Navigating your office holiday party.
By Elizabeth Cutright
“I want to give a really BAD party. I mean it. I want to give a party where there’s a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette. You wait and see.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is The Night
For fans of Mad Men, there have been two particularly harrowing – yet tremendously realistic – portrayals of what I’d consider your “typical” office party. In one instance, an innocent bystander lost a foot to a John Deere lawnmower being navigated around the office by a drunken secretary.
In the other, a managing partner lost his dignity in an attempt to keep a demanding client, by donning a Santa costume and inviting partygoers to sit on his knee.
In my current frame of mind, either one of those scenarios would be preferable to the work-related holiday get-together gauntlet I face later today.
The forced frivolity…the unrecognizable appetizers… The one employee who takes it all way to seriously….
And the games… The fucking games!
Perhaps you’re a little worried about me – why such a Grinch you ask?
I’ve been asking that myself.
So I decided to tap some of my literary heroes for advice and commiseration. If they can get through the soirees and the gatherings, then so can I.
And I might even enjoy myself!
Perhaps those of us allergic to obligatory “fun-times” can borrow the persona or point-of-view of one of our favorite writers, and see if that perspective provide a way to more easliy navigate the choppy seas of the office holiday party with a smidgen of humor and at least a dab of self respect.
Dorothy Parker famously said, “what fresh hell is this,” and her wry and slightly sarcastic comebacks can serve as inspiration.
A few choice quotes you can deploy offensive (or defensively) while avoiding the office mistletoe? (All Dorothy Parker quotes courtesy of Good Reads)
“Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.”
“Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.”
“This wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.”
“I require three things in a man: he must be handsome, ruthless, and stupid.”
“A little bad taste is like a nice dash of paprika.”
And for the truly brave, “If you wear a short enough skirt, the party will come to you.”
But just remember, when you’ve got access to cocktails and the company president, follow Dorothy’s one martini rule.
“I like to have a martini/Two at the very most./Three I’m under the table/Four I’m under the host.”
But if you doubt you can stop at one cocktail – especially when you just know the creepy copy-room boy is eyeing you for the next dance, then perhaps the frenzied and frivolous world of the Fitzgeralds should be your template. F. Scott and Zelda are the poster children of the hard-partying authors tribe. They were the jazz age personified, full of spontaneity, scandal and champagne. Sure, they weren’t able to keep the celebration going forever, but oh to be sipping sparkling wine in the back of a hay truck in 1920s Paris!
If you prefer style over substance (or in addition to…), then Truman Capote’s your man. His famous – and infamous – Back and White Ball (held every year at the Plaza) was THE place to be for New Yorkers to wine, dine and mingle in the. He was also a fixture at Studio 54, and hobnobbed with the likes of Andy Warhol and Liza Minnelli (no slouches in the hard-drinking and frenzied merrymaking department themselves). The film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s has a great party scene, and if you’re office party resembles that mayhem even slightly, then know right off the bat that I am so very jealous. But if not, then perhaps you can pretend as if it could break into chaos at any moment. Play your best version of Holly Golightly, don a little black dress and a string of pearls – or better yet, a Cat Mask! – and float around calling everybody dahhhlinggg, while sipping martinis (but try to keep it to two if possible!).
And while Allen Ginsberg liked to party naked (not advisable…in most situations really) , I think perhaps you keep your clothes on but attempt to embody a “spirit” of nakedness and transparency – say what you mean, snark if you must, and just try to remember all the lunacy and pathos that unfolds around you – it’ll make great material!
(A big “thank you” to Flavorwire, for supplying me with the list of “the most notorious literary party animals.” )
- Partying with Zelda Fitzgerald in the 1920s (ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com)
- 5 People You Don’t Want to Be at Media Holiday Parties (digiday.com)
- Dorothy Parker Quotes (thewritersvillage.wordpress.com)
- Famous cocktails: from silver screen to bars and clubs (brandsandfilms.com)
- “A Telephone Call” – Dorothy Parker (waldina.com)
- The Thanksgiving Visitor, Story by Truman Capote (silverbirchpress.wordpress.com)
- Put on your writer’s cloak: Santa Claus is coming to town (onewildword.com)