherings were. Lorde knows. She goes so far as to say her first album Pure Heroine was ‘actually set at a house party’. ‘We’re hollow like the bottles that we drain’ she sings in ‘400 Lux’. She paints a world of revelry, of confusion, romance and bittersweet happiness. Like audible growing pains. When you’re young, all the alcohol in the world can’t touch what it is you really need. The baseline of that song (the anthem to your adolescence), the graze against the arm of a guy (that guy), the moment you catch your own gaze in the hallway mirror and the morning after, waking up before everyone else, looking out and seeing dew on the lawn. Just as Ella sings in ‘Royals’, ‘My friends and I—we’ve cracked the code.’
In a teenage life full of milestones, decisions and continual assessments, coming together to dance and drink was for nothing but sheer discovery and pleasure, found together in our lost state of mind.
It wasn’t overnight, but somewhere between the return of Fascism and that second new wrinkle below my left eye, we started putting ‘children/dogs welcome’ on the event info and giving detailed instructions on the parking situation. (Yes, there are spaces by my house, and yes, you will have to pay. This is London. No, I don’t have a guest permit.) Conversations turn from being non-existent – teenage us used to just communicate in in-jokes – to chat about work, money, politics and then a little bit about money again. Tongues dance with pre-thought, everyone waiting for their moment to speak, their moment to shine.
‘So let’s let things come out of the woodwork/I’ll give you my best side, tell you all my best lies,‘ hums Lorde 2.0. We are no longer looking for self-discovery, but reinvention and validation, a chance to prove how far we have come. Holding yard sticks up to one another, our head cocked and eyes squinted just to see how we measure up. This is the new norm. How else do we know how we are getting on in life?
When you’re an adult there are no breakpoints. No chapters. No summer holidays. We have nothing to punctuate our lives except our own measure of progression and success. Some of us bask in this, collecting the compliments like likes, whilst others set themselves on private. Nothing to report, nothing to see here. Feeling the pressure of living up to our online facade of perfection and progress, we replace true connection with our well-rehearsed party pieces. A career, a label and a good social media following are the best mediums of self-actualisation, are they not?