Merging in 

With a project I had been part of coming to an end it was time for celebrations. And what better way than to get the most junior member of the team to book a swanky dinner. 

Panic ensued. How much is appropriate per head spending? How close does it have to be to the office? What time should I book it for? Does there have to be posh wine? I just knew this would be another story to add to my chest of work dinner horror stories – from booking a place a partner (think top dog) joked about hating at pre drinks to enjoying dinner in a place everyone else laughed at because it was too cheap. Let’s just say I am not made for organising corporate days out. A quick message of my initial idea to the person at the level above me confirmed my fears. It was too cheap. So I used my networking skills and emailed my fellow colleague who happens to spend her free time at the races and galleries. She had a few good recommendation. 

After much googling and another quick message to the guy above the previous guy it was confirmed that the place was appropriate. 

Booked and done. 

Except now one of the guys complained I had booked it too late in the evening. Messaged the most senior guy to check if it was ok – no reply. So the booking stayed. 

The day came round and I was so nervous! Being the only brown person, only women and probably only “lower than working class” person means I don’t often have a lot in common with my colleagues. I prayed it would get cancelled. Instead 2 people cancelled. So then there were 3 – me and the two most senior guys. 

I arrived on time. No news from the other two. I’d watched enough tv to know it’s appropriate to wait at the bar and order a drink. Still no news from anyone else. How long do I wait? Can I play Pokemon Go? 

They arrived 20 minutes later and so began the charade. Laughing at their stories of partners buying €200 shirts and explanations of why cars are so expensive in Denmark. Drinking sparkling water (which I call acid water) because I was too awkward to ask for still. 

But perhaps most worrying of it all is how easily I merged into that world. I found myself smiling at the right time. Asking the right questions. I started to feel at ease and welcome. I was enjoying myself. 

And there’s nothing wrong with that of course. I worked hard on the project. I deserve a treat too. 

But it’s my merging that worries me. Spend too long putting up a charade and I may just forget which part of it is me and which part is for them. 

Don’t lose who you are in the blur of the stars
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It’s okay not to be okay.
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart.
Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
Just be true to who you are. – Jessie J, Who You Are

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