- One of the worst nights of my life [admittedly not as bad as when they attached live electrodes to my testicles] started one day in 1972 with a phone call from a girl I knew, inviting me to a West London show. We both lived close to the capital in rural Essex and moved in a circle of comfortable families: Dads who worked in The City or were captains of industry or substantial farmers or professionals of other denominations. We agreed to meet at Chelmsford railway station a few afternoons later. As we waited for the train, Maggie explained that the parents of her best friend from Chalet School had secured six tickets to Jesus Christ Superstar and invited Maggie and her plus-one. With heedless brutal 'honesty' of privilege, she continued to explain that I was the 4th bloke on her list of people to invite. hmmmmm? We met in a pub near the Palace Theatre on Cambridge Circus and everyone was delighted to see each other, the other girl had an integrated boy-friend and the parents wanted to catch up with Maggie and the girls want to natter about their pals and nobody had the slightest interest in me. The show was okay because we were all facing forward and not expected the talk but afterwards there was an excruciating meal in a fancy restaurant. After the starters, I looked at my watch to see if I could make the last train towards home but being callow and out of my social depth lacked the courage to stand up and walk out. The ordeal continued through the night because Maggie and I had been invited to sleep in the other people's London flat. After tea and toast the next morning, I left and never spoke to Maggie again.
- About ten years ago, The Beloved and I were invited to the wedding of a pal of mine from work. I think the invitation said "Bob and partner". The Boss was invited as well but she came alone because her husband hated Work's Dos and she was happier without him being at the same table all miserable. An Other Chap from the Lab turned up with a woman from home-down-the-country who, it transpired, he'd invited to a number of similar events. It was a nice day, we were at the Her Workmates table for the reception but there were some other folk in that bin as well and it was great to bear witness to the nuptials of a friend. There was probably dancing later on but we left in the early evening to relieve the baby-sitter. A very few years later we were at another rollicking knees-up when the Other Chap celebrated his civil partnership CP with his bloke. It was in the brief period when gay couples could settle their financial interdependence with a CP but before we voted for Marriage Equality [bloboprev]. We've come on a long long way in the last decade in recognising that not all relationships are monogamous, heterosexual and permanent.
- About 25 years ago, The Boy had just left school and secured a job with Ryanair before it got to be the global behemoth it has become. He was a Ground Handling Agent GHA which had a very wide job description: The Boy slung bags in the hold; drove the little train of baggage cars to the terminal; drove the toilet-emptying shit truck; batted the planes in to their standing; carried the loading bill to the Captain and loaded the appropriate amount of fuel in the tanks. After he'd worked there a few months he was well fit. Michael O'Leary, the boss, had a cunning publicity plan, called Muscles from Brussels, to celebrate the opening of a new Ryanair hub at Charleroi. 1994 was a totally sexist time. Ryanair's 'hosties' and check-in were all female and on the glam side, the GHAs were all male because they did a lot of heavy lifting. Muscles from Brussels was cast as a competition: the blokes had to get their tops off and those with the best six-pack [prev] would be flown with their girl-friends for a photo-shoot in Charleroi, have a night in a hotel and then fly back to base in Dublin. Fair enough. The Boy got his kit off and his abs passed muster and he was told the day for departure. Unfortunately, he was between girl-friends and all the women he knew were tied up [nnnggg nnngg] elsewhere on that weekend. He tried approaching random girls in a night-club but was turned down flat by them all . . . despite, or perhaps because of, him showing them the winning muscles. At the last minute, his pal Sergio said he was up for a free trip to Europe and a bit of craic in Belgium. And it was so. Even in those heterosexual times, the management didn't dare revoke The Boy's ticket. But it put a bit of constraint on the part of the photo-shoot where the boys and their girls posed together looking fit and glamorous . . . just like potential customers would be if they flew to
the-arse-end-of-nowhereCharleroi to attend a meeting in Brussels.
So here's a suggestion. Dump the whole idea of Plus One. Ask your pals to your wedding. If they're your pals, you'll know whether they are hooked up at the moment. If you don't know, and can't be bothered to find out, then why not shorten the guest list, save yourself €80/head and not put some poor stand-in through the expense and trouble of Being There for someone they've never met. And while we're about it, could we stop plonking spouses and partners at the same table? We know them. Apart from Bearing Witness, which I believe in, weddings [and funerals and christenings] are about networking and meeting new and interesting and different people.
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