Last weekend, I attended a Nigerian party in the LA area with some family and friends. In true Owambe fashion, the “turn up” was real. Food, drinks, music, “money spraying” were in full effect and everyone truly had an awesome time. We partied into the wee hours of the morning and the next day, I woke up sore and achy from dancing to Wizkid in my high heels. I remember at many points that night feeling like…myself! I ate enough jollof rice to feed four big women and then proceeded to dance and sing at the top of my lungs with friends when Sir Shina Peters played, as it reminded me of my childhood.
There was no worry of eating or drinking too much as I was surrounded by love and friends and family.
This is what I call a party.
Now, contrast this with the so-called parties hosted within Corporate America. Sigh…
I have had the
dis pleasure of attending more than a few corporate parties. I shouldn’t even call them parties really. Events is more like it. Take the Christmas party at one of my previous employers, a very conservative Accounting firm. Here are a few of my favorite observations:
- Deciding how to dress for one of these is almost impossible. The task at hand is to find an outfit that is not too short, not too long, sexy but not too sexy, flattering but not too form fitting, conservative but not business-suit like, etc… Inevitably, I end up with the contents of my closet scattered all over my bed before I decide on something.
- The menu is another one. Now, I have been described by some as “bougie”, but let me tell you, sometimes you just want food you are familiar with. Somehow, my definition of party does not include some dried up veal or King Fish-caviar or drinks such as Cynar and Punt e mes. Often, after these “parties”, I have been known to stop by the nearest drive-through or Chipotle on my way home.
- Now everyone knows that at these dinners, there is a fun end and a boring end of the table. The fun end is where you sit with your peers who are hopefully not arrogant, self-important jerks. Here, you can maintain some semblance of real talk and not have to worry whether you used the salad fork to eat the main course. No one cares too much. As long as you manage to remember to drink out of your own glass and not that of person next to you (haha, this happened!), then you should be ok.
- If you find yourself on the boring end then… Via con Dios! Here is where real talk ends as you are seated next to some big shot, or big shot wannabe who continues to crack dry jokes you do not understand, but you are obliged to laugh anyway. The kind of fake laughter that makes the side of your face hurt and can cause facial spasms later. Here, the steak is very rare, almost raw and although said big shot is allowed to order endless bottles of wine, you, my fellow dual citizen, dare not exceed your 2 glass maximum!!
- Here’s one that never ceases to amaze me! Some of my fairer-skinned compadres still manage to turn all the way up at these events! Invariably, someone ends up (a) sitting on a partner’s lap, (b) making out by the bathroom, (c) grinding obscenely in the name of dancing, (d) telling very, very inappropriate, sometimes racist or sexist jokes, (e) passing out (f) drinking way too much, which I guess causes all of the above.
These have all happened at these events and the thing is, in many cases the perpetrators not only remain employed, but this seems to have absolutely no negative consequence on their careers.
I often think of how it must feel to be that free. To know that you will be ok, no matter how much you screw up. The stern faces of my Nigerian parents and grandparents come into focus in those moments, reminding me of how much they toiled so I could be here, rubbing shoulders with them. I used to think that I would stop feeling this way once I rose to the level of management and was no longer at the bottom of the totem pole. Now as a mid-level manager, I know this feeling will never change. I will never be able to completely relax in this world.
So no matter how many times they call it Christmas party, or Thanksgiving potluck or company picnic, or corporate happy hour, it will never be a real party for me.
What are some of the things you have observed at company parties? Please share your thoughts.