Thursday, March 02, 2006

Momma's right...there ain't no such thing as a free lunch

I’ve learned in my almost three years in the work world, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Delusional when I was back in college I thought that the real world was just like “Friends” and paper back novels about NYC. Eating at funky restaurants, one of my beautiful friends would whip out her Louis Vuitton wallet and put down her platinum AMEX card and gracefully utter the words, “It’s on the company.” And actually my first encounters with the expense card culture were not unlike my delusional thoughts. Being young, cute, single, and perpetually drunk in NYC, I honestly thought that the business lunch/dinner were comprised of a bunch of old men expensing champagne, dining with me at swank restaurants while having sexy conversations about religion, politics, Art and of course sex. I mean, that is what my mentors exposed me to whenever we went out on to dinner.

One of the main reasons why I took my present job was because of the opportunities to go to lunch on other people’s dimes. And doesn’t it sound like a great idea? Get paid to eat, drink and chat to strangers! Order food without looking on the right side of the menu, get drunk as someone else paid, all the while chatting about interesting thought provoking topics.

Then I had my first vendor lunch. And then I had my second. And then the third.

I’ve become a pro at these lunches and learned that I had to also believe in Santa Clause when I thought someone was going to pay for me to eat awesome food and get drunk as I didn’t have to worry about social acceptability with my leftist opinions. This is the ad world in the US, every opportunity is seen as a network, everyone gossips and working in such an incestuous industry you learn that if you fuck up people will take notice and you will have a reputation. Such as some people who have graced my presence are known in industry circles as drunks, partiers, and sleeping with xyz.

Sitting through enough of these lunches and being a rogue sociologist without a grad program that will accept me, I’ve noticed patterns in behavior. If the group is all women, the conversation will drift towards shopping, if its men, sports reign supreme. It’s always a mundane topic, boring, and leaving me looking into my soup for some type of inspiration to join the conversation.

However, wanting people to learn from the mistakes lessons I never remember, I’ve enclosed the five point cheat sheet for all of you ambitious kids out there. Brush up on these five points, and you would make Emily Post beam with pride. Well, from the grave…and you know that has to mean something especially because we know how hard it is to find sun six feet under.

Pointless “safe” conversation topics that always come up in dinner:

1. TV/Movies: Sounds like a safe bet doesn’t it? And whenever the conversation turns towards this topic, being the TV/Film buff that I am should make it enjoyable and engaging. NOT! (Forgive the Wayne’s World reference.) Forget everything that you know about foreign and Indy movies. I bet nobody at the table saw [Insert obscure German film here]. Mention it, and it looks like you are trying too hard and are borderline pretentious. You cross into pretentious if you say that you saw it without subtitles at the Berlinale when you were taking time off from your stressful college life. Stick to the basics, preferably prime time, major network television. 24, Lost, any reality tv show. My new found interest in tv is rooted in my desire to fit in with my colleagues. I’ve actually begun to treat tv watching as my homework, just like reading Ad Age before bed.

2. Significant Others aka boyfriend/girlfriend: I am the only single person on my brand team. It’s not even like any of them are recently tied to a significant other either. They are all in long term monogamous relationships. The topic comes up every lunch/dinner. “How is _____?” Or the ever infuriating, “Shannon, who are you dating? Anyone special?”

How am I supposed to respond? Oh there was guy #1 who I made out with in the bar on Friday in the bathroom. Not to be confused with guy #2 on Friday who I made out with after I danced on the table. I was slightly classier with him where I brought him home. I mean, a girl can only have so much PDA in one night!

The girls gush about the cute quirks of their boyfriends and then talk about their hopes when and how he pops the big question. I sit there and feign interest while trying to figure out if guy #2 from Friday could be counted as a date since I did bring him home and he paid for my drinks.

You want to succeed in the corporate world? Get a boyfriend/girlfriend. You want the girls to be envious of you in the corporate world? Get a big fucking ring, because after we meet someone with a big rock, we talk about her and the ring for days.

3. Hobbies: And no drinking doesn’t count. Even if you are an alcohol connoisseur like me. Talk about the subtleties of a nice scotch, and you like an old man or a drunk…with very expensive tastes. Stick to safe things that everyone enjoys and denotes good breeding: tennis, squash, sailing, reading Oprah’s book club books (but you have to hate Frey). Again, its slim pickings when I can find someone who has read Bordeiu and can discuss the difference in theses when compared to Weber.

4. Shopping: Eating with women? Better know where the Pucci sample sales are. I recommend Daily Candy.

5. Travel: We all have been to some pretty nifty places. Well, unless you are those angry asses who accused me of being a classist bitch in my “Humble Moment” post. I bet you guys have never even traveled outside the country. Anyway, stick to destinations that would be in Newsday as opposed to Travel and Leisure. Cruises to the Caribbean are fine. So are trips to Europe, but not hostelling. Allude to staying at three star hotels. If you are executive management, you could get away with four stars. But again, if you mention staying at the Manderin Oriental you come off as pompous and arrogant.

Did you notice that I didn't mention business? Don't be the loser who has nothing to talk about except for work. Just because you live at your office doesn't mean that everyone has to know. The beauty of NYC: none of us have lives outside the office, we cultivate interests so we appear more interesting.

The above reasons are why I am usually silent at dinner and never talk about my personal life…nobody believes that the shit happens to me. Hell, I wouldn’t even believe that half the shit happens to me! Learn from me. Oh yea, and it should go without saying, never have more than 2.5 drinks at dinner because even if you can handle your liquor you’ll still look like the office drunk.


At 2:43 PM, Blogger AWE said...

You forgot to watch the kind of drinks you are ordering. If you ask if the tequila has a worm in the bottle the people at the table are going to think that you just got out of college.

Oh, I forgot. If the bartender recognizes you, don't go out to eat with them.

At 2:05 AM, Blogger Hæ★ said...

Baby, you forgot sports. Women need to be able to talk about sports.

Recently, I'm told, this involves "golf."

I can talk about baseball. Although, not being a Yank fan in NY that wouldn't serve me very well. . .

Still, darling, S-P-O-R-T-S-- and not "water sports."


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