Cocktail Conversation

What do you do?

I really hate that question.

It may seem innocuous enough, but to me, what it feels like people are really asking is this: “How important should I think you are?”

I realize I’m lucky, so maybe this isn’t a fair complaint at all. I have a pretty cool job that I love and when I tell people about it, strangers often respond with favorable comments about the World Famous Medical Center where I’m employed.

But I’m also a little self-conscious about it.

Once in a while, I’ll be having a great conversation with someone and when the inevitable question is asked, there’s a palpable distance created. I’m sure police officers and clergy persons get similar responses. Suddenly that interesting conversation about the other person’s wild trip to Amsterdam morphs into a tame recitation of canal cruises and tulip viewing.

And I make enough social gaffes already, so I would never want to make another person uncomfortable if they were forced to talk about a job they hate or worse yet, recently lost. I also deeply believe that it’s rare that your profession and your passion are one and the same, and some of the coolest people I know don’t have fancy titles or jobs at all. 

So, can we make a deal? How about if we meet at a cocktail party, we can talk about the following:

  • What do you do for fun?
  • What was the best trip you’ve ever taken?
  • Or even this: What are you drinking?

I’ll probably talk your ear off.

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