Gosh it must be nice to be able to rely on yourself in social situations; able to approach people with confidence and conviction; able to sustain conversation without suffering mental exhaustion.
If I’ve not been clear with that punchy intro you just read, I find the pressure to speak to people in crowded social settings a total pain in the brain. The energy it takes to listen to a person, digest what they’ve said, process it, match it with my own knowledge, sort out relevant content to respond with, find a way to articulate it, all in a few seconds… oh it’s a real bother.
And this is why, when I heard about the Andy Warhol inspired evening at The Artist’s Dining Room – ‘a space where creative minds can engage in the ideas of well-known artists through food’ – I said to myself ‘SIGN YOU UP. This should give your social anxiety a run for its money.’ And myself signed me up.
The whole thing sounded like a feeding ground for intellectual arty types who like to paint ideologies and condemn conformity. ‘Located in London’s East-end artistic hub’, the place was sure to be swarming with trendy people who were very good at articulating new ideas and debating old ones. The type who might enjoy a moon cup vs. tampon debate.
All I knew about it was what you know right now. Oh, except I received an email which you won’t get. It told me it was BYO and suggested we dress up in accordance with the Andy Warhol theme of the evening.
What did I wear? I wore a hat and a Technicolour dream coat. What else? All right, shut up, stop asking me. I wore this.
I felt like a massive geek and then my friend told me I didn’t even look like I was wearing anything I wouldn’t usually wear.
I travelled across London in my Andy Warhol inspired garments that I would have apparently sported on a normal day, bottle of wine in hand, and all alone. I pretended I was on my way to a fancy dress swingers party but I’d forgotten to pack my shareable gimp.
When I arrived in East London I was mesmerised. The area seemed extra hip and trendy and arty tonight. Which was certainly intimidating to my lifelong dream of being cool.
Names of bars and pubs out there are nothing less than wonderful.
The venue, Guest Projects, was a little hole in the wall running along the canal. Being Keen Bean Jean, I was the first one to arrive and stood outside in the evening sun, sweating colours until they strictly opened doors at 7pm.
The room was small and looked accommodating to about thirty five. It felt like an intimate wedding for a couple on a budget. Shiny silver foil draped the walls and a screen with some Andy Warhol lookin’ stuff ran on a loop. Some images of his more famous artwork were scattered about the place and there were bananas and pens on the tables like you’d expect at any civilised sitting.
I sat myself directly in the middle of the room, confident that I would be in prime position to mingle and make new friends. At this stage I was feeling quite full of joy; all dressed up in colour, big bottle of wine to myself.
But then forty five minutes passed and the only interaction I’d had was when someone asked me to move so all their many friends could sit together.
I started to feel as small as head lice and as interesting as a hairy leg. Why wasn’t anyone speaking to me?
‘Hello, excuse me,’ someone finally addressed me. I turned to find the Andy impersonator and actor, Bart Barton, standing beside me.
‘Hiii!’ I said way too enthusiastically.
‘Yeah hi, when the song comes on, will you sing along?’ he asked in his Andy Warhol inspired voice.
‘Yeah of course!! When will you be singing?!’ Replied Keen Bean Jean.
‘No. Andy doesn’t sing.’ And he walked away, leaving me alone once more.
Not long after that we were shushed so Andy Warhol impersonator could commence his performance. I was relieved because he took the awkwardness off me and jacked it up on steroids. The music he did his bizarre interpretive dance to was so quiet it sounded like it was playing from an iPhone. And I guess everyone had received the same singalong request as me because we one-tenth heartedly attempted to singalong with double chins.
Finally, after the stellar performance, it was time to eat. The chef, Charlton Nicoll, had constructed an incredibly American themed menu. It was delicious and fattening and it was out of my comfort zone to eat this unhealthily.
Charlie’s Campbell’s Gazpacho
Four Mac n’ Cheese
Hamburger and Slaw
I know what you’re thinking – Jess, you should be a food critic – stop it, I know.
Between each course was another iPhone song performance served with an air of awkwardness. I don’t really think anyone minded that the performance was so odd job though, they just looked at it as an indication that their next dish was on its way.
People eventually spoke to me too. I guess it’s true about food bringing people together. Across from me sat a man in a stripped top, he was the boyfriend of a woman in a matching stripped top. He didn’t want to talk much about himself because he was currently working in recruitment with no interest in working in recruitment. But we spoke about how I was bad at talking and how he was good at it.
Next to me was a nice British woman with a Welsh mother and a Thai father. I knew this because she shared a nice love story about them via verbal exchange. I responded with a small story about how my own parents met and I felt like I was playing conversation tennis because we’d had a rally.
I really do admire people who are good at chat; starting conversations and sticking with them. A lot of my friends are great at it and most drunk people, and a lot of children have the skills too. The amount of times I’ve been asked to share a toilet cubicle with a drunk stranger, or children have just straight up gone and asked me for candy is unbelievable.
My aim is to get better at it and this blog is gonna help a sister out. Zoom!
You can read about The Artist Dining Room here, judge them on how out-of-date their website is and look at attending other dining experiences in the future. And here you go, here is Andy Warhol eating a burger. It’s pretty awks.