22 APRIL 2000, Page 46

No life

Going, going, gone

Toby Young

Three months ago, when I moved back from New York to live with my girlfriend on a 'trial basis', I deliberately didn't have a leaving party. It had taken me the best part of five years to ingratiate myself with the gatekeepers of New York society and I didn't want them to think of me as having left in case things didn't work out. I envis- aged a worst-case scenario in which I returned to New York with my tail between my legs and had to start all over again from scratch.

However, now that Caroline has given me the thumbs up, I've decided to have a leaving party after all. The idea is to go back to New York solely in order to leave again, only this time in style. Unfortunate- ly, it's proving quite difficult to arrange since all my friends are under the impres- sion I've already left. For instance, I got an intermediary to approach Graydon Carter, the editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair, to ask him if he'd be willing to host a farewell party for me. Admittedly, this was rather ambitious considering he fired me from Vanity Fair two years ago, but I thought it was worth a try. He declined. 'It would look a bit odd,' he told the intermediary, `considering he left three months ago.'

In the end a very sweet couple offered to throw a party for me on 27 April but it's proving next to impossible to persuade any- one to come. A typical conversation with one of my New York friends goes like this: Me: What are you doing on the 27th?

Friend: Why?

Me: I'm having a leaving party.

Friend: You're leaving London already? Me: No, no, you don't understand. I'm staying in London.

Friend: So why are you having a leaving party?

Me: Because I'm leaving New York.

Friend: But you've already left.

It's becoming increasingly clear that once you've left a place you can't keep going back. It irritates people. I actually went back to New York at the beginning of the month to do my taxes and almost everyone I met said, 'What are you doing here? I thought you'd left.' I felt a bit like an ex- Tory prime minister popping up at the Conservative party conference only to be told he's not really wanted. Once you've gone, you've got to stay gone.

The alternative would be to have a wel- come-back-to-London party but that, too, is fraught with complications. While it's just about socially acceptable to organise your own farewell party, you can't really throw a welcome-home party for yourself, at least not without seeming a bit sad. What would the invitation say? 'Toby Young invites you to welcome home Toby Young at Toby Young's flat in Shepherd's Bush. RSVP Toby Young.'

The sad truth is no one has offered to have so much as a dinner party for me, let alone a party party. My London friends may be dimly aware that I've moved back to England but because I've been living in New York for five years I've ceased to fig- ure in their social calculations. I realise with mounting horror that, in order to claw my way back into their Palm Pilots, I'm going to have to send out a change-of- address card. Until now I've been able to persuade Caroline that the only reason my phone never rings is because all my friends think I'm still in New York. Once the change-of-address card has gone out, I'll no longer have that excuse.

I was complaining about my barren social life the other day to a friend called Charlotte Clark, who runs her own PR company, and she offered to put me on the guest list of The Rock, a trendy new night- club on the Embankment. Seeing a chance to impress Caroline, I readily accepted. On the night in question we trotted along to the Embankment and marched straight to the front of the queue.

`We're on the guest list,' I told the clip- board Nazi manning the velvet rope, flash- ing him my best Hugh Grant smile.

`Which one?' he asked.

`Charlotte Clark's,' I replied.

`Never 'eard of 'er,' he snapped.

On the way back to Shepherd's Bush, having failed to get in, I attempted to per- suade Caroline that such a thing would never have happened in New York where I was on first-name terms with all the most important clipboard Nazis in the city. She wasn't interested. 'I don't give a monkey's that we didn't get in,' she said. 'What does bother me is that you're so bothered by it.' She's right, of course. It's pathetic. On 27 April, when no one turns up to my New York leaving party, I'll have to pretend that I, too, don't give a monkey's.