Time for a change?

The Gatecrasher: Dec. 2009/Jan. 2010

An interesting study was once carried out in New York regarding the effects a person’s environment has on their behaviour. A rough district, stuffed with loitering hoodies, run down tenement blocks, wrecked cars and graffiti was cleaned up: The graffiti was wiped from the walls, the council towed the burnt automobiles away, buildings were spruced up and the police stamped down on public associations of menacing looking youths. Suddenly the area was a nice place to live, and what did the watching sociologists observe?

As the district began to look smarter, so people started to behave with a greater community spirit: Young men who, when their milieu had looked like a slum, wouldn’t have thought twice about kicking one more window in after a night out, now could be seen separating their rubbish into the relevant recycling wheelie bins, helping old ladies across the street and generally behaving as if they were model citizens. The lesson? Improve peoples’ environs and even the basest elements of humanity will undergo some kind of elevation.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Now, I am not a base element – just ask my mother –: I hold my knife and fork correctly, I went to the best educational institutions in Britain, I know my Korngold from my Schoenberg and I have a vague idea of what trouble the beauty of Helen got the world into. In short, I should be pretty much an updated and souped up Byron: erudite, witty and a dab hand with the ladies.

Well, maybe I was – once – but the problem is, that I have now become rather an oaf. Why? Habitual and excessive gate crashing. Let me explain.

What has happened to me is the very reverse to what those louts in New York went through. Thanks to their local council sprucing up their environment, they began to feel like model citizens. Thanks to my constant efforts to break into other peoples’ parties I have begun to feel and behave like a pariah and, what is more, a pariah who has carte blanche to do exactly what he pleases.

When I gatecrash, I am far too uninhibited. Because nobody knows me, it is easy to disregard all the conventions of social intercourse: In short, I can be as outrageous as I like. Speaking to anyone other than a babe, I throw my eyes around, all too obviously searching for somebody more interesting. If someone becomes too dull, I simply walk off with little explanation. My conversation is entirely for my own pleasure, discussing what I find interesting and telling the jokes that I find funny.

And that’s not the worst of it.

I have started to become a dreadful lout who, when pushed to stay at a party he was actually invited to, would quickly develop kleptomaniac tendencies. Years of taking free drink and food for granted has left me unsatisfied. Why after all, if one has been eating comestibles uninvited, should one not actually take something home?

Naturally, I started with the odd bottle of booze, and my drinks cabinet is now stuffed with bottles of champagne taken from the staff fridges of various events, not to mention bottles of vodka obtained at the recent design week.

The thrill of nicking a bottle, no matter how pricey, soon began to wear off however. Now my flat is littered with random objects taken from various social events: there are boxes of appropriated glasses (of course), Viennale diaries, two deluxe L’Oreal designer bags nabbed from a premium fashion event, a huge tray on which an enormous platter of cheese used to rest (eaten by yours truly over the course of two weeks) and even the clock that used to sit in the Burgtheater Kantine.

There is an addictive quality to such behaviour. Gatecrashing may have started as a means of pulling a bird and getting pissed on the cheap, with the odd bit of petty theft and social buffoonery coming along with the territory. Now it has become much more than that: now it exists for its own sake.

When my friends and I pull on our glad rags to march into someone else’s soiree, it is with the express intention of committing outrage, of making fun of other guests, womanizing absurdly and at times cruelly, and stealing as much clobber as we can get away with. Not only have I become, at times, little better than a thief, but – far worse – someone who would never actually be invited to a party.

So why am I telling you this? Well, given the New York example, I need to change my surroundings: Hang out for once with some cultivated non-gatecrashers – even if they are a bit boring – pay my way at a party or two, force myself to engage some of my fellow guests in conversation and even – and this will be hard – treat the girls with some respect.

To that end, together with my more intellectual friends, I am spending this Saturday evening at the (highly aristocratic) Maltese ball in Venice. So far my reformation looks promising: I am in the right company, I have the 200 smackers needed for entry on my kitchen table and I am feeling tender towards the innocent beauties of the Italian Maltese.

Tune in next issue to find out how it went!

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