A corporate partner

By Emily Senger

My annual staff party is coming up in a couple weeks. It’s a rather upscale, only happens once a year kind of event at the Bow Valley Club downtown, a club with marble floors and chandeliers, and dining rooms with real silverware and cloth napkins. This is a club that I can only dream about one day joining–for the next 10 to 20 years at least.

While excitedly signing myself up on the staff room sign up sheet, and pondering what to wear, a colleague entered the room and asked me who I was bringing.

She was referring to the “guest” column, where I’m supposed to write the name of the husband or significant other that will be attending with me. A name to place in the guest column does not exist in my world.

“Ummm, no one,” I answered, quickly realizing that in an office full of married people, I was the only one with a blank “guest” column.

“What? No guest?” another colleague asked as she entered the room. “You have to bring someone.”

So, what’s the big corporate deal about bringing a date? Why did I not feel okay just leaving that space blank? I thought that by now, years and years of feminists before me had made it okay to be dateless or, to positively rephrase, independent.

Hell, Mary Wollstonecraft was talking about women’s need for independence from men way back in the 18th Century.

Just in case, I quickly racked my mind for a list of potential dates.

Do I have any male friends who meet all the necessary criteria: a) know what the “business casual” dress code means, b) will not panic in an awkward situation and compensate by overindulgence in the toonie bar, c) know that the cloth napkin goes on your lap and that the little fork is for the salad, d) can actually enjoy themselves by making polite conversation with married 30 and 40 somethings whom they have never previously met?

I considered the rather unattainable criteria, and the fact that my close male friends are all students, and thus corporate culture virgins; my prospects were not looking good.

Even if I could entice a male friend to attend with me, would I really want to subject a friend to the potential awkwardness that comes from being in a room full of new people, where you are visibly the youngest, and with whom you have little in common?

I toyed briefly with the idea of bring my best girlfriend or one of my sisters. But again, they would feel just as out of place as a male friend, if not more so–being the only same sex “guest” there.

So, what did I do? I cursed the society that created the idea of monogamous relationships, and the need to be coupled-up and get married to achieve true happiness. I cursed corporate culture, for creating the unattainable ideals and unwritten rules that my potential guest would be oblivious to, but also expected to obey. I cursed myself for not thinking of this sticky date situation before signing up.

Then I had a revelation, and I decided that Wollstonecraft would be proud of me for being independent enough to go it alone.

And then I found a date.

Sorry Wollstonecraft, as far as we’ve come in the last 200 years, it looks like we’ve still got a ways to go.

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