Office Parties

My complacency was shredded at a Friday night Shabbos meal.

“I invited some coworkers,” the husband explained when I dialed up for a meal. “They were curious about how the Jewish Sabbath thing works.”

“Should be interesting,” I said. “Doesn’t perturb me in the slightest.”

Little did I know how perturbed I was going to be.

In the end only one coworker came, with his girlfriend. “Joe didn’t want to come,” the husband explained. “He didn’t have anyone to come with.”

I was puzzled.  “What are we, chopped liver?”

“No,” the host explained, “It’s just that non-Jews don’t go to parties if they don’t have someone to go with them.”

I continued to look puzzled.

“Like a girlfriend.”

I was still puzzled. “Did you tell him you were going to have single, unescorted women here, and we’re totally unselfconscious about it?”

He smiled indulgently. “In our culture that’s normal. He feels weird going somewhere alone.”

Well! Talk about perturbed! I started wondering: should I be feeling self-conscious now? I go everywhere alone. It has simply never occurred to me that I need another person – let alone a guy – in tow to justify my presence.

When it came time for the company holiday party, my curiosity turned to anxiety.

“I’ll order a kosher meal for you,” the HR lady said. “Does your plus one need one too?”

“Um, no… There is no plus one.”

She gave me an odd look. “Well let me know if you need another kosher meal.”

I wondered if I should take a page out of Joe’s book and just not go. What do non-Jews do in this situation? They don’t all have boyfriends all the time, do they?

I turned to Dear Google, the Wise One, for the answer to this question. She was encouraging.

“Don’t be afraid to go to your company holiday party alone,” she rah-rah’d. “Go alone and rock that party anyway.”

Right. Phrased like that, you just know it’s going to be awkward. Especially when you’re not the party-rocking type.

“You’re going to the party? It’ll be great!” a coworker said, with the too-interested leer that either means “I can’t wait to see who your boyfriend is” or else “I can’t wait to see you in a dress.” Both equally discomforting. But I was determined. I wanted to go. 

So I went.

There were an even number of place-settings at the table. They had to remove the one next to me.

“You’re here alone?” a coworker asked. “Oh no, that’s great! Really!”

Suddenly, I felt a gaping hole in the space next to me.

“Rock this party anyway,” I reminded myself. “You don’t need a guy to give you confidence and worth.”

Well, maybe not self-confidence and self-worth. But the eyes of the beholder should not be underestimated.

“I can’t be the only one with this problem,” I complained to a shadchan. “Do you have any decent guys who want to a do a holiday party arrangement?”

“I do,” she said, flipping through her binder. “Here, take a look at this one. What do you think?”

“Can he chit-chat with strangers while pretending to know me?”

Great. Forget “a guy you can take home to your mother.” Now I was picking a “guy you can bring to an office party.”

Disgusted with myself, I handed back the binder. He wasn’t my type anyway. 

So this year, when the invitation went out, and the HR lady came around to say “Just let me know if you need a kosher meal… or two,” I said “When do you need to know by?”

She gave me three weeks.

Great. That gives me three weeks to decide whether to go alone, to go at all, or…

“I need a guy who can be scheduled three weeks in advance to be available immediately motzai Shabbos for double-wrapped, reheated steak and beer,” I told my flatmate. “Help?”

I’ll go with you,” she offered. “But I’m not drinking beer.”

“I can’t take you! I plan to marry a man one day.”

“Women switch back and forth all the time.”

Okay, change that. I have three weeks to decide whether to go alone, whether to go at all, to find a guy, or to come out of a closet I’m not in.

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Women are From… Oh Sorry

Dear Bad4,

Last week’s post about communicating through the shadchan reminded me of weird feedback I get after some of my dates. Things like “she needed to go to bathroom after drinking all that diet coke” or “you took her to a shopping mall where she’s bound to meet friends” or basically, “you should have read her mind.” Why don’t girls tell you these things on dates? How else am I supposed to know?

Sincerely,

A Long-Time Dater

 

If you’ve been reading marriage books and shalom bayis books, set them aside. The married woman (defined as wedded for more than one year) “owns” you, and therefore treats you as a possession. But if she doesn’t own you yet, then you’re dealing with quite a different animal.  And there is one thing you should know about most women: they don’t want to inconvenience you.

Trust me on this one. Someone lifted my phone and sold it to a ghetto-dweller last week. When I finally made contact with the guy, it took him about 5 minutes to make me feel guilty for wanting my phone back. I mean, he paid for it, right? I couldn’t demand it back without compensating him his loss. And since he didn’t have a car and it was cold and snowy, and he was doing me a favor by returning it, I couldn’t really demand that he pay to take a bus to my neighborhood to do me the favor of returning his purchase, right? I should go pick it up from his.

Then I felt guilty about inconveniencing the cops over what was really just petty theft. And depriving my male accompaniment of the timely comfort of his supper. And even after I got my phone back smelling like marijuana, containing Pepper50 in my contacts list, and sporting a photo of its temporary owner as the background, I still felt sorry for the guy in the backseat of the police car.

I mean, I could have replaced the phone for a hundred bucks and I would only have had to enter  145 contacts by hand and it wouldn’t be such a big deal to fly cross-country for vacation the next day without a phone… really I didn’t need to put all those people through all that trouble, did I? The guilt will haunt me for all eternity.

Or, well, for a few weeks at least.

If you read articles about why women don’t succeed in the workplace (I do), they tend to list the same set of crimes: not demanding higher salaries, not negotiating, not interrupting men when they speak at meetings. Sometimes not speaking at meetings at all unless asked directly. Not arguing, disagreeing, or grabbing the best projects ahead of everyone else.

Why? Well, they don’t want to embarrass anyone. Or put down anyone. They don’t want to seem aggressive or greedy or difficult to please. They don’t want to be difficult, disagreeable, or inconvenient. And they’re not even on dates with strangers when they exhibit these behaviors!

So, no. She will not interrupt the flow of your conversation to ask if you can move someplace warmer. She will not disturb your walk along the beach for the small matter of a bathroom break. She will not tell you that she’s fleishigs when you take her Starbucks; she’ll manage with tea.

After all, the conversation or the walk is going so well, and you might feel bad about Starbucks and what if you don’t have a backup location to go to? It would put you on the spot and you might feel bad or even resentful or think that she’s pushy and it’s not important, really…

…Not important until the shadchan asks how the date was and she can’t remember how it went because all she can remember is needing the bathroom.

Like it? Hate it? Oh I hope not. If there’s anything I can do to help ease that feeling, let me know. I’d hate to think you were upset or discomfited by anything we did.