Tales of the City: Teen parties separate the men from the boys

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The Independent Online

It's 10pm in the Café de Paris, London, just off Leicester Square, and the four girls in the spangly top hats are making a bit of an entrance. They emerge from the crowded ladies room like a coven of stylish Valkyries, clad in frankly extreme interpretations of the party's suggested code of "Moulin Rouge", and march down the ballroom stairs into the Oasis party like the Sex and the City girls' sassier younger sisters. You can hear the noise of young male chins hitting the floor as they strut by, all straps and tits and midriff and lip-gloss. The quartet look round the crammed dance floor which will be their kingdom for the next three hours. Where's the army of boys from which they're going to choose a mate before all the parents and taxis arrive? And who are these nervy oiks shyly eyeing them up? Clearly not the suavely confident, boy-band dreamboats they had in mind...

It's 10pm in the Café de Paris, London, just off Leicester Square, and the four girls in the spangly top hats are making a bit of an entrance. They emerge from the crowded ladies room like a coven of stylish Valkyries, clad in frankly extreme interpretations of the party's suggested code of "Moulin Rouge", and march down the ballroom stairs into the Oasis party like the Sex and the City girls' sassier younger sisters. You can hear the noise of young male chins hitting the floor as they strut by, all straps and tits and midriff and lip-gloss. The quartet look round the crammed dance floor which will be their kingdom for the next three hours. Where's the army of boys from which they're going to choose a mate before all the parents and taxis arrive? And who are these nervy oiks shyly eyeing them up? Clearly not the suavely confident, boy-band dreamboats they had in mind...

Welcome to the crucible of English teen mating rituals, the Capital VIP party circuit. The Capital people host six parties every year for 14- to 17-year-olds. Their database of guests includes teenagers from the best schools in the country, including Eton, Harrow, Godolphin & Latymer and Cheltenham Ladies' College. The partygivers charge £30 a head, to be paid by indulgent parents on the understanding that their children will not be able to drink or smoke or take drugs at the party, even though it lasts until 1.30am.

They cannot, however, guarantee that the sexes will not get off with each other in the latter stages of the evening. And when, a couple of years ago, the tabloids splashed pictures of shocking teen behaviour across their pages, the Capital parties picked up a reputation as 500-headed snog-a-thons. I didn't see much of that the other night, nor anything that would upset a fond father. But I saw a display of modern-girl attitude that would scare the pants off any sensitive male youth.

The dance floor was packed and heaving, A video screen played snowboarding scenes, a live band played some indifferent rap, and a big black dancer in khaki fatigues did a display of body-popping as though it was not, in fact, fatally redolent of 1983. It was a cool party. The majority of girls were in strappy tops and skirts, and they held green laser wands which soon disappeared down their cleavages. Many wore corsets, which they hoicked up with thumbs and forefingers, and lots of black lace and feather boas and black satin chokers. It was like a rue St Denis bordello in there, only much ruder than the legendary red-light district. And more and more of them kept on coming down the staircase in gorgeous waves, like troops at the Somme, heading for destruction.

But it was the destruction of the modern male sex they had in mind. The boys were as outnumbered, and out of their depth, as the redcoats at Rorke's Drift. They looked as if they'd been bussed in from their public schools, and persuaded by matron to wear white cotton shirts and dark trousers. (I was instantly pitched back to when I was 13 and made the tiny style error of wearing my school blazer to a parish-hall bop.) The poor boys. Sixteen-year-olds loped about looking appalled by the number of frightening beauties around them, the embarrass de richesse of corseted cuties they had to ask to dance and try to get off with. It wasn't fair. The 14-year-olds looked about nine, and clearly hadn't a clue how you small-talked with girls against 56,000 decibels.

I came back at midnight to pick up some young charges. I expected to find a seething maelstrom of lust and hands-up-skirts carnality. Instead, a few hundred of the girls were jumping up to catch clothing freebies that were being flung over the dancers' heads, The quartet of babes in sparkly hats were still dancing with each other. And little knots of boys were standing around, ignored, faintly aghast, wondering how they could possibly have failed to score when there were eight girls to every boy.

An alarming thing had happened: here was a party where the girls were too gorgeous, too gussied up, too numerous and just too fab to do anything more than admire each other – certainly too fab to contemplate getting off with the couple of dozen white-shirted Etonian stiffs. It was like watching two warring races failing to miscegenate. Sometimes my heart melts for the dressed-down, intimidated, modern teenage boy when confronted with the monstrous regiment of corseted English roses. They're a whole different sex, you know.

Boi-oing, boi-oing ­ it must be Andrew Marr, the neighbourhood bouncer

A popular sight in city gardens this summer has been the sudden appearance of one's neighbours in the air just above their rhododendron bushes. You're sitting in a garden chair with a reviving gin and tonic. Then you hear a strange, boi-oing noise and the face of Gordon, the art teacher from No 92, bounces into view above the trees, his arms up around his shoulders like a priest at Mass, his mouth a-cackle with elation. Gordon, like lots of serious middle-aged Londoners, has reverted to childhood by the simplest means. He has bought a giant trampoline.

Dozens of gardens now reverberate to the noise of straining springs. Andrew Marr, the BBC's political correspondent, got one last week. Liz, the local deputy headmistress, bought one months ago. My own is a recent impulse-buy. It's called a Super Tramp, it's 14ft in diameter, and it stands in the garden like a gigantic, squat, green, four-legged spider. It has been the most enthusiastically received plaything since the dog. You can find my cool, laid back and unimpressable offspring bouncing like dervishes first thing in the morning; and find them still there, bouncing softly, in the dusk. They bounce while reading magazines. They consume plates of biscuits while jigging up and down obsessively. When my youngest daughter had a seventh birthday party, I had to shoo the rabble of small guests off the trampoline and indoors to see the magician. By halfway through his show, 10 had formed an escape committee and were back on the Super Tramp, all performing the Falling Over And Banging Heads manoeuvre.

I've tried it myself and marvelled at how exhausting it is (like running uphill), and how childishly exhilarating, even when you're 14 stone of broken-winded mutton. My small daughter and I do a trick: she sits cross-legged in the middle, holding her feet with her hands, while I start to bounce beside her. At the third bounce, I land just behind her, and she shoots 10 feet up in the air, still impassively seated like a yogic flyer, but in hysterics.

You can bounce naked, bounce with the dog, somersault forward, ditto backward, sweep the legs of unsuspecting children from under them. I defy anyone to remain aloof, grand or bad-tempered while they're bouncing and being waved at by people in gardens 50 yards away. And when you go to sleep on a trampoline in the sun, and feel its light material buoying you up and swaying just slightly under your weight, you realise it's a great elasticated womb you've been playing on. Go get one quick before the summer passes you by.

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