Normally, one of my favorite parts of this tremendously rewarding profession is the closing dinner. Fancy meal at a top-notch steak joint. Six to eight dirty martinis (do I count the ones that end up in my lap?). Maybe even a redux of a sex romp I had at the last closing with a random junior analyst in a low-cut top.
When I arrive, I scan the room like a Terminator hunting for my next target—the men appear in gray, women in red, whores in bright red.
While the room pretends to be transfixed by the 34-year-old millionaire telling unfunny jokes as he gives out deal toys, my scanner starts picking up some serious heat.
In the corner, I lock on a woman in a gray pantsuit that isn’t doing a good job of masking her obvious desire to be tied up and put in one of those leather outfits with a ball gag, like the gimp from Pulp Fiction.
I put my glasses on to get a better look and immediately start having terrible, terrible flashbacks. This woman resembles a former partner at my firm. A hiring partner. A not-so-attractive hiring partner. A not-so-attractive hiring partner I had sex with. When I was a Summer Associate.
Flashback to August a few years ago.
Our firm, like many other firms, had a tradition. One day near the end of the summer program, we went to a fancy restaurant. The sole purpose was to get every Summer shitfaced and pressure them into accepting their offers. (Seriously, is this a top law firm or Sig Ep rush?)
Different summers react differently to these kinds of situations. Megan, the nerdy Summer seated to my left, got hammered and vomited into her bowl of penne ala vodka… but not before accepting her offer. And John, the abrasive Summer to my right, started spewing racist remarks after he had a few too many—but lucky for him, the David Duke impression came after he accepted.
Yours truly got wasted, took the hiring partner back to an apartment I shared with another summer, had sex with her, vomited, had sex again, vomited a little more, and then accepted my offer.
My memories of this encounter are a bit hazy, but after dinner that balmy summer evening, a bunch of us went to do karaoke. I recall doing a horrendous rendition of “I Touch Myself.” Sometime after that, I remember the hiring partner’s hand rubbing my inner thigh. After a quick detour back to the office so she could get her purse (translation: she needed her diaphragm), we took a cab to my place. Probably because she didn’t want to tell her husband.
My apartment at the time was not the great mid-level associate bachelor pad it is now. We went back to a five-floor walkup that featured a living room converted into a second bedroom and posters of paintings.
I tried to run up as quickly as possible, but we had to pause for a few minutes on the third floor so she could catch her breath. It was like watching a fat cop tell his partner to go on and catch the bad guy on the roof without him. “I’ll cover the front, if he comes back down.”
When we disrobed, I saw the classic non-attractive older-lady signs. C-section scar: Check. Untrimmed pubic hair: Check. Musty smell reminiscent of my grandmother’s attic: Check.
I almost backed out, but I had to lock up my offer, didn’t I? What followed was some generically non-memorable, lawyer-sex interspersed with bouts of nausea.
In the morning, she stuck around to take a shower and said something like, “Hey, kid, when you get to be my age, you can’t just do the Walk of Shame.” A remark that 1) sounded really, really gross in person and 2) shocked me that the Walk of Shame was something her generation had even heard about.
Then she asked me to keep things quiet, as if turning this romp over to the grapevine would’ve somehow enhanced my reputation. I’m not proud of what happened because she was pretty much a 50-year-old sea monster who had the body of Queen Elizabeth and the face of Ellen DeGeneres. But eight hours of drinking makes a 50-year-old sea monster look like, well, a 45-year-old sea monster, which just so happens to be my arbitrary cutoff. I showered for an hour and discovered that no matter how much soap I used, I couldn’t wash off shame.
Lucky for me, the shame didn’t haunt me when I returned next year. The sea monster had already moved on, which seemed a bit odd, since she had just come over from another firm. The narcissistic part of me felt like I was responsible for her leaving. As if having to resist the temptation of my doughboy-body would be too much for her to stand. But like so many of my regrettable liaisons, I simply forgot about her after I concluded that I’d likely never run into her again. Unfortunately, BigLaw, even in New York City, is a much smaller community than many people realize.
I look again. It’s her! The Ellen DeGeneres/Queen Elizabeth thing is suddenly painfully apparent. What in God’s name is she doing here?! I turn to the Hermes tie-wearing dbag junior banker next to me and nod toward the oldie in the corner.
“Who’s she?” I ask.
“General Counsel at [Client,]” he says.
I’m immediately overcome with a potent mixture of fear, disgust and self-loathing. Why didn’t I notice her name on all the deal-emails or recognize her voice on those conference calls? Perhaps it was because she never screamed, “Harder, Bronco, harder!”
I stare at the sea monster and wonder why I’m incapable of putting my career ahead of my libido. God, why do I make such poor decisions? Before she was just some partner I was going to avoid working for. Now, as our client’s in-house counsel, she can subject me to an endless stream of daily calls and emails. Every time she calls to ask me when she’s going to see a redline, I’ll wonder if that’s just code for: What time is the bone-a-thon?
I can already feel the vomit in my esophagus, which means it’s time to hit the bathroom and puke. And with that behind me, I down another martini and consider whether I’m going to 1) get really drunk and have sex with her again; or 2) get really, really drunk and have sex with her again. The only good news is that I live in an elevator building now, so at least she won’t be huffing and puffing her way up to my place.
It’s suddenly 7:00 AM. I take a scalding shower, swallow five Tylenol, chug two oversized cups of coffee and try to forget. But I can’t get the sea monster out of my mind—or out of my bed. She’s lying there. Old. Soft. Chubby. For a moment, she reminds me of my Aunt Carol. But then the self-hate sets in, and it’s time to make a run for it. I make up a lame excuse—something thin about a conference call with London—and bolt for the door.
“Don’t forget about our conference call at 10:00,” she says. “And if you meet me for a drink tonight, I’ll put in a good word for you with [Senior Partner.]”
“Sounds good.” I force a wan smile and head out the goddamn door… Maybe sea monsters aren’t that bad after all.