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Amid a deadline at work, I have the need to write about something other than work-related news items. If you’d asked me a few years ago that I’d be writing for a living, I’d have smiled and hoped you were right. I’ve changed the course of my career and am happy–for now. My first job out of college was for a Fortune 100 company, financial. A maze of cubicles and florescent lighting, I likened my daily routine to that of the movie, Office Space. I joined in September and by December, the office emails explaining details about office potlucks and holiday-themed field trips flooded my mailbox. I was horrified–was this it for me? Well, I supplemented my mundane daily routine with long weekends of alcoholic semi-binge sessions (a nicer term for being a “social alcoholic,” as my mother labeled me), often accompanied by Rachel and Susie, my Chicago cohorts. As I hear of people’s corporate Christmas parties, I recall that very first corporate party I attended and how I did everything you aren’t supposed to do at your first grown up job.

The work day ended early, our manager summoning us to the nearby athletic club downtown to join in drinks and food. I’d just started that September, reluctant to make friends, certain I wouldn’t stay there long. However, today was no day to be anti-social. The day still shining through the windows, I felt it was strange that carts of top shelf alcohol was being wheeled around, my co-workers helping themselves to generous servings of hard liquor. I was just getting used to post-college life and daytime drinking was usually a no-no.

Some co-workers ordered some lemon drops and ushered me over to the bar. I got carded. Everyone roared in laughter and for whatever reason, I felt at ease and that I could absolutely drink any of these pansies under the table. Drink after drink and making fast friends, we all decided to go to a bar. A girl from a different department at the firm–I had no idea who she was before then and I had no idea who she was afterward–and I bounced from the party and got in a cab. I thought we were going to another bar but ended up back at her lakefront apartment. I should have just called it a night right then, but that would make too much sense. She changed into a scandalous outfit (weren’t we still meeting up with mostly male co-workers??) and shuttled back to the bar. We arrived and she bounced in and disappeared, myself being greeted by the saucy dudes and given a drink. For whatever reason (maybe the scared look on my face or glassy-eyed expression), the bartender eyed me and asked for my ID. We all laughed and I fumbled for my wallet…OMG it’s missing!!

A normal reaction would have been to freak out internally and try to trace my footsteps. Instead, saucy me got wide-eyed and darted out of the bar–and then darted back in.

“I’m sorry, but if you don’t have an ID, you’re going to have to leave,” said the bartender.

All of a sudden the table of guys started pumping their fists on the table, “She stays!!”

“She goes or I’m calling the cops. No minors.”

I was 22.

Then things got loud…drunken testosterone decided it’d be chivalrous of them to berate the bartender and threaten to drink directly from the taps as payback. Meanwhile, all the noise–and the fact that I’d lost my wallet–left me feeling…vulnerable. Out of no where, my usual stoic self began to cry quietly. The guy who hired me, a thirty-something, came over and cradled me, caressing my head (to be fair, I don’t think he was exactly sober) and telling me it was “going to be alright.” Then the sirens came. All of a sudden a table was knocked over, everyone running, chairs scattered and I was snatched up by Justin, a preppy/burly co-worker, and carried out of the bar.

“It’s the poh-poh!”

I have to assume this drastic reaction was due to the alcohol–or was I working with a bunch of psychos?? My co-worker placed me down in front of our building. It was just us now and I was horrified and embarrassed at the whole thing. For whatever reason (even though I’d been carded at the athletic club and hadn’t returned to the office since before then), I agreed when Justin suggested he accompany me upstairs in search of it. He was quite tall and good looking enough (why I felt the need to confirm this with my single-self, I can’t rationalize), so I thought, sure. It’s a good thing I’d given his aesthetics the “OK” because we got in the elevator and he proceeded to makeout with me until we hit the sixth floor. The doors opened and I scampered out, swiped my card and surprise! No wallet.

I looked out my work window and could see the two police squads leaving the bar across the street. Guess I can’t walk in front of that place ever again, I thought. Of course I couldn’t find my wallet and Justin asked if I’d bothered to eat anything. I realized I hadn’t eaten since breakfast so he suggested sushi. And just like that, I was on a date.

We went to the sushi place and I stuffed myself full of dumplings and sashimi. He seemed amused and it almost seemed normal, except for the fact that I was still wasted (although he thought I had sobered up by this point). I drunkenly lamented about my lethargic sense of being, my hate of cubicles in general and my penchant for whiskey. He even gave me a ride home and I was like, “Peace out, see you tomorrow.”

I woke up the next morning (this is why it’s bad to have work parties in the middle of the week) and shuffled into work. When I arrived I was swarmed by the females. “OMG the police came and everyone left because you didn’t have ID?! Didn’t you leave with Justin?? What happened??” Apparently, aside from the skanky chick co-worker with the fabulous lakefront digs, there were no other ladies at the bar that night. I looked super classy.

Hungover and red-faced, I just smiled and was like, “Nah, nothing happened. Justin just raped my face and then took me out for sushi.” Realizing what I’d just said and that it was too late, I knew I had royally f*&%ed myself from there on out. A normal person would have sauntered over to Justin’s cube and been like, “Thanks for the grub, I was totally sloshed.” But instead, I proceeded to tuck and roll between cubes whenever I went near there and avoided him like the plague. I literally pretended like nothing ever happened. I never cried, the cops were never called and I did not engage in an unsolicited face-rape in the company elevator. I stayed there until November the following year under these pretenses. It was my goal that I would not stay at the firm long enough to see another Christmas party–and I did manage to leave right before the next one. Score!

You might wonder how I was able to live that down. Luckily, I was so good at pretending like it was all good and “who cares?” that no one bothered to mention it. I felt bad later on that I had ignored Justin like that–but then again that’s how I always dealt with weird situations–just pretend they never happened (and hello, I was crying while being caressed by my director, the cops looking to arrest me for underage drinking and my co-workers for stealing beer–and it was simply a total face rape). Of course another reason why everyone let it lie was due to the fact there were a plethora of work boundaries that were inappropriately crossed and everyone preferred to keep it to themselves.

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The ladies came together and bedlam ensued. The scenery changes, but the revelry remains a constant in the lives of all of them. Two ladies touched down in a newly-chilled Boston, anxious to begin some seriously overdue face-time with their east coast counterparts. The cobble-stoned streets of the North End, lit up with holiday anticipation, fueled the overall excitement of the reunion as the thought of alcohol coating their throats quickened their steps.

I screamed out to the cyber world via Facebook to no one in particular that my cronies were coming–and quickly noticed that one of them answered with the phrase that became the slogan of the weekend: “Get drunk, get naked and be somebody!” A well-weathered and straight-up inappropriate “mentor” of Coco’s had inadvertently christened the weekend and we were happy to try and live up to that standard.

There were four of us at the first bar, with Alexis leaving to tend to her comparably grown-up home-life situation, but expecting to rejoin us later that weekend. Meanwhile, Zoe, Coco and myself met up with some other college friends while bouncing around the North End, dropping in and out of bars, wondering if they’d been there years before. Coco smiled while at Bricco, where she recalled a tryst with an off-the-boat Italian pizza-maker whom she fancied for an evening while in college. We kept drinking…

We rushed over to a dive bar over on Commercial Street, the ocean-effect snow stinging our cheeks and chipping away at our buzzes. There we continued our party, talking faster and remembering less of what was being said. We left with one less of us, Coco having drunkenly decided to pass out face-down a few blocks away from us with a Masshole of Irish descent, who warned her of his people’s affliction of having ‘small members.’ She awoke the next morning to find that her original portrait of him had been greatly affected by an overload of booze and a lack of dinner. We realized that the weekend was only beginning.

Coco cursed me as she crept up the five flights of stairs the next morning, “Five flights of stairs–really, Reese??” She promptly passed out face down on the pull out sofa bed until she was peeled off and shipped downstairs for some retail extravagance with Alexis and Zoe.

After work (yes I made it to work that day), I joined them at Copley Mall, losing interest in our shopping tasks quickly and wondering where my first drink was coming from. We snacked and drank up at Haru, with Susie from the night before stopping in and chatting it up. We enjoyed our happy hour appetizers, the salmon avocado roll being fresh and the warm sake satisfyingly numbing. We were awaiting the arrival of Scarlett from her laborious bus trip from Philadelphia. The bar was dark, drafty and lulled me into a state of lethargic impatience. The scene didn’t seem to fit the crowd and after lingering a bit longer, we set out back to the North End to regroup and “go all out” for Coco’s post-birthday fete in Beantown.

Now, it’s not often a new presence is introduced into this group’s dynamic. The girls in town this weekend all happened to be bridesmaids, with bonds running deep, crooked and often half-remembered. Dallas was forewarned but also reassured that she would “love them,” and I knew they’d love her too. She met up with us back in the North End as we gussied up and continued to drink our liquid courage to face the bitter cold outside. Zoe joined us in the midst of our whoring up, having checked into a hotel earlier that evening, expecting her man to meet us all out later that night. Meanwhile, my man, having rewarded himself after a stressful week of work with a $10 bottle of whiskey, downed it with a vigor I was all too familiar with–he wouldn’t last long tonight.

We all joined together and headed out toward Alibi in The Liberty Hotel. While I’ve been to places with onslaughts of vagrant douchery, this place served as no exception. Glassy-eyed metros eye humped the tits and asses of the ladies that funneled in. After downing a round of tequila shots (of which, I’m not a fan of, yet always seem to succumb to), the room got smaller and someone farted. We bolted to airier spaces.

I glanced over to my man, leaning against the wall for support, a half-sided grin across his face. Aw, my preppy lover had had his fill for the evening, and let me know he was calling it a night. I walked out with him to ensure he got into a cab, but when I was told I couldn’t have my drink outside and they’d have to take it from me, I quickly placed my concerns for my fiance aside and darted back toward the club. Of course my man scampered off, choosing to walk from the Beacon Hill/North End spot, saving the cab scrill for the following night.

Zoe’s dude showed up and the drinking continued. We shimmied over to Bond at The Langham Hotel in the Financial District. The interior was impressive, if not memorable, despite the alcohol. However, the douchery level in this place was beyond belief. All of a sudden I felt less cool. I was quickly and happily distracted by the carefree Dallas as she shook her ruffled décollage, her eyes veering toward a Brian Urlacher-like bouncer. She quickly decided against it, having heard him try to utter a intelligible sentence, and the party went on.

Coco, combing through the douchery, found herself a decent conquest and he quickly took a liking to her. They danced some kind of tequila-laced salsa and I knew she’d found a favorable bed fellow for the evening. The night came to a close and I headed toward the door, hoping to find my man in bed, myself ready to pass out.

I found myself sidelined by a douche of Kanye West-like proportions. “Hey there, I like me some vanilla–why are you alone?” Wondering where the rest of that crew went, I smiled and said I was just dandy but felt I was more of a buttercream than a vanilla. He continued, his Burberry/Hermes/Chanel knock-off scarves (yes, he was wearing all of them at the same time) and cheap aviators made me smile, except he took that to mean I was enjoying our witless exchange.

Meanwhile, knowing Jake would appreciate his efforts, Zoe’s man, Rodge, began his chivalrous attempt to deter the douche–to no avail. Not believing that myself and Rodge, more of a toffee himself, were an item, he finally relented, noticing that an unsuspecting Zoe was smiling at us, amused at the situation. Kanye mistook that for eagerness and moved in on her.

“Hmm…you realize my plan has backfired, as he is now hitting on my actual girlfriend,” sputtered Rodge. We laughed and found ourselves interrupted with yet another character handing me a business card.

“Cha?” I asked.

“Just call, I’ll see what I can do….and they always call–like you? You’ll call.”

“What? Isn’t this from vistaprint.com?” I laughed and tucked the card away, if for no other reason, but to be able to refer to it the next day when I wouldn’t believe myself. Cha, satisfied that I’d secured the card, bowed and exited…what just happened?

The weekend continued…

Apart from the usual holiday festivities: the joining of family and friends and the over-indulging in tasty holiday delicacies–drama is usually a part of the overall experience. This Thanksgiving was no different. The underlying tension revolving around the impending nuptials abroad for one brother and his fiancé was for the moment, forgotten and instead, blanketed by the aroma of roasted turkey and simmering side dishes. I came down the stairs and noticed the absence of chatter, realizing that the crew had already begun munching. My man had so thoughtfully served me a plate–I find myself still smiling at these little acts of thoughtfulness, often wondering why they resonate so well with me.

The meal went on and chatter started up again. Creamy cheese-covered broccoli and buttery, silky mashed squash had a new taste this year. I recalled the previous Thanksgiving where the same dishes offered no satisfaction. I had already forgotten, as I stuffed my face, about how just one year earlier I didn’t realize the turkey had finished roasting or that there were pots simmering because I couldn’t smell a thing. The concussion I suffered the July before last Thanksgiving rendered me impaired. Instead of dropping an obscene amount of weight, I simply gorged more (and I’ve read in some places this has to do with the fact that the brain doesn’t compute that you’ve had enough deliciousness for one sitting and therefore are full–because there is nothing delicious about the mechanical action of shoving food in your mouth without the right nerves in your brain working!). Instead of only being able to distinguish sweet from sour, salt and spice, I was able to taste the walnuts in the cranberry sauce and the buttery nuttiness of the mashed root veggies I was enjoying. Just one year earlier, only white wine tasted somewhat palatable, with red wine having the same effect as a cup of coffee or a glass of flat soda–well, with the added value of total inebriation if I drank enough of it and the off-chance that I’d forget my current tasteless plight of an existence (it was a big deal).

The night progressed, ending at a neighborhood dive bar where cans of Pabst were $2 each and the proprietor of the fine establishment donned nothing more than a dingy white undershirt and a penchant for calculating tabs in his head–to the detriment of his intoxicated patrons. After downing one too many, the liquid courage of one sibling announced that no one wanted to go abroad for the nuptials. A bit taken by surprise, the thoughtful husband-to-be and his lethargic lady were more surprised by the choice of venue to make the announcement rather than the actual statement. Words flew, we listened, bantered light-heartedly…and then I left, at first just annoyed, followed by extreme pangs of anger, resulting in a rage-induced, sobbing cell-phone rant to my brother from the top of my lungs as I combed through the jet black roads in this now suddenly hostile Maine backdrop. Such sentiments would have been appreciated 18 months earlier (not that we would have changed any of it).

With encouragement from my brother to “not give them the satisfaction” of knowing how upset I was, I slapped myself a few times, ran in place, thought of the eye of the tiger, and marched over to the backdoor, where I preceded to creep in with the hopes of not running into anyone. Of course fast-forward to sobbing in the mother-in-law’s embrace and then bolting when I realized the crew had returned, having themselves been kicked out of the bar and calls to the police threatened. In mid sentence I darted off yelling that I had to “hide!!” And immersed my face in a sink full of ice cold water. I sauntered over to the stairs, feeling like I’d been beat up and had too much to drink (after only having had half a beer an hour earlier, I was wondering what happened to the rest of it. Was it still on the table at the bar or had it been flung at someone after, of course, being finished off first so as not to waste anything…)

I tried to sneak upstairs but was intercepted mid stair-climb. My man took one look at me and his glazed over expression of defeat transitioned into a moment of epiphany. Realizing I was full of shit and was most certainly bothered by the night’s events (I had previously assured him on the phone that I was fine and just tired), he marched over to the kitchen and bellowed to the family to meet him in the living room. I sat at the top of the stairs cuddled up with the family dog, both of us thankful to have one another to lean on as it was quite drafty up there. This usually respectful guy got his point across, most likely getting the desired effect due to the sheer volume of his voice and use of occasional profanity, and the parental units were more than cool about the situation, taking it upon themselves to speak for the family in that “from today onward, you won’t have any [passive aggressive emails, hints, or complaints] negativity from the family.” The ordeal was rounded off by an awkward but maybe even sincere group hug and we scattered.

It was strange since we went to bed, my man and I, feeling better about everything. We knew it was just a matter of time before things blew up–we just didn’t realize it would blow up that huge. That was probably the first time they seemed like family to me–although I’m sure I could have had that same feeling without the blowout…but maybe not.