On Thursday, I decide to embrace my new residence and new job by going to the Mashable SF Mash-up. I used to go to networking events all the time, so I figured going to one here would really get me into the swing of things.
I put on my best, blandly-scanning-the-room face and waited to meet someone who wanted to hear about my job. I recalled how before I took the job, a ex-marketing friend, and (publisher of online arts salon Revolving Floor) explained to me that what marketing people did was “smile and act like everything was fine.” I was quickly approached by a very small, older man.
He walked over and planted himself by my side. “Hello,” he said.
“Hi,” I said. He didn’t speak, or move. The pause got weird. I decided to start networking. “So what do you do?”
He looked immediately annoyed and took a step away from me. “What kind of question is that to be asking?’
“Ok.” Do not be pissed off, I told myself. Act like everything is fine, smile. “What did you have for dinner?”
“That’s not the right question. The right question is: what do I want for dessert.”
“Okaay. What do you want for dessert?”
“I want to take you to dinner tomorrow night,” he explained, as though he was delivering actual information instead of employing the most absurd pick-up line on earth.
“Oh, thanks, but I’m busy tomorrow night!” Fine. Smile. Fine. Smile.
“So am I.”
Again, we stood in silence.
“You know,” he finally snapped. “You’re a lovely girl, but when a man comes to talk to you, how dare you ask him, ‘what do you do?’ That is the rudest question a woman can ask a man.”
My smile was starting to break my face.
“Sorry, I just got here from New York.”
“Then you should really know better.”
As he walked away I called after him, “Are you serious? That’s all anyone asks in New York, ‘what do you do?'”
I turned to my cousin, who had been by my side the whole time.
“What the F*#K?” I was yelled, and didn’t even care if Pete Cashmore heard me. “I mean, is it me, or are we at a F*#king networking event? What the F*#k is wrong with this city? Are you seriously going to tell me that in San Francisco, you can’t talk about work at a networking event? I’m not going to survive here.”
“It’s ok! Don’t freak out.” She was either embarrassed by the volume of my voice, or the degree to which I was talking with my hands.
“No!” I stomped my foot. “I want to freak out. I have been here two weeks. And I have tried to adapt. But what F*#k was that? I’m sorry, but I am having my first I’m-from-New-York moment.”
Ultimately, I got over it. I met someone whose company was purchased by AOL so some of my Silicon Valley mash-up dreams stayed in tact. But I realized that out here, “smile and act like everything is fine” really means, “don’t ask, don’t tell.”