Are you one of those poor souls stuck having to attend the company holiday parties arranged by your spouse’s employer? I feel your pain. After many years of practice, I am now comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people. My husband’s company Christmas party, however, brings on a serious case of the willies.
“It’s nice to meet you. Chris has mentioned to me that you are a talented programmer.” Yes, this is a socially acceptable outright lie. While it is nice to meet this girl who is quite possibly half my age, I have to confess that my husband has never mentioned her. Of course, I might have gone to my happy place while he was speaking, but that’s not really the point, is it?
“Do you have children?”
“No, I don’t. I’m too focused on my career right now to start a family,” she answers.
I nod and clear my throat, deciding not to mention that my eldest son is the same age she is. I also decide not to ask her if she’s married. My son really hates it when I fix him up. “Good for you,” I say in that overenthusiastic voice that makes me cringe when I hear it coming out of my mouth.
“I’m a teacher,” I offer.
My turn to nod.
“I teach middle school English.”
She grimaces. “Really?”
“I’m afraid so,” I answer. Her response is not uncommon.
“I don’t like kids,” she says.
I smile broadly. “Me either.”
She doesn’t get the subtle teacher joke. She obviously has never had a teacher who felt that it was her life’s goal to make children miserable.
We look at each other for a moment, and then quickly focus our gazes on opposite sides of the crowded, too warm room. I’m having what might be called a hot flash if I were 6 months or so older, and inwardly cursing the impulse that led me to wear this festive red sweater.
“I just finished reading the new Grisham novel. I had stopped reading his books for a while – they had gotten formulaic and were kind of boring – but I really liked this new one. Have you read it?”
“I don’t read.”
“Hmph!” It’s the involuntary sound made when all of the air rushes out of your lungs. I eye her closely. She’s not kidding.
I raise my hand to attract the attention of the cute waiter with the tray of red and white wine, and then grab a glass of the Chablis as if it were the last life vest on the Titanic. This conversation, such as it is, is over.
I hand her my business card. “Well, honey, if you ever want to learn how to read, give me a call. I’d be glad to teach you.”
I left her staring after me with a puzzled expression on her face.
“I don’t read?!” What-ev-a.