explaining what your life's about to strangers at parties: Part 1

'So - what do you do?'

A friend once gave me some advice when I nervously mentioned I was going for a job interview later that day:

'Henry, don't speak. If you do have to speak, don't use your real voice. And whatever you do, don't be yourself.'

Sometimes, when confronted by a barrage of tipsy young professionals, this advice seems like much more than just irony. So here are some options, should you find yourself hopelessly searching for a phrase to sum up your life in a brief, conversational manner that won't lead to a series of funny looks and awkward silences:

OPTION 1: Lie.

'Hi. Nice to meet you. What's you're name? What do you do, then?'

'My name's Henry. I'm a super successful investment banker. No - not one one those ones that fucked you all in the arse! I'm too young to be held responsible for that. I do, however, own a Porsche. So what do YOU do??'

OPTION 2: Exaggerate.

'So - what do you do?'

'I'm a writer.'

'Oh yes - that sounds interesting.'

'Well - I've recently had my first novel short-listed for the Man-Booker Prize.'

(Maybe that's a bit too much exaggeration/ lying again.)

Maybe this instead:

'I'm a writer. It's slow work to begin with - making a name for yourself, networking, contacts, all that stuff - but it's what I love and it's gradually picking up. I've got a few exciting projects lined up.'

OPTION 3: Tell the truth.

'So - what do you do?'

'I've had to move back in with my parents because I couldn't make up my mind what to do with my life. Sometimes I feel like I'm floating in a dark and indefinite world. I'm trying to be a writer but I can't support myself on it and, to be honest, I don't know if I'm even any good. I don't really know what my life's about, really.'


OPTION 4: Deflect attention away with a joke.

'So - what do you do?'

'Oh nothing really. I'm terribly dull! Goodness - have you seen that girl in the corner? She's a frightful state! She looks like Big Bird after a ketamine binge! What did you say you did??'

OPTION 5: Suddenly appear very busy and important.

'So - what do you do?'

'Oh - hang on a second - is that Margot and Jeremy! MARGOT! JEREMY! I haven't seen you two for ages! Last time was that weekend on the Riviera, wasn't it? Just after we'd clinched the Marcony Deal. Sorry - just going to say hi. Back in a sec!'

OPTION 6: Appear as if you've drunk too much and make a dash for the loo, then the front door.

'So - what do you do?'

'I think I'm gonna be sick. S'cuse me.'

OPTION 7: Engage them in some philosophical debate too broad to include your life's specifics.

'So - what do you do?'

'Oh - what do any of us do really? Wander across the face of the Earth in search of something to give us meaning. You know, Sartre said we had to find our own meaning. Isn't that interesting? Life's really like that, isn't it?'

They'll like it because it makes them feel clever. And BOOM! personal crisis averted.

Now, if only I got invited to more parties...

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