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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Drinky Drink

Sometimes, our society really gets on my wick.

I guess it's good that I have a blog.

A thoroughly illuminating article appeared in the New York Times online edition today that centers around alcohol and work, two items that should never be combined in the first place.

According to Jody Queen-Hubert, executive director of cooperative education and career services at New York's Pace University, you shouldn't go out boozing with co-workers and/or your boss.

Wow. Who knew, right? So glad I read the NYT for actual information and not just snob appeal.

Cy Wakeman, president of a human resources consulting firm agrees, stating that "the risk is very high that something negative will come out of it." I wonder if having a beaver-bumping party with your supervisor counts as "negative" but let's assume for the moment that it does, or at least that the fallout from it does. Certainly sticking your foot in your mouth, making an inappropriate comment about minorities or the well-endowed or the emotionally disturbed may earn you demerits, even if you manage to keep your hands to yourself and/or your peenie locked up in its pleated, gabardine cell.

Let's face it, though I don't drink and never have, I'm well aware that people aren't exactly on their A-game when they've been tossing back a few, regardless of what they may think of that themselves. When you're in the company of the suits, you always want to be on your A-game, and gabbing it up while sloshed doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. That said, I'm left to ask the question: why is alcohol a part of work culture at all? Now, working in the non-profit sector, and a very small non-profit at that, I can't imagine having a three martini lunch with my executive director, though I admit the ensuing mayhem would probably be You Tube-worthy. Obviously, we're talking about the for-profit, corporate culture. I don't know what it is about alcohol that makes it pervade into even the occupational facet of our lives, where we're supposed to be competent, sober professionals. What is this seductive allure that comes with introducing alcohol into work relationships? Is there anybody who actually thinks it's a good idea?

When it comes time for the advice section of the article, Queen-Hubert gives some pretty shitty advice:

If colleagues regularly have drinks after work, order what everyone else is having but sip it slowly. “Make it last all night,” Ms. Queen-Hubert said. “Holding a drink without drinking is a way to feel like part of the crowd without compromising your judgment.”

No offense, Queenie, but what the fuck is that? Why should I have to spend $8.00 on a glass of wine because the other assholes sitting at the table are drinking? Why can't I drink a Diet Coke? Or water? What the hell does it matter what I do? Why can't they just do what they want and I do what I want?

Ah, because, amongst drinkers, abstaining is not allowed.

See Section B of said article:

Q. How do you politely decline to drink, especially if others are urging you to have one?

Well, here's my A.

"I don't drink."

Any further questions? Go fuck yourself.

I think it's pretty amazing the balls people grow when it's time to grill someone about why they don't drink. If you order a hoagie with no tomatoes, does everybody sitting at your table you at Quiznos bombard you with interrogatives about the abberation of your order?

"I just don't get it, man-- why don't you eat tomatoes?"

"Like, what's up with that?"

"Dude-- we all ordered tomatoes. What are you-- a fag?"

Somehow, though, in our culture, posing unrelenting, personal questions to the unfortunate teetotaler in the room is perfectly acceptable behavior. Why do we need a "polite way" to refuse a drink? Aren't I polite about everything else? Why is this even an issue. You do what you do, let me do what I do.

The problem, as I see it, is that people who consume alcohol, particularly large quantities thereof, want to feel their behavior being normalized. In order to accomplish that, one of two things needs to happen:

1.) They need to harrass and harangue anybody who is not participating in their behavior or.

2.) They need total compliance, participation, and assimilation from everybody in the room.

Otherwise, their behavior becomes questionable. And we cannot have that because, in our culture, engaging in the consumption of alcohol is acceptable and "normal," and abstinence is weird and suspect.

Q. When you attend business-related social events with more-senior colleagues, they always seem to be holding a drink. Could your refusal to do the same draw attention to your youth and inexperience?

Funny, I thought that refusing to do what everybody else is doing might draw attention to your independence, logical thought and self-preservation instinct. It might show that you aren't a squabbling little toadie that only wants to play dress-up in Daddy's big shoes and pretend to shave like the big boys. Of course, those participating in the New York Times article disagree with me, stating emphatically that you must "play along to get along."

"If you are at a high-profile event and all the executives are having a drink, you may feel you need one to be part of the club,” she noted. “That being said, you can still drink very little of it or have one drink and then switch to water.”

Man, fuck that. If that's what you need to do to be accepted in corporate culture, if working hard and making intelligent decisions isn't enough, fuck that. Hard.

The icing on the cake, or perhaps I should say "the ice shavings in the bourbon" comes like a thunderclap in the closing paragraph of the article in answer to the question, "How can you tell if you have a drinking problem that needs to be addressed?" The answer stunned me:

"A. If you can relax at professional events only by having a drink, that could indicate a problem... You may be using alcohol as a crutch when navigating uncomfortable social situations."

Well, yeah-- isn't that what your article just advised its readers to do-- use alcohol as a crutch? "Look, as long as you have that all-important scotch in your hand, that Holy Grail of corporate America, you'll do just fine." I mean, you're kidding me, right?

There are a lot of things about this world that I wish were different, but attitudes towards alcohol rank pretty high on my list.

3 comments:

  1. Your analogy to tomatoes was really funny. I think you're right...you don't have to be drinking to fit in. And you shouldn't have to.

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  2. I dont think you have to drink to fit in! If someone is ragging you to have a drink its because THEY want to fit in and you are fucking it up for them. I think people like that are alcoholics.
    My best friend works for a bank and back in the day they would have dinner/dances at Christmas time. She would have a pop or maybe a glass of wine because she had to drive home. She would sit back and watch these people (who were yucking it up with their bosses) transform into slobbering drunks. I think one of her friends went "home" with one of the managers! Imagine waking up to that. I think THAT clinched it for my friend and she stopped going.
    This article sounded retarded and I liked your 3 last paragraphs.
    I like my drinks at a party but I am with my friends. Drinking with co workers would have zero appeal.

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  3. The contradiction is blinding...

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