No photos please – the joy of undocumented enjoyment
If it was socially acceptable, I would be the person who put "no photos please" on every invitation – to a party, to casual drinks, to dinner or to a night out. No social occasion would be safe from my photographic ban. And before we jump to conclusions, my "no photos" rule isn't about being distracted by one's phone. Heck, any of my friends, family or myriad acquaintances could tell you that I am pretty bad when it comes to "stealthily" replying to texts mid-conversation, or trailing off to respond to a particularly pressing email, tweet or snap. (On the Snapchat front, at least, I have an excuse: "If I don't reply it'll disappear and I'll totally forget, I'm sorry!")
No – my desire to have no photos at social gatherings is actually a little bit more old-fashioned. I just want to enjoy myself – and I want you to enjoy yourself. I'd rather not stop at any point to get a group selfie. I don't want to have to sit up straight and smile and turn my head slightly to the left to show off my better side. (It's ridiculous, I know – but my Instagram doesn't lie. I definitely have a side I prefer, even if I don't realise it!)
No photos – unless they're selfies
Speaking of Instagram, does my desire for no photos make me a hypocrite? Because, let's face it, I don't mind taking photos. I don't even mind taking pictures of myself. The difference, of course, is that when I'm taking a selfie, I can control the angle, the lighting and the number of chins on show. When I'm in a group situation and somebody suddenly tries to take a photograph, I feel caught off guard and unprepared – and why can't we all just enjoy ourselves?!
In a way, I know this is ridiculously vain. What's the worst that can happen, anyway? I end up in a few photographs where I don't look (what I consider) my best. Big deal.
But don't you want something to remember the night?
The thing is, though, I hadn't realised how uncomfortable all this incessant photo-taking makes me until this weekend. I had a few people over for drinks and BYOD (bring your own dish) style dining. I drank two glasses of wine (I'm easing up on my no-drinking rule; don't hate me) and ate copious amounts of cake. We argued about Trump and played a few rounds of Heads Up. The dog spent the evening begging for food; my friend Orla made me a Burn Book cake.
It was fun. I felt happy and relaxed and didn't mind that there were loads of last-minute cancellations (it's a generational thing) or that people fed French bread to the dog.
I haven't felt that way on a social situation in a while. It's down to a combination of reasons, but I usually end up feeling mega stressed and a little anxious. I don't really enjoy group gatherings all that much.
What was so enjoyable about it?
Afterwards, I tried to figure out why. What was different about this social occasion? Why did I have so much fun and so little angst? Even in the buildup, there was way less stress. I only snapped at My Stephen twice (j/k) and didn't once feel like braining the dog. I didn't get into a sweat while making the hummus and I didn't lose the rag when someone (who shall remain unnamed) pilfered a bottle of wine on their way out.
It probably has a lot to do with why I invited people over in the first place: for the first time in a long time, I feel pretty content. I'm calmer than I've been in as long as I can remember and I just care less about what people think of me. But it's also, I realised during my next-day analysis, down to the fact that there were no photos. Not one.
At no point did someone suggest we all huddle together. There was no fake smiling or (my favourite) fake laughing. I didn't have to suck in or tilt to the left or smile with my mouth closed to hide my dead tooth.
Despite the fact that we have no photos from the night, it'll go down as one of my most memorable. I got together with some of my favourite people in the world. We filled our bellies with food, laughter and love – and there is no photo in the world that could capture that feeling anyway.