Time for the little black dress and the tuxedo. Nail appointment for her, an especially thorough shave for him. Teeth well flossed, whitened. Deodorant – check. The make up artist said there was the 10 minute look and the 45 minute look. She opts for the 58 minute look, just to make sure everything is perfect.
Of course the all the C level officers will be there. CEO, CFO, CwhateverO. Don’t be nervous, this is merely your best chance ever to shine. Your boss and all your coworkers are equally spit polished, sporting wafts of overpriced fragrances and shirts starched to within nanograms of too much.
Stockings, heels, socks which just came out of the package; no inappropriate footwear in sight. Everything is ready.
You arrive late enough not to be first, but not so late as to draw obvious and obnoxious attention to yourself. Observing all the rules of etiquette, you check your coats and belongings and take a glass of wine when it is offered. You will nurse that glass for the better part of the evening; many a first impression is ruined by too much alcohol. A sampling of the food will do. No one spends much time talking to someone hogging the buffet bar, unless they’re hogging too, then it’s doubly bad.
Half an hour later the big bosses arrive. Thank goodness you didn’t try and upstage them with your entrance. You nervously check all the little things which need to be “just right.” Women all across the room duck into the powder room to check their lipsticks and make sure their demure greeting will have just the right amount of lip gloss sparkle.
An hour later you’re deep in a discussion with Lydia from the publishing house about your reaction to a recent book gone movie, when across the room there is a buzz of excitement. A man whom you recognize to be someone called George from the marketing department is standing on a chair and yelling, “There is a cover-up in Afghanistan on the number of soldiers who are muscling in and taking over opium farming operations from the locals and using the caskets of supposedly dead soldiers to ship their illegal drugs back home.”
Turning to raise a quizzical bemused eyebrow at your companion, you find her standing on a table. She begins yelling, “I’m taking a poll. Everyone who believes Meryl Streep is a good actress, but should not be Secretary of State because of her amazingly stupid belief that goats shouldn’t eat blackberries because it offends their dietary tract, which is animal cruelty.” Next to you, a small man with a bad comb over yells, “I voted yes!” You walk away.
On the terrace you seek solace on a stone bench overlooking a water feature when lo and behold, you find a familiar figure approaching. It’s your friend Marianna whom you have not seen for over 15 years. What a joyous reunion. You sit and catch up on family, friends, careers, hopes, aspirations, while all around the party flows, sometimes quietly and sometimes with big outbursts from people standing on furniture carrying on conversations or monologues in epic decibel levels.
“You know I hate you, you stupid [lots of profanity]”. “And I hate you [attempt at witty profane retort].”
“The current administration should be impeached! Even though the previous administration was also known to sometimes pee in the bushes at Fort Bragg, this administration has taken it to a whole new level with taxpayer subsidised bushes being planted so their associates in the intimate apparel consortium (with ties to camel dealers in Costa Rica) can pee on them as well.”
“You are such a hideously grotesque excuse for a piece of human excrement if you believe that Stephen Hawking evolved from a wheelchair. You moron, he evolved INTO a wheelchair. If you agree, then you like me!”
And so on. By the end of the evening you wonder whether you will attend another function, should the invitation come a’knocking.
Gentle reader, as Miss Manners says, you are not stupid. You obviously get my analogy between inappropriate behavior at a party and current broadcast social media. My mother taught me that in polite company there are 3 taboo subjects: sex, politics and religion. Avoid them at all costs, she said, because you don’t know who you are offending. Dale Carnegie would concur. You do not win friends and influence people by offending them, even inadvertently.
Why do I write this? Because I lapsed [again, I will confess] and stood on a table to have a loud, heated, public discussion with someone. I yelled twice and then realized where I was standing (on the table), got down and left the room. You know who you are and I’d be happy to continue talking with you, but not in that forum.
And why the corporate cocktail party setting? Because you never know when one of your co-workers or future employers will be privy to the rant you just made. Not only have we lost a sense of etiquette in social media, we have not yet begun to realize the ramifications of our aberrant behavior.