The art of business socializing…from my perspective

There are certain duties a wife is expected to perform when married to someone climbing the corporate ladder. Most of these are done within the home and need no further discussion. OK, well, maybe further discussion, but on another day.

One of those duties that reflect directly on your husband is how to respond in social events. I hate to call it a “duty”. That makes it sound like something on a checklist or worse, something negative. I don’t look at it that way. But let me back up start at the beginning and give a brief overview to help explain this.

My husband is not a college educated guy. He was going to be a musician. He plays piano so beautifully it has brought tears to my eyes before. Then he was going to be a chef, even enrolled in cooking school. He still cooks dinner for us almost nightly because he enjoys it. But the hours were killer and the pay not so much. So he started working as a contractor fixing copiers. Glamorous, right? Then, he went to another company as a contractor to work help desk for IT. Then, as a contractor for another company actually fixing computer issues for other companies. This went on and on, with him getting better and better, his technical skills growing with each new job. But always as a contractor. Contracting work sucks. Lets be honest. No benefits or if you are so lucky to work for a bigger contractor that offers them, the cost is outrageous. And the pay? Well, you might get billed out for $125/hour but your cut of that is more like $20/hour. Sucks, right? So we paid to send him to get his MSCE+. This is pretty good stuff, and most IT guys don’t have that. He also got certified in a bunch of other stuff that I don’t even begin to understand, but lets put it this way, if he listed all the letters behind his name, his business card would have to be longer to fit them all.

He used this to parlay himself out of contracting work and into a full fledged corporate gig. We were ecstatic! A real job??!! With benefits and a 401k and actual paid vacation and sick time?? Seriously?? YES!!! And he moved up within that company quickly. He has proven himself to be a very valuable player in his company and so far has been rewarded for it. And along with that, comes the social aspect. Which is where I fit in.

This past weekend we had our first formal gathering with his peers and his bosses. And his bosses bosses. And their wives. I was walking into a situation where I knew not one soul other than my husband. I wanted to be gracious, funny, proper. Not stuffy like I had a stick stuck somewhere, or uppity where the other wives thought I was looking down on anyone. Not too loose, not a foul mouth, not one who had too many glasses of wine. I wanted to give the perfect balance. I was going to be looked at as an extension of my husband and his reputation. How could I live it up to whatever they thought I was going to be??

I wasn’t going to be the skinniest, or the richest, or the best dressed, or anything in any category. I wanted to blend in, be proper, be FUN. I was so nervous that I felt sick as we rode the elevator down to the lobby. My nerves showing on my neck as beautiful red splotches. Lovely. More powder! I need more powder!

As we collected our name tags and walked in with drink coupons, we both looked around. The room spun and I felt like every head turned to see who just walked in. Not that they did, not that anyone even cared who just walked in. Breathe. In and out.

We found a table and I asked for a glass of white wine. Oh please, hurry up with that. Should I have ordered 2 right off the bat so I could gulp down the first one and relax and then sip the other? To late. So I sipped. Better not to be drunk and stupid.

The other wives came and we hit it off beautifully. They took mercy on me, took me under their wing. It was so wonderful to be embraced and welcomed into the fold. We talked. We laughed…. a LOT! We discussed our husbands and how hard they work and the next business trip they would be taking. We talked about children, or the lack of children. We just talked. The husbands had gathered in a corner, discussing who knows what and we sat a table laughing and enjoying each others company.

By the end of the evening, when we had all had our fill of wine and then coffee, and everyone was heading back to our hotel rooms, there were hugs all around. Smiles, more laughter, and promises of getting together for lunches. I think I pulled off that balance I was seeking. At least I think so and for now, that’s all that matters. The next one won’t be nearly as nerve-wracking. At least I hope not.

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