Picture this: I'm at a holiday party at a beautiful home. The art adorning the walls is beautiful, the food healthy and delicious, the wines exquisite. I sip my wine, and am introduced to someone I have not met before. This guy is a player -- smart, wealthy and successful. But he doesn't talk to me; he talks at me. He pontificates.
In the first ten minutes of conversation, I know quite a bit about him. How much he sold his last company for, how many bottles of wine are in his wine cellar, how he feels about Obamacare, how many square feet of deck space he has in Nantucket, why he loves his new Tesla. And after five minutes, I have to suppress the urge to chug the rest of my wine so that 1. I can manage to live through the next five minutes, and 2. I can extricate myself politely from the "conversation" by sighing and stating that I need a refill.
This has happened to me more than once, and definitely makes me think I should spend more time feeding the homeless than going to holiday parties. It's always the same: these guys hardly ever ask a single question, and when they do, it is sometimes offensive. Once, Master of the Universe took a deep breath after his monologue and asked, "So, what do you do all day... shop?" He was not being condescending; he was just stupid. He was also very lucky the glass of wine in my hand that evening was white, not red.
And the common denominator for all of them? They were all men. I had never-ever-met a woman like that. I actually didn't think they existed. All the successful women I knew were lovely, real people to be admired -- they did not, as Chimamanda Adichie writes so beautifully in her new book, Americanah, "flaunt their membership in the wealthy club..." and exercise their right "to be rude, inconsiderate, to be greeted rather than to greet."
But the other night I met a woman who disproved my theory, and honestly, it rocked my world. In the first ten minutes of being introduced, I knew that: she was a successful New York Mergers and Acquisitions lawyer, she was on the board of directors of multiple corporations (but of course she was, she was involved in starting them up), that all her mentors were men (who would have guessed?), that her husband was a stay-at-home dad whom she directed exactly how to be a stay-at-home dad: "I told him he had to read the books that my high-schooler would read so he could help them with their homework."
"Really?" I wanted to ask, "Who does that?" But I couldn't get a word in edgewise.
And God help me, this is what I was thinking most of the time she was droning on about how she worked a minimum of 60 hours each week: "I bet your husband is shtupping the other stay-at-home wives, because I can't stand you, and I have only known you for ten minutes."
I'm not proud of that thought; I generally like to be a cheerleader for successful women. But when I meet an Ass, male or female, my thoughts do not discriminate.
The smartest people I know of either sex, of course, know how much they don't know. They are humble. They want to learn from everyone they meet. They look you in the eye and ask questions about you. Whether they are conversing with a waitress at a restaurant, the custodian at their children's school, or a Nobel prize winner, the most intelligent people I know, know that everyone has something to offer -- an insight, a story that might change their life -- or at least their perspective.
I am not worried that this woman might recognize herself in this article. She never asked me what I did. She would have no time to read and probably no interest in reading anything written by me. When I offered it up (forced it on her) at the end of the conversation, I am sure she wasn't listening.
So maybe the best holiday present you can get your kids (or perhaps your spouse) is a new book by Meghan Doherty: How Not To Be A Dick, An Everyday Etiquette Guide. And ladies, when you reach the top, please don't try to emulate the male members of the club. We can't afford to have even more Asses roaming around at cocktail parties.
Read more from Better After 50:
How To Become A Mindful Eater In 10 Days
From High-Tech Consultant To Buddhist Minister
Stranger Than Science Fiction
Read About What's Possible: She Did It All Week Long