One of the great things about being a freelancer is that you are not obliged to attend any holiday office parties, but when a dear friend begged me to be her plus one at her advertising agency Christmas soiree (I did notice a menorah on the invitation as well), I had no choice but to say yes. The party was held at a massive club in NYC, rented just for this occasion, and 1,000 employees attended the event. After spending the night (#thankyouredbull) observing the crowd (I couldn't leave I was so entertained), it dawned on me: this is worthy of a column on how not to be an #officefail at the office holiday party.
Don't Dress Inappropriately
I became obsessed with a 30-something woman who was dressed inappropriately -- and I am being kind. She was wearing glittery six-inch Louboutin heels and an uber-trendy lace dress with some sheer cutouts. I've seen this dress in the window of Intermix and thought it looked inappropriate on the mannequin, let alone the living. All I wanted to say to her was, honey, this is not Saturday night in the meatpacking district. It's a Tuesday night office party. Don't even get me started on her smoky eyes, red lipstick and freshly straightened, blown-out hair. What I am telling you is this, dress appropriately, meaning not that far off from how you dress at work, unless you work at the post office. This is not the time or place to show off your body or flaunt your closet -- do that amongst friends. Remember, this is still business. Simply freshen up your face, comb your hair and remember that a little spritz of perfume never killed anyone.
Don't Get Drunk
My next two victims were the most annoying 20-somethings I ever laid eyes on. The guy was wearing pleated pants (#stylefail) and a horrific bulky sweater that looked like it may have come from Sears in the '80s. He was drinking beer like nobody's business and then he started in with the tequilla shots. The rest is history. He must have said the words "dude" and "bro" about 50 times. I wanted to shove the shot glass in his mouth. Lest I not forget his female accomplice, who was louder than the music, so much so that when the hipster D.J. played Scissor Sisters "Let's Have a Kiki," I was able to hear her screaming "OMG all my gay friends love this song!" Thanks, bitch, for ruining the song for me. By the end of the night, she had taken her shoes off and was cuddled up next to "bro" in a banquet, which was worse than an attraction at the zoo. I watched about 40 of their coworkers stop, stare and laugh. Don't let this be you. If you feel yourself crossing to the other side, drink water, have a ginger ale, pull yourself together and politely say good night.
No Flirting (Not Even With the Help)
Whether drinking or not, it's really easy to fall into the trap of flirting with someone you always fancied in the office. I think I flirted with this ridiculously hot art director for about 30 seconds before catching myself, and I don't even work there. It's not a cute look (but still better than most). Even if you find someone attractive, this is not the place (nor is the office for that matter) to bat your eyes, stand close, dance with them or make out. I can assure you that someone at the party will notice and, rightfully so, you'll be teased like it was the third grade for at least a few months or, gasp, until the next office holiday party (not to mention it could determine your next promotion or not). As for the help, unfortunately the bartenders are usually the hottest guys in the room but, hello, you aren't Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing. Please don't put yourself in the corner of the bar waiting for some type of something to happen. In order to avoid flirting, I recommend that you keep circulating around the room and keep conversations to no more than 10 minutes.
Don't Talk Sh*t in the Bathroom
So even this one came as a surprise and I didn't expect to have it in my rule list, until this happened. I was minding my own business using the men's room when two middle-aged account-service types went on a diatribe, one referring to his assistant as a "bitch and a whore," and I won't even tell you what his cohort said about his boss. I took the longest piss of my life, listening in disbelief. But this locker room talk didn't just happen in the men's room. I asked my girlfriend to check out what's happening in the ladies room. It only took one bathroom trip for her to discover that the new copyrighter "totally wants to f*ck" the guy in IT and, in fact, she purposely screws up her computer so he can come up to her office, where they have already made out and rubbed each other's privates. Luckily for all these characters, I don't work at this agency and my friend isn't a yenta or you could imagine the rumors. Use the restroom for what it was intended for -- flushing waste.
Tick TOck Goes the Clock
Know this -- it's much better, especially amongst coworkers, to be an enigma than an open book. If there was anyone at this party who I was intrigued by, it was those that arrived around the time I did (always get to a party 30 minutes after it starts) and left about an hour later. They had it right -- two cocktails, make the rounds and leave. They never chatted with any one person for long and asked my friend polite but not intrusive questions, "How is the newborn?" and "Are you enjoying the new car -- I told you a hybrid is the way to go!" It's nonsense talk, and if any of my friends spoke to me like that I'd ask them if they were kidding. But, guess what? Coworkers aren't your besties. So keep it light and tight. For sure you'll be asked the next day why you left so early, but that's what you want them to say. Just please don't use some lame excuse such as the babysitter, that you were tired or didn't feel well. Tell them the truth. It's all about knowing when to leave the party.
Need advice? Leave your question below in the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org