Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Office Parties Can be Hard on Your Spouse. Trust me, I Know!

Well, I feel pretty lucky today.  My wife had a kind of office get together last night, and I opted not to go because I always feel out of place at those damn things.  So, I sent the boy in my stead.  Yeah that probably wasn’t too fair, but people aren’t going to ask him a bunch of silly questions about being a stay at home parent and try to make small talk with him about random things only to move on to the next person before you have time to respond.  Don’t get me wrong.  I really like my wife’s friends and co-workers, but when there is a whole group of them together I feel so out of place.  That is why I think office parties should just be for office personnel.  I appreciate that most offices and companies try to include everyone’s families, but it is just awkward and uncomfortable for a lot of spouses to have to go to these parties and festivities.  I guess it could just be me, but I doubt it.

Like I said, on an individual basis I really enjoy my wife’s co-workers and friends.  It is fun to chit chat with them and actually have time talk about something with them.  On an individual basis they are all great people, but in a large herd talking to them can be quite a daunting task for me.  What the hell do I say?  Where the hell is someone I recognize, and how do I find him or her?  It would be different if it was just my wife’s immediate office, but that is never the case.  You never know who the hell is going to show up.  I am sure my wife felt the same way when I used to drag her to my office parties way back when I had full time job.  I am relatively sure that she felt out of place then too.  It is just hard to interact with people who all have a shared interest, their jobs.  I relate going to a spouse’s office party to going speed dating.   You only have a few moments to talk to any one person, and when you finally get comfortable speaking with him/her they have already moved on.  Then the system repeats itself over and over again.  Nothing makes you feel more out of place than being in a group of people who have nothing to talk about other than their work and you don’t work with any of them. 

As many times as I have dragged my wife to my company picnics or Christmas parties, I still think that she had it easier than I do now with her.  That might not be a fair assumption, but that’s how I see it damnit!  I don’t care what you say.  You see, I never worked in an academic office or in a college university at all besides being a student worker in a dining hall.  She works in an office, and I cannot even tell you which office because I don’t know.  I just know how to get there and make small talk with her co-workers, whom I like very much, until she is ready to leave or go and do whatever she is making me do at the time, more than likely it is going shopping.  Anyway, her co-workers aren’t the people that pose the problems for me at their office gatherings.  Finding them in the middle of all the rigmarole is the problem.  Ok, maybe rigmarole is probably not the right word, but I bet you catch my meaning anyhow.  It is those pesky academics that insist on showing up who make me feel the most uncomfortable.  No it is not all of them.  Quite a few of them I rather enjoy being around, but these people rarely ever attend such gatherings, and if they do it is because they got roped into hosting it somehow or otherwise feel obligated to make an appearance.  You may be thinking that I am uncomfortable because I am afraid of the other academic's  superior intellect or something.  No, you would be wrong there.  That is not the case at all.  I don’t like being around a lot of those other academics because I think that they are shitty people.  Well, that is not fair.  I am sure they are all good people in their own way even if they are socially awkward, but that doesn't stop me from abhorring their very presence. 

Some of you may already know this, but there are a lot of people in academia that like to pat themselves on the back.  A lot!  Holy cow is it horrible.  It is like they don’t know how not to stop posturing and positioning themselves in order to exhaust every possible avenue that could make themselves look better, smarter, and more important than everybody else somehow.  Yes, I am interested in their work, but there is a point where it gets ridiculous.  I stopped being impressed hours ago man!  You see, silly me didn’t realize that a party in the academic world is in actuality a contest where all the academics vie for the title of being “most important and smartest.”  This is something I quickly learned at the very first party/contest I was dragged along to.  Since then my strategy has been to stay off to the side and let them tell each other how important they are and how great their work is and how it will change the world or whatever.  I don’t want to be involved in the inevitable flaccid, academic style fight that will soon ensue.  You know what I’m talking about, the fights that involve the drunken quoting of other academics that no one else cares about or has ever heard of before.  Sure it gets amusing, but it definitely is not a situation where you can yell out “OH SNAP! He got you din’t he?!”

Every once in a while there will be another spouse off to the side that I can chat with, but most of them have learned to stay the hell home years ago.  That will be my strategy from now on too because sometimes being in the corner is just not good enough.  I think they can smell the distaste on me or something and mistake it for awe every once in a while because there has been a few times where I felt like the only “Hot Girl” in a lame Townie bar.  I soon find myself boxed deeper into the corner with a bunch of drunkards trying to impress me with their scholarly drivel.  Sorry, I am not impressed, and you don’t really need my praise do you?  Don’t you have grad students to do that for you?  You’re not a grad student are you?  Damn, sorry about that. I guess you really don’t have anyone then.  Alright then, tell me about Foucault one more time.

So, I hope that you take all this into consideration before you drag your unwilling spouse to your next office party because chances are they don’t really want to be there, and if they really do want to go I would have them evaluated by a psychologist or something because that just ain’t right.