The Forbes guide to surviving office parties reads as follows: (a) don’t drink too much; (b) get “face time” with the boss; (c) listen, take notes afterward, and follow up on discussions; (d) don’t talk shop or gossip; (e) socialize with spouses; and (f) circulate. Whilst that guidance may apply in the context of an office job in the 1950’s, it hardly has any relevance to a party in the City.
As an alternative, the Alan McBeal guide to the office party suggests: (a) giving in to any preconceived notions of restraint and getting totally wasted in a pique of social awkwardness at about 12pm; (b) avoiding partners at all cost – they’ll inwardly thank you for this; (c) don’t listen to anything anybody says -everyone will be lashed and talking utter nonsense; (d) gossip – it’s probably the only thing you’ll have in common with most of your colleagues anyway; (e) never talk to your boss’s wife/husband/mistress or partner – their relationship is probably strained enough already owing to the long hours at the office and you certainly don’t want to become a casualty of any projected feelings of angst; and (f) stick with a group of people who you’re comfortable with.
Adhering to the above, I can report that I successfully managed to navigate the Lovelaters & D’Alliance office party without incident. Alan McBeal, a footnote to the proceedings. Seen and not heard, as all trainees should be.
Unfortunately, my textbook performance was not carried over to the trainee party the following week – a “red or dead” fancy dress affair in Shoreditch. The whole trainee intake attended, along with some of the younger associates. Proud of my team’s 1-0 will against Real Madrid, I went in my Liverpool shirt and a curly wig as a Harry Enfield scouser. Seemingly emboldened by my costume – and never one for irony – Gekko (the idiot I share my office with) clearly felt the scouse thing gave him carte blanche to play the offensive regional stereotype angle:
“McBeal eyyy laa … have you stolen my beer you thieving’ git? Go and get me another.”
Ignoring his witty and hilarious banter, I spent the evening chatting to a third seat trainee I had helped out bundling some documents (putting stuff in files). On the costume front she’d gone for the generic blonde bombshell look – it could have been Mansfield, Monroe or Mamie Van Doren. On the other hand, somewhat shattering the illusions of silver screen cool, it could also have been Anne Nicole Smith. Whilst personally I’d have infinite respect for anyone who’d roll up to a party of wannabe City lawyers dressed as a famously unhinged gold digger, she was a nice girl, and I had my own predictable agenda, so I wasn’t going to press the point.
At the end of the night – the booze seemingly taking the edge of my shocking patter – Marilyn and I made a quite exit together to grab a cab on Old Street. In the age old tradition of doing stupid things during a drunken stagger home, we’d swapped wigs and shared a juvenile snog outside a bus stop – hardly a particular high point in either of our romantic lives, it’s safe to say.
In hindsight, seeing a bloke in a tracksuit wearing a blond wig snogging a 1950’s film star wearing an afro-perm is probably going to stand out – even in the Nathan Barley-esque confines of Shoreditch. However, London’s a big place and I came back to the office confident that we’d kept things pretty low key.
No such luck. The first email I saw was from Paul Owen:
“Bright Lights, Big City, Blonde Wig”
I saw that the email had been copied to my secretaries, Mrs B and Mrs T. Not even Max Clifford could avert the imminent public relations disaster. Right on cue, Gekko bounded into the office wearing an inevitably self satisfied smile.
“So that’s how you northerners do it? It’s all towns named after cakes, cross dressing in tracksuits and sex acts at bus stops. It makes me sick!”
Having spent the last two weeks getting called Alan & Ovaries, I can report that I’ve been less than satisfied with my start to 2009.
Alan McBeal is a fictional trainee at law firm Lovelaters & D’Alliance (honest).