Crazy talk, mumbo-jumbo

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – November 10, 2006

Now that I’ve quit drinking and smoking, let me tell you, socializing at parties is a whole new ballgame. It’s like walking around with a plastic bathing cap when everyone’s let their hair down.

The good news is I always leave the festivities the way I got there – alone. Never a naked hottie waking up beside me with the same question on his dehydrated lips: “What’s your name again?”

The sad news is I always leave the festivities the way I got there – alone. Never a naked dude…

Getting plastered and smoking cigarettes was always the best way to meet people. And remember the smoker’s corner at school? That’s where you established some of your best buddies.

But being sober and smoke-free means a lot fewer of these instant friends. It also means I’m paying attention to what people are saying. And it’s revealing a lot about myself, other human beings and why being wasted makes you fast friends in the first place.

There’s an honesty in drunk talk, where people’s inhibitions are lowered and they say what they feel and speak what they mean. None of the structured parlance and appropriate table-manners talk I struggled with at a party on Fifth Avenue last weekend.

A friend threw a Manhattan-in-the-Glebe party where each room was themed after a district in New York City. My group of six was chilling in the posh north-end “lounge” of the apartment when I got the question.

“So … what do you do?”

Maybe it was the pretence of the appropriated British accent that annoyed me. To look at me, you’d
wonder if I hadn’t become instantly constipated. I grew agitated. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t get “agitated” at bars, but maybe parties were different?

I generally hang loose, and it wasn’t too long ago that yours truly was tanked and mooning musician Spooky Ruben, shouting at Danny Michel on stage to take his pants off, or flashing someone on the dance floor at Aloha Room for a fiver.

But there I was, drinking my non-alcoholic beverage and refusing to answer a simple question. The lady compounded my irritability by asking me if I had kids, and whether my male companion was “your husband?”

These questions often come up at social functions after the cordial introductions of names and connection to the host or hostess are made. Most people just provide the answers. What is the big fucking deal, right?

Simply put – I think the stiff “what do you do?” question is ineffective because in its pathetic attempt to bond strangers, it distances and segregates. We instinctively attribute status and repute to a person based on their employment.

I didn’t tell the woman that among us were a doctor, a software engineer, a scriptwriter, a columnist, an engineer-slash-musician and a writer-artist. I believe these titles would make holograms of us unique 3D folks who are more than our paycheques and reputations.

What a mistake to attribute too much value to vocational virtue – or vanity – anyway. If folks are genuinely interested in who you are as a person, why not ask about your passions or do like they do at bars-talk crazy talk.

For instance, I spent my late 20s in a relationship with a graphic designer from a top advertising agency, which really impressed people. But it was the blue-collar postman boyfriend with the non-glamorous career who had time for me, hobbies and friendships. It is frustrating knowing society still fawns over the former, but satisfying to know such quiet humility in the latter.

Talk about whatever.

In Europe, people ask you if you’ve traveled recently on holiday. In the Maritimes, it’s been my experience that they ask you how you are-and they really want to know!

Socializing is hard when you’re trying to make a good impression. There’s something to be said about being three sheets to the wind and not giving a shit. There’s freedom in that.

But I’m learning, and for now prefer ginger ale.


GRAB A PIECE OF THE PIE Come schmooze and share with Ottawa’s funkiest businesswomen at the Eighth Annual Cherry Pie networking event on November 15 at Metropolitain Brasserie (700 Sussex at Rideau) at 8 p.m. Get friendly tips from the experts on how to turn your passion into a business. Tickets are $8 each, or two for $12. Part of the proceeds go to support Project Chance Africa-raising money for schoolchildren in the Muthare slums in Nairobi, Kenya. For more information, contact


POP MY CHERRY Come to Venus Envy (320 Lisgar Street at Bank) on November 18 for a night of smut and dirty talk as the Capital Poetry Collective presents Talented Tongues, a night of erotic writing. Featured readers include Ottawa’s Suki Lee, Nichole McGill, The Split from Toronto et moi, along with Ritallin, Liz Cullen, Amanda Earl, Melanie Spiteri, Danielle Gregoire, Steve Sauvé and Festrell. This will also be the Ottawa launch of the new Arsenal Pulp Press anthology, With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn ($21.95 at Venus Envy), and Lee ( will be reading from her contributing story, “Through Winter Sun.”

Come and let us give you pleasure with our written words. Doors open at 8:30 p.m., $7. Hosted by Lisa Slater and Mary Alice Elcock.

– Sylvie Hill