— Life —

Holiday Lunch Envy

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Usually I like that I’m a solopreneur who works from home. The commute is great. I don’t need to put on eyeliner–unless I want to–and my co-workers are rarely annoying. But this time of year I miss being in an office. I miss the afternoon run for holiday coffees. I miss seeing what gifts my coworkers are ordering online. Mostly I miss the annual holiday lunch.

Before leaving the workforce to have kids and become a writer, I worked in industries known for their healthy expense accounts: a key contributor – along with spiked eggnog – to a memorable holiday lunch.

One year the lunch was held at our boss’s tennis club… after year-end bonuses had been announced. People were giddy or depressed: either, when mixed with alcohol, can have interesting results. The club hosted an annual Charles Dickens-themed Christmas lunch replete with roast goose, figgy pudding and Christmas crackers containing elaborate tissue paper crowns. Our boss – a man known for his habit of reading the newspaper each day, circling the grammatical errors and berating his employees (and ex-wife) for gaining weight – insisted we wear our crowns as we dined. He was the absolute master of the backhanded compliment, and the holiday lunch was his Tour de Force as he gave cruel little speeches about each of us. It was hard not to become hysterical with laughter at times. The lunch provided a marvelous bonding experience that lasted all year. One would only have to mention “roast goose” or “Christmas cracker,” and everyone would dissolve into gales of laughter. I miss those days.

At another holiday affair I had the chance to sit next to a guy with the ability to leave his plate absolutely spotless regardless of what he was served. I saw him polish off a bone-in chicken, olives with pits and a wilted lettuce leaf garnish, leaving nothing behind. Did he eat the bones? The pits? Did he somehow toss them onto the floor, like Henry VIII, while distracting me à la David Blaine? To this day I have no idea.

Now when I see a table of co-workers sitting with their Secret Santa gifts, tucked discretely beneath their chairs as they share the communal blooming onion, I’m wildly jealous.

I want to make small talk with the weird guy from accounting. I want to wear a garish holiday sweater. The holidays are about celebrating your hive, no matter how dysfunctional it might be.

I supposed I could sit at the kitchen table in my pajamas, wearing a paper crown, starting my drinking at noon, but I’m not sure it would be the same. Like a game of Twister, the holiday lunch was meant to be done in a group.


Join us on December 13th at the 1010 Park Place book club to discuss They Left Us Everything, Plum Johnson’s beautiful memoir of family legacy and how possessions unlock memory. The author will be here to answer your questions.


  • Esther Zimmer December 5, 2016 at 6:14 am

    Jen, are there other entrepreneurs in your area? I love working alone, but I also have a small group of amazing women – who also work for themselves – who I meet up one day a week to co-work and bounce ideas off. We have our own Christmas lunch, if you could find a group like this I promise you’ll never want to go back to office small talk or cruel speeches ever again. But you can still wear your garish sweater, if they’re the right women for you, they’ll love it! Esther xx

    • Jen December 6, 2016 at 11:34 am

      Great idea, Esther! I need to start finding my tribe. Because my work is so solitary, I tend to only reach out to other writers online but I feel the need to connect IRL. xo

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