Once upon a time, a ‘house party’ meant a lot of people you sort of know smoking near some big speakers and trying not to spill Casillero del Diablo on the chaise longue. The AUX cable has been commandeered by a chap who went to Newcastle, and all that’s left in the cupboard is three cans of Old Speckled Hen and a bottle of Creme de Menthe (sounds like a cocktail to me). There’s not enough ice, all the most interesting people are in another room, and suddenly it’s 5am. You may well do a shot of Jose Cuervo from a novelty egg cup. Perhaps a neighbour comes over for a little shout. No ottoman emerges unscathed.
Simpler times. Now, Houseparty means something else entirely. It’s got big new capital letters and bigger ideas — and it’s taking over your Friday night. There are emojis and quizzes and an intimate close up of someone you haven’t seen since prep school, and sometimes, in the halflight of the background, you’ll see a confused parent. This is the modern etiquette guide to the Houseparty app, in all its ghastly glory.
Always make an entrance
“You walked into the party like you were walking onto a yacht,” sang Carly Simon in You’re So Vain (which may have been about Warren Beatty and may have been about Mick Jagger, but was almost certainly about a bloody legend). This remains the spotless ideal of room entering — insouciant, light on your feet, gently sashaying, perhaps in a pair of white trousers.
Yachts are off the menu for now (as, I’m sometimes incorrectly told, are white trousers). But the spirit of the line lives on. Don’t arrive to the Houseparty gormless and staring, your second chin underlit chubbily by the dull glare of your phone screen. Instead, why not start out of frame and then slope rakishly into view, dropping nonchalantly into an armchair in a dangerously-buttoned linen shirt.
Or begin the conversation midway through the 99th press-up of your evening HIIT session, sweat beading artfully like a can of Diet Coke upon your cheeks, a pristine white headband across your mahogany forehead. (“I’ll be with you in a sec, guys!”) Or perhaps finish a wonderful and moving conversation about donating to charity with a friend off screen, pina colada in hand, before turning to the gathered gawkers with a sweet smile and a cheery: “hello, team!” What a man! What an enigma! What an entrance!
Dress to impress
Houseparty is a visual medium. And you never get a second chance to make a first impression. You may think it’s interesting and zany and just so laid back and relaxed to wear your pyjamas past 10am — but at 8pm on a Friday it’ll look gently insane.
Dress with the same attention to detail as you would to any other social event, while allowing yourself a new freedom of expression. You are not constrained by weather, nor dress code, any longer. If, for example, you wish to pair a coral Hawaiian shirt and some louche short-shorts with a double breasted off-white blazer on a torrentially moist Saturday, bat on. But do make an effort (and be careful, in that case, with the vino tinto).
Remember to be succinct
The problem with Houseparty, you’ll find, is that most guests tend to speak over each other constantly, resulting in a garbled and choppy conversation with little flow and very few poignant pauses. Concision, then, is your friend.
My friends and I like to deploy a system of pre-agreed initialisms to speed the flow of conversation. NHBTWM (Nice Haircut By The Way Mate); DYPDCIAWRON (Do you put double cream in a white Russian or not?); and: IWASWHS,NGA,HABAT (I was at school with his sister, nice girl actually, he’s a bit annoying though), have all proven useful for us. You may like to make up your own.
Try to employ visual cues
The Italians, one imagines, are brilliant at Housepartying. Not simply because they’ve had longer in lockdown to practice, but also because they express themselves visually. Facial contortions, gesticulations, emphatic shrugs — these can all help to underline points and encourage a free-wheeling discourse.
We Englishers must learn to be more Italian, or at least get a little creative. A theatrical nod-and-wince is useful when people are saying something sincere, like they’ve run out of Chablis or might lose their job. A well timed salute can lend a sense of solidarity — use it when people talk movingly about the NHS or their latest ASOS find. A large bowl of cacio e pepe, meanwhile, will remind people that your parents have a house in Tuscany.
Learn to embrace the French exit
The one wonderful advantage Houseparty has over a house party is that it so drastically increases your opportunity for a French Exit. (This, in case you’ve been living in, I don’t know, Leicestershire for the past 15 years, is where you leave an event abruptly and without a single goodbye. Some people call it an Irish Exit, but they’re wrong — I have never seen an Irish person leave a party).
Conversation getting boring on screen? Someone talking endlessly about how much they miss the Tate Modern? A sudden one-on-one with a ship broker named Lawrence Chudborough? Pull the rip chord, spirit yourself off to a better gathering, and blame it all on a ropy dial up connection. See you on screen.
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