In New York and San Francisco, I went to parties where the doorman had been invited along with college professors and participants in Corporate America. There was exclusivity, but there was also a willingness to move in and out of socioeconomic parameters, to converse just for the sake of getting a different perspective. Working as a waiter at a French café after his masters, my husband had conversations with people from celebrities to elderly ladies that came in to order the same thing every week and read the New York Post amongst a collage of New York Times.
In Washington, DC, social circles are formed around access to power. The White House is the center and it goes out from there. Someone told me that she thought the reason everyone was so polite in DC is because you never knew how much power someone held. DC’s uniform, bland sense of style doesn’t make it any easier to distinguish who’s who. Without a motorcade or entourage of Secret Service, Washington’s elite would leave you asking, “Who knew?” Say what you will about not getting drawn into the Washington way, if you have just a modicum of career ambition, it happens.
At a recent fundraiser my husband, who is actively looking to transition into another field, and I scanned the room during the speeches, observing others as we were observed. We asked ourselves who we wanted to introduce ourselves to when the speech was over, who seemed interesting, who we wanted to make a connection with because they may know someone who knew someone else who… and on and on until a new opportunity had been found and the assessment would begin all over again.
When we got home we organized our collected business cards, making notes on the backs, and assessed ourselves. How did we present? What could we have done better? How would we handle that question next time? And when we were done I asked my husband, “Do we even want what the people that we are comparing ourselves to have?” We settled in on the couch in our old t-shirts with a piece of chocolate and a cat and felt for the first time that day like there was no second guessing.