Tuesday, October 25, 2011

See Jane Get Married

The past three years have been busy, maybe a little too busy.  I started my own law firm, published my “first” novel (first published -- I wrote several before this one), and stood up in two traditional weddings. 

After eight years as a lawyer, I decided to start my own practice and spent a year planning it.  Two friends who’d gone on their own right out of law school offered a huge amount of advice and encouragement.  Some people I’d only met once or twice did things like taking me to lunch during my first months when money was tight, inviting me to speak at events that could result in business or contacts for me, and suggesting me to clients when matters arose in my area. 

My friend Jane surprised me.  A lawyer herself, I’d thought she’d be interested in what was involved in opening the firm and/or would celebrate with me, and she worked only a couple miles away.  But it was a busy time for her, and plans to come by for a few hours as I moved into my new space turned instead into a date to hang artwork on my office walls, which got rescheduled indefinitely.  I hung the paintings a month or so later.  Eventually she stopped by once to see my office suite.  Jane’s been a wonderful friend over the years, and I chalked up the lack of any particular notice of this part of my life as reflecting that she had no plans to do anything similar.  Overall, the people most interested in what I was doing were those who dreamed of working for themselves, just as for years I’d peppered solo lawyers and businesspeople I knew with questions about how they’d started out.

Similarly, when my first novel came out this summer, some friends bought it immediately and called or emailed to tell me it had them up all night reading  – something every writer loves to hear.  Others wished me well, but never mentioned buying or reading the book.  Not everyone loves to read or is fascinated by the writing process, and I never expected all my friends to share my lifelong passion.

When my mom was alive, I used to joke that I could win the Nobel Prize and she’d still say, “don’t you think it’s time you got married?”  Until the two weddings I mentioned, though, one of which was Jane’s, I hadn’t had much experience with traditional weddings.  So I didn’t realize how popular culture carries out my mother’s viewpoint.      

While career achievements require no formal recognition under the etiquette rules, being in a wedding party generally demands substantial time and money, even during a recession.  (One website I read had no sympathy for those who’ve fallen on hard times, sternly advising that if you’re not sure you can afford the financial commitment, you must respectfully decline to be a bridesmaid at the outset.)  In addition to buying and wearing the requisite never-to-be-worn again dresses and shoes, bridesmaids attend and sometimes help plan and pay for multiple showers (organized by categories such as bride’s family vs. groom’s family vs. parents’ friends vs. bride-and-groom friends) and numerous other pre-wedding events, such as engagement parties, housewarmings (if the couple moves in together before the wedding), bachelorette outings, and shopping/spa days.  (I personally drew the line at running a 5K wearing matching T-shirts.) 

Happily, my writing and law practice have gone well, so I didn’t need to back out of my bridesmaid commitments.  As I scanned down bridal gift registries over the last couple years, though, I couldn’t help thinking how lovely it would be to register for a business shower.  Imagine instead of spending reserve funds or borrowing to launch a new firm, simply registering for a deluxe scanner here, a computer table there, and the latest release of QuickBooks.  Or, for a writer, requesting a graphic designer’s services for cover art, free website development, or gift cards toward creating a book trailer.  And what if instead of your business incurring the expense of hosting open houses and networking events to make contacts, friends and family got together and threw a year’s worth of parties for you so everyone would know about and support your new endeavor?  Or even if every friend or family member who sends a congratulations card for an engagement or attends a shower and wedding made a similar showing of support when a woman opened an art gallery?  Not only might there be more women pursuing satisfying careers, the whole economy might get a boost from all those new businesses.

Alas, when I mentioned these ideas to a male friend, he said, “What have you been smoking?  A business shower?  That’s crazy.”

Crazy maybe, but a girl can dream.

Lisa M. Lilly
Author of The Awakening

Tara Spencer’s mysterious pregnancy alters her life forever.  Will it also change the fate of the world?