Toby Young Toby Young

Status anxiety | 20 December 2008

I discovered the true meaning of Christmas dressed as a gladiator in a Chicago park

It is the closest I have ever come to dying. It was 22 December 1995 and I had flown to Chicago from New York to spend the weekend with my friend Matias before returning to London for Christmas. The day started well: Matias was having a fancy-dress party and in the course of helping him shop for canapés I fell into conversation with a sexy, mischievous girl who worked in the local delicatessen. Her name tag said ‘Kelly’.

Afterwards, I mentioned this girl to Matias — ‘Do you know her?’ — and he urged me to invite her to the party.

‘But won’t it look a bit desperate, going back to the shop with the sole purpose of inviting her?’ I said.

‘Don’t be such a pussy.’

He was right: faint heart ne’er a fair lady won. So I returned to the deli and delivered a bumbling, self-deprecating invitation. To my astonishment, she accepted — and she didn’t even ask to bring a friend.

‘No chaperone?’ said Matias, when I told him. ‘You’re gonna get lucky tonight, my friend.’

Kelly duly appeared at the party, wearing a little white toga. ‘I’ve come as a Vestal Virgin,’ she said, unable to suppress a smile. I took that as a good sign, not least because I was dressed as a Roman gladiator. We were in matching outfits.

After a couple of tequila shots, we hit the dance floor. Kelly was a terrific dancer and, as the night wore on, she became more and more tactile. By midnight I felt bold enough to move in for the kiss and she kissed me back.

‘Do you want to go upstairs?’ I said.

‘Listen, I really want to spend the night with you, but my friend is having this party at a bar downtown and I promised I’d show my face.

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