November 30, 2006

Gifts That Keep On Giving

Posted in Lessons Learned at 4:58 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

By the time you finish reading this, the holiday shopping season will be in full effect. And since I know most of you don’t have time to shop, let alone think about what to get the crusty old partner or your young charming assistant – I am here to help. Really, it is the least I can do.

As you read on, it may seem I am directing all of my advice to men. Is that because I assume only attorneys are men? No. I’m a feminist damnit. I know a lot of women out there have climbed the corporate ladder. I just also happen to know women are naturally better gift-givers.

And before you men all shake your heads in disgust at such a statement and click back over to your fantasy football fansite, let me let you in on a little secret. Women are not great gift-givers because we go to the stores thinking about what you want. Oh no. That is just what we want you to think. Are you ready for this? The truth is, we go to the stores thinking, “What will make him think I am the greatest fill-in the-blank-here-with-the-noun-that-best-fits-our-relationship?”

It’s true. One year I bought my ex-boyfriend porn. Not because I thought, hey, my ex really enjoys watching two women make out. No. I was at a store thinking he would really look good in a pumpkin, cable knit sweater. Then I asked myself, will a pumpkin, cable knit sweater have him telling all his friends that I am his favorite ex-girlfriend, ever? Probably not. Some girl-on-girl action? Well that’s a no-brainer.

And why was I buying my ex-boyfriend a gift? Well, that is what happens when you say “but we can still be friends.” And then your friends decide to have a Pollyanna and because God hates you, you pull his name out of the stupid hat. But that is a lesson for another time.

Personally, I think when buying for a higher-up, you can’t go wrong with anything in a bottle, well anything but perfume or cologne. I think buying a partner a fragrance is weird and sends a funny message. You either want him or her to smell better, or you think he or she smells bad.

Nice office supplies also make great, impersonal gifts; maybe a leather caddy, or coasters and a holder for their meeting table. An added bonus to this gift is that a lot of places that sell these items (some online even) will also emboss the items at a cost. Nothing says, “I deserve to be a partner more than that the other guy” better than black leather coasters with his or her initials.

As for the significant others in your life, assistants can be tricky. My gut tells me to warn against accessories. But they are easy and plentiful. So, if you insist on going the jewelry route, buy a bracelet or earrings. These items are often small and not nearly as personal as a ring or a necklace.

If your assistant is a male, well first I would like to applaud you for being so progressive. Second, I would suggest a tie. Nothing too out there, we work in law firms for goodness sake; something with a small pattern in a neutral color would work best. And if he hates it, he can put it on and take it off in the office; no one else has to see him wearing it.

Oh wait, you thought I meant your other significant other; right, her too. Unfortunately here I am not much help. I am not what one would call domesticated. So when a partner at my firm told me he was getting his wife a bathroom sink — oh wait I’m sorry, two bathroom sinks — I outwardly cringed.

Mind you, that is a pretty expensive gift and I am sure it is something she wanted. But I feel guilty getting my roommates something that benefits the whole house, so my instinct told me no to his and her sinks.

That being said, maybe you just bought a new house and are renovating it and she has discussed wanting to replace the old patio doors with beautiful French doors. Go for it. But also get her something small and personal. Like a DVD of her favorite movie. Bonus points if it is a total chick flick that you can’t stand.

Now the only question left on your list is what to get that quirky, albeit very funny blogger in your life. I, for one, am asking for (in no particular order) Peyton Manning’s contact information, a body that looks good in both black leggings and skinny jeans or an end to that trend, world peace and a decoder ring for man-speak.

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November 16, 2006

Help Me! Somebody Please Help Me!

Posted in Office Hijinks at 3:55 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

As part of our big move extravaganza, our firm is having a wine and cheese gathering for everyone, tomorrow night in our boardroom. I suppose it is to provide us with a chance to unwind, enjoy and appreciate all that we have.

 

And of course say thank you to everyone for their patience and cooperation.

 

As I may have mentioned before, I work for the Administrative Partner. He has already expressed some anxiety about this wine and cheese event, including whether or not anyone is going to show.  I’ve been around this block enough to know that in asking me “Do you think anyone will come?”  what he really means is: “You had better be there

 

But he can’t actually make me attend. I mean, I have the half-marathon to run this weekend and I am dog-sitting for my sister, so I really have two great (and true) excuses to get out of this thing. There is just a part of me that would hate to bail on him; you know the team-player, good sport part of me that feels guilty for leaving him on his own.

 

After all, what sort of message does it send when I don’t attend?

 

Meanwhile, the last wine and cheese event I attended got pretty ugly.  Managing partners drinking, summer associates slurring and me, left to clean up after them all. As you know, I am not that great at faking my way through these sorts of things as my face always gets in the way. Plus there is the issue of this blog and column.

 

See, at these sorts of events, be it loosely run group meetings, happy hours or impromptu lunches, inevitably my blog comes up in conversation. And not in a, “oh hey have your read this one’s blog? It’s so funny.”sort of way. I mean in a biting, spiteful and sometimes angry, “watch what you say around her, she will write it all down,” general warning kind of way.

 

And then fun stops happening around me. Everyone gets a little apprehensive and moves to the areas furthest from me. They start drinking more and suddenly some girl from another floor is hanging on me saying, “Oh my god, I’m so embarrassed. But you won’t write about this, right? See, I love you. You are just so honest. That is what I love about you.”

 

Sure, it all sounds good and could make for some pretty interesting writing, but at the end of the day, it isn’t even good blog material as things start happening that are so crazy to write about it would be borderline defamation. 

 

Not to mention it is really bad form to write in detail what people do when they are drunk. It isn’t as if I have spent my 28 years stone cold sober. I can’t count the number of times I have woken up, thankful that a camera wasn’t around the prior night. Google Imaging my name might be a completely different story.

 

But, back to my dilemma. Do I stay, or do I go (home)? It would be nice to have a free drink after a grueling work week. However, this drink wouldn’t really be free. My boss would appreciate my attending, but I don’t think he would be able to relax as he watched certain co-workers behavior and saw my eyes grow wide with columns that will never be published.

 

Maybe I will just call in sick and avoid the whole freakin’ mess. Anybody know what that weather is supposed to be like tomorrow?  I prefer to use my sick days when it’s nice outside.

November 9, 2006

See That Pretty Girl in the Mirror There?

Posted in Lessons Learned, Office Hijinks at 2:31 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

There is an old Jeanine Garofalo bit wherein she is talking about fashion magazines and recalls reading a recent cover that proclaims “Pretty is Back.”  Ms. Garofalo then breathes a sigh of relief and says something to the effect of, “Thank god because pretty people have had it so tough lately.”

 

Of course the joke being, when wasn’t pretty in style?  When was it hard for pretty people? 

 

There is a girl that used to work with us that I called Pretty, because she just was.  When Pretty needed help working her dictaphone, nobody batted an eyelash, well except for Pretty.  Every time Pretty called the IT department, I’m sure they rolled their eyes, but they also came right away. 

 

One time Pretty told a managing partner, whom she was helping with a last minute filing, that she had to leave at five, none of the other girls gasped.  He certainly didn’t yell.  Nor did my boss pull her in for the “team effort” speech.  Pretty simply left at five and the firm asked for volunteers to stay.

 

Now, mind you, I’m pretty, but I am also smart.  Okay, not always.  Sometimes I am just pretty.  Like when I thought joining a bowling league would be a good way to meet guys – that day, I was just pretty. But most days, I’m both.

 

Also, I am not picking on pretty girls here.  I’m picking on just pretty girls.  Which I would venture a guess is the minority of pretty girls.  Whether it was because of a fat phase, or an ugly phase, or having a prettier older sister your whole life, most pretty girls have to learn to survive without their looks. 

 

But not Pretty.  One day, Pretty’s boss wasn’t around, Pretty didn’t have much work to do and one of the other girls needed help.  In her pretty little way, Pretty strolled over to the girl’s cube, informed her she’d be happy to help after her lunch. 

 

I don’t know if the other girl was having a bad day, or maybe she hadn’t eaten or maybe she was just sick and tired of picking up after Pretty, but she snapped.  Just a bit. 

 

Hurt, Pretty left, calling her boss on the way to tell him that she just couldn’t come back to that place. However she would be back the following day. 

 

See, I envy and pity Pretty. 

 

I envy her naiveté, and general lack of responsibility.  I envy that she can get by on her looks and not feel dirty or guilty or silly about it.  She can even laugh about it.

 

I pity Pretty because I fear she has no belief in herself, beyond her good looks.  Pretty once talked about going to law school, but shrugged it off as a stupid idea.  In my head I imagined her parents clicking their tongues, tilting their heads, patting her hair and saying, “Honey, law school isn’t for you.  Law school is for ugly people.”  Then smiling and turning away. 

 

I also pity her because never in her pretty little head did she see anything wrong with walking out on a job, just for an afternoon, because she was having a bad day. 

 

After talking with Pretty, her boss called my boss, my boss called the HR director, the HR director called the managing partners and in the end it was decided that Pretty wouldn’t be allowed back.

 

And that was, I’m sure, a very hard lesson for Pretty to learn.  Maybe as hard as math.

November 6, 2006

The Return of a Former Assistant

Posted in Office Hijinks at 4:23 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

Recently, Senor Creepy brought his old paralegal to show off the new space.  Senor’s new paralegal seemed more than a little miffed as he was walking around introducing her to new and old staff alike.  It could be because she had a dozen letters for him to sign or the fact that she had planned to have cake for his birthday an hour and a half ago.  

As they sat in his office reminiscing about the good ol’ days, his new paralegal stood outside his door, tapping her toe and suggesting they had real work to do.

You hear stories and there is a history, cases and discovery that the two of you will never share.  And then there are the letters she left behind; her initials next to his at the bottom of an old correspondence.  

I stepped past the seething new paralegal and into my boss’s office. He must have smelled the tension because he asked what I had told the new paralegal about the old one. 

Sure, there are a number of juicy details I could have given the new girl to stoke her fire, but I didn’t.  My boss has such little faith in me.

I responded that I think there is just natural tension there.

He eyed me quizzically.

You know an old assistant that is still buddy-buddy with the boss, it has to make a new girl wonder.  

He still wasn’t picking up what I was putting down. “Like last Christmas when you went out to lunch with your old assistant and told me that you were going to offer her her old job. And I told you she could have it,” I said.“That sounds like a smart ass thing you would say,” he replied.“It’s like that.”

I turned and left the room.  Little did I know this would have him worrying and not billing the rest of the afternoon.

He came out later.  “I took you to lunch last week,” he said.   

“I know.”  

“Are you mad that I didn’t take you to lunch for the holidays?”

I shook my head.  “No you got me a really lovely pocketbook.”

“That’s right.  And I think I know you well enough to know you would prefer a pocketbook to having lunch with me.”

And he’s right I would.

I should have gone on to assure him that it is really quite impractical for me to get jealous of all the women that sat at this desk before me.  I could spend entire days wondering if he liked any one of them more than me, when the truth is that none of them lasted long enough for him to form an opinion.  Well, except that one that he insists on having lunch with on occasion.  

Still, the whole thing reminds me of being out with a boyfriend and running into his ex-girlfriend.  You try to like her.  You force a smile, ask the appropriate, polite questions and compliment on her eyes, knowing yours are nicer.   

In the best case scenarios you part ways, shortly thereafter.  You spend the next couple of days going over all the stories you know about her, now with a face for her name.  Worst case scenario she sticks around and hangs out and they laugh and joke and re-tell stories as you sit there drinking too fast and wondering why they ever split up. 

When Senor finally introduced the two paralegals it was nothing but polite civility.  Well, until the new paralegal cut off the old paralegal to ask Senor about bills that had to go out that day.  While her back was to me, I could tell by her shoulders that she was smirking at the older woman.    

So, I imagine it is just as awkward in the reverse, being the old flame.  But here I am also fortunate since my boss is my first real boss and most of my ex-boyfriends are out of the closet and their current boyfriends love me.  

And by love me I mean are grateful for and pity me.