Tis the season for enforced fun, where a slew of invitations – from themed office Christmas parties to secret Santa swapping ceremonies and awkward family reunions around a board game – can make you secretly want to run for the hills.
This week, actor Dominic West shined a light on the topic, claiming that the theatres in London‘s West End are currently teeming with people who pay for seats because it’s part of the ‘tourist trail’ and they simply want to say they’ve seen the hottest play in town.
The actor, 54, who’s set to star in a regional touring production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge in 2024, suggested that the capital’s big-ticket productions often attract audiences who ‘are not necessarily there because they want to be there’.
The list of pursuits, events and trends that we feel we should sign up to – because everyone else seems to be raving about them, and FOMO (Fear of missing out) is real – seemingly knows no bounds.
Some have even suggested that instead of bucket list, it should be called a ‘f*** it’ list.
Do people go to the theatre because they can’t bear the FOMO? Dominic West this week revealed he prefers performing in regional theatres because it’s not the ‘tourist trail’ of London’s West End (West pictured performing in the play ‘The River’)
Here, FEMAIL asked people to be candid about the things they wish they could swerve – from organised work fun to fine dining – in favour of a packet of crisps and the telly…
HELL IS A HEN PARTY: ‘ONE-WAY TICKET TO SOCIAL AND FINANCIAL ANXIETY’
Allison Martin, 50, is a writer from Yorkshire. She says she’d happily send hen parties to Room 101…
Writer Allison Martin can’t stand the booze-fuelled intimacy of hen parties, where women who barely know each other are forced together in the name of the bride
‘Hen parties. If there is a hell it won’t be fire and brimstone, it’ll be filled with women in matching attire necking Prosecco via penis-shaped straws.
‘Worse case, it’s not just one evening, it’s a whole weekend at a spa, or in Ibiza, forced to overdrink and play ‘overshare’ games with women you would, under normal circumstances, barely nod ‘Hello’ to at the cheese counter in Sainsbury’s.
‘I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid, pleading poverty, disease, bereavement [my dog has died several times and I don’t even have a dog].
‘But, if all that fails due to a particularly persistent maid of honour, you’re left with social and financial anxiety as you contemplate the cost of booze, accommodation and an outfit you’ll never wear again.
‘My advice, spend more on the booze than the outfit, which will, at least, provide an anaesthetic to help you power on through the nightmare.
‘One of the upsides to being 50? Friends are more likely to be getting divorced than married.’
FESTIVE POP-UP ICE SKATING: ‘AN INVITATION FOR A XMAS INJURY’
Holly Green, 40, from West Sussex says the annual arrival of dicey rectangles of ice fills her with dread…
Yuletide danger: Author Holly Green, 40, says stepping out on a pop-up ice rink rarely delivers the fun it promises
‘Every year these tents pop up all over the place that contain an ice-cube worth of ice space to skate on.
‘First up you have to put on a pair of boots someone else has just removed, then you hobble to the ‘rink’, taking in the faux ski chalet aesthetic (mainly underdressed trees and fake fires), only to step on and remember the last time you skated was 30 years ago and now you’re more concerned about breaking an arm or leg.
‘You ‘skate’ (or hang on to the side hoping you don’t slip) around once, as people who have practiced for this moment all year pirouette past you at high speed.
‘You finally do your lap, only to realise – this is it; you’ve paid for an hour of going around and around in painful shoes, afraid you’ll slip over. And people look at you oddly when you ask for one of the penguins to hold onto.
‘You finally get off the rink, remove the awful boots, looking forward to treating yourself to a little alcoholic ‘apres ski’. Only to discover that a thimble of mulled wine costs a tenner.’
FANCY RESTAURANTS: ‘DOES ANYONE USE THAT MUCH CUTLERY AT HOME?’
Journalist Samantha Rea, 32, would happily abandon fussy cutlery in favour of a bowl and spoon…
Fancy restaurants mean several sets of cutlery to contend with, which journalist Samantha Rea admits she’d happily forgo
‘When I am in company, I pretend to be a civilized person, at ease with eating my food from a plate, with a knife and fork, as anyone with basic manners would.
‘At home, however, I only ever eat with a spoon, out of a bowl. No matter what I am eating, I cut everything up on the chopping board, and throw it all in a big bowl. Then I eat it with a spoon, shovelling it in while I am watching TV.
‘It could be steak and ale pie with vegetables and gravy – into the bowl it goes! It might be a mackerel fillet with chickpeas and salad – I’ll sling it all into a bowl and drown it in olive oil. Chicken breast with tomato, avocado and butterbeans? I’ll have that in a bowl thanks! All mushed together!
The writer says eating out is always fun…but has to put on a ‘civilised facade’ and would rather be at home having dinner in bed
‘I can’t bear the feeling of fork prongs on my mouth, especially on the inside of my lower lip. Even when I’m putting on a civilized facade in company, I’ll discreetly check that the prongs of my fork are in alignment before using it. If there’s a wonky prong, I’ll subtly swap my defective fork.
‘However, the overriding reason that I eat all my food from a bowl, with a spoon, is that I am operating in Goblin Mode. Dressed in oversized pyjama bottoms and several thermal tops, I’ll toss my food into my mouth without pausing, allowing me to fully focus on Karate Kid spin-off Cobra Kai, or any other competitive sport themed Netflix comedy.
‘Of course, going out to dinner is fabulous, but eating at home in bed is so much easier.’
CHRISTMAS LIGHT TRAILS: ‘WHY ARE WE PAYING TO TRUDGE THROUGH MUD?’
Kate Chapman, 45, from Spalding in Lincolnshire, is over festive illuminations…
Following a festive light trail sounds like fun…but Kate Chapman admits she’d happily skip the Christmas tradition
‘I’m going to sound like the Grinch, but I can do without trudging around the excessively expensive Christmas light trails, which there seem to be more and more of each festive season.
‘We paid a lot of money to visit one a few years back – my kids moaned the whole way round, complaining they were cold and bored. It was incredibly muddy and they refused to pose for any photos with the displays.
‘And then on top of the hefty ticket price we then had to pay extra for expensive hot chocolates, marshmallows to toast on the firepits and other snacks, not to mention the mini funfair which was there too.
‘I’ve been once, so now I’m more than happy to curl up in the warm with my PJs on and a homemade hot chocolate safe in the knowledge I’m not missing out on anything – I can see from everyone else’s pictures on social media that beside the odd new additions, the displays are pretty much the same as in previous years anyway!’
TRENDY FOOD HALLS? ‘THEY’RE AKIN TO A GASTRONOMIC SACK OF ROME’
Faith Eckersall, 57, from Hampshire, likes the idea of communal dining in fashionable food halls – but says expectation and reality are very different things..
A posh cheese toasty for £12, while you sit on a draughty bench and someone else’s pet tries to snaffle it? Faith Eckersall says non, merci
‘The idea is that you and your mates will relax in a foreign city, snacking on the local cuisine, enjoying a well-earned tipple and feeling yourselves to be cosmopolitan.
‘My experience has been more akin to a gastronomic Sack of Rome; massive, shouty crowds, where everyone is so desperate to attract the server’s attention that you are more likely to sink your teeth into someone’s stray elbow (because it’s so crowded they are draped over your 2.5 inches of bar-top) than the overpriced morsel of food that you purchased, which costs the same as a three-course dinner anywhere else.
‘It’s the same with street food – I love the idea but the reality often involves paying £12 to perch on a draughty outdoor bench, eating a posh cheese toasty or the world’s smallest carton of calamari, whilst attempting to fend off the ravenous pet pooch of the people sitting next to you.’
SECRET SANTAS? ‘WHY DO GROWN UPS PLAY THIS BIZARRE GIFTING GAME?’
Rebecca Tidy, 36, an academic researcher from Falmouth, Cornwall, says she’s not looking forward to another round of family board games and secret Santas…
Bored of board games…Rebecca Tidy, an academic researcher from Cornwall, says the prospect of 48 hours of seasonal traditions leave her cold
‘The worst part of Christmas has to be the enforced family fun that accompanies the so-called season of goodwill.
‘Normal life grinds to a halt in favour of two full days of pointless chatter; endless board games and tipsy house guests.
‘I desperately wish I could skip the whole stressful affair and replace it with – well – anything, really.
‘Whether it’s listening to distant relatives argue over Scrabble or enduring a three-hour round of prize bingo, it’s hard to imagine much worse than 48 hours confined to a small space with people you studiously avoid for the rest of the year.
‘And don’t get me started on the entire Secret Santa debacle. I find it hard to comprehend why anyone thinks it’s a good idea to dedicate hours to picking the ideal present.
‘Let’s not forget that we’re all grown-adults in this bizarre gifting game. In reality, nobody ever needs – or even likes – what they unwrap. Call me curmudgeonly, but I’d much rather an old-fashioned donation to a charity or community group.’
‘FUN’ AWAY DAYS
Sunita Thind, 41, from Derby says paying £60 for a sporty weekend trip left her wanting to run for the hills…
Former teacher Sunita Thind, from Derby, says sporty weekends designed to help you bond with colleagues are her idea of hell
‘I was working as a teacher and the idea for a sporty weekend away was mooted amongst staff.
‘Not only would it mean tackling obstacle courses, running through mud and having to compete in a whole host of other activities – but I’d have to pay £60 for the pleasure, and it would be on a weekend.
‘Some colleagues loved the idea of it but I had to really grit my teeth and resented having to pay for it.
‘The low point? Being ‘accidentally’ pushed over on a mud-filled trail and being left drenched and fuming! I won’t lie, some of it was funny but it wasn’t how I’d have planned to spend a weekend.’