I was told someone would put a lampshade on their head

19 12 2011

It’s the time of year for global warming party after holiday party. Notice I said “holiday,” not Christmas. That’s right, it’s time to take sides in that imaginary war.

The parties can really pile up. Between friends, (shit, I still need to get my Kris Kringle gift) family, (much more fun now that I’m allowed to drink) and work (oh, we’ll get to that) your schedule can get pretty packed.

I remember hearing about wild office parties on TV when I was growing up. As a child, I couldn’t imagine why someone would have the urge to photocopy their own buttocks, but I understood that this was an important part of celebrating the holidays with coworkers. People were to get drunk, hook up in supply closets, talk shit about their boss, and then come in the next day reeking of Schnapps, shame, and regret.

Things don’t quite go that way in social work. Our parties are a little…tamer, to say the least.

At Anonymous Agency, we have our “celebration” (yes, those are sarcastic air quotes) in the middle of the day. A normal agency would send its overworked and overpaid workers straight home after all that organized “fun” (yes, again) but they chose not to. After two hours of luke-warm catered wares, eaten while balanced on our laps, and a half-hearted attempt to organize us into groups to sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” we were sent back to our offices. A half an hour away.

Not that I’m still pissed, or anything. (Not in the charming British drunk way–just furious.)

That get together isn’t quite enough. That’s for the entire agency, and we still have to celebrate with just our site. Because we love each other so, so much, and simply don’t spend enough time together.

The debate rages on. Do we go out to eat, or do we have a potluck in the office? A real Sophie’s choice. Whichever side I fall on, I’ll end up hurting someone, it seems.

Honestly, I don’t care. It’s happening in the middle of the day, and booze isn’t allowed no matter where we go. I’ll either be spending time and money baking, or spending money on lunch, because our budget for the Christmas party seems to be that we have no budget.

My only non-stick-in-the-mud coworker and I toyed with the idea of an after-work happy hour. This was primarily a way to get everyone drunk, so we could see if our intoxicated imitations of our supervisors were correct. But I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Whatever, staff. It’s not important. We all know Christmas is for the kids.

We also have a Christmas party for the families we work with. Here’s a word to the wise–when it comes to planning in the office, if you volunteer to do something once, you become the person who does that thing.

My first year here, as an engergetic new social worker, I volunteered to make the flyer for the party, and to run the arts and crafts room for the kids. Three years later, guess what I’m still doing?

They’re kind enough to say, “Oh, well SJ does such a great job with the flyers.” It’s true. I am able to type up dates and times, and steal snowman clipart on Google. It’s a gift, I suppose.

Then we have to discuss how many families we can invite. We work with a lot, and the office isn’t so big, so we have to cut it off somewhere. New Director is fond of advertising any goings-on at the agency, which puts all us workers in the awkward position of telling our families: yes, we’re having a party. No, you weren’t invited.

We’re the mean kid in your elementary school who hands out pool party invites to almost the whole class.

Some families get Christmas gifts through our donors, so we try to invite the families who don’t get gifts. Of course, given some of the gifts we’ve seen come in, I feel a little guilty about that.

Even if you don’t know that a kid has a history of vandalism, who gets an eleven year old a pack of Sharpies as a present? If something says, “small parts–not for children under 3” don’t give it to a fifteen month old. If I indicate that a six year old is a size nine, as her parents have yet to learn portion control, don’t assume that I’m an idiot, and she’s actually a 6x. Also, if you get one kid eight gifts, don’t give her older brother and sister three each, and think they won’t notice. They will. I had spreadsheets comparing what my brother and I got year to year when I was young. Have you ever seen a kid?

Anyway, back to the festivities. The debate tends to rage over what kind of food to get. Should we branch out, and try ham, or turkey? How about Italian food, something our families don’t usually have?

Then we remember we don’t have any money, and everyone will be sad if we don’t have rice and beans, anyway. Fine.

Then we need activities. As I mentioned, I’m the arts and crafts expert. What this actually means is that I am willing to sit in a large counseling room with rowdy children, guiding them in decorating tree ornaments, making cards, coloring snowy scenes, and generally not murdering each other. I do this all while wearing reindeer antlers, because I am festive and whimsical.

At least it’s not Easter, when eggs need to be boiled. Gross.

There’s usually a discussion about sending the kids home with gifts. Our budget is so small, we’d pretty much be sending them each home with a pencil. More than anything, I think this just calls more attention to the fact that we suck, and it’s best to avoid it.

Despite a lack of money, and no shortage of sugared up kids, the parties actually are always fun. It’s nice to see families come together and have a good time. And as much as I bitch about time with my coworkers, who understands the insanity of the job better than them? Once or twice a year, it’s nice to be reminded of that.

Provided we get to leave early.



3 responses

19 12 2011
Kat Mindenhall

Too funny! My husband was appalled once that we had to bring the food to our own staff retreat because we had no money – people just don’t understand being a social worker! 🙂

22 12 2011

Isn’t it sad when you get to the point where it just seems normal? 🙂

22 12 2011
Kat Mindenhall, LCSW

But it makes going to a normal event that is catered or something seem like luxury! I hear the banjo pickin’ from Beverly Hillbillies when I’m savoring soft cheeses and veggie platters. I hope no one can tell.

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