Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Becky Bloomwood, is That You?

I never thought I'd admit this, but I had a Becky Bloomwood moment this afternoon.  Becky is the heroine in Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic books (from Confessions of a Shopaholic to Shopaholic and Baby).  

Let me just explain that I don't consider Becky to be a good role model.  Although she has struggled to grow in maturity and selflessness, her life is all about her, her shopping, her wants, and her needs.  She lies just to get what she wants, even convincing herself that lying is more convenient than telling the truth.  She's hurt her loved ones dozens of times but they've always forgiven her.  

And yet, I read every single book.  It was like dabbling in the dark arts - an experiment, a glimpse into a world I did not wish to live  in.  I could only put down the book and shake my head at her antics.  She was the freshest anti-heroine I had met, and I wanted to bring her to her senses loads of times.

I appreciated the fashion finds and the writer's unmistakable wit, especially in the letters that Becky exchanged with her bank managers, but the books were a guilty pleasure.  I told myself I would not become a Becky.

I guess the books' staying power was that in reality, there's a little Becky inside of me.  I love to shop.  I love clothes, makeup, and coffee.  I love my family and friends.  I would love to meet someone like her husband, Luke Brandon.

Unlike Becky, however, I valued my work and wanted to participate in intellectual conversations.  You see, at the start of "Confessions", Becky was a financial journalist who refused to prepare for her press conferences.  I hated those scenes when she pretended to know about what was published in the Financial Times, a paper she always carried but never read.  I couldn't stand the way she spoke nonsense, and how carelessly she treated her work.

Until this afternoon.  I, the un-Becky Bloomwood, was sent to attend a meeting of a nationwide business organization by our company President.  I knew about the meeting weeks before but got sick last Monday and did not have time to think about the meeting.  I figured I could sit silently in one corner, eat my overpriced lunch, and go back to the office.

I dressed for the part, but that was the extent of my preparation.  I only scanned the papers this week as I was either rushing to the office or sick in bed every morning for this past week.  Excuses, excuses.

The meeting's highlight was a report from a government official on the country's infrastructure projects.  Without sufficient data to support his report, I was skeptical and made a few comments to my seatmate.  He happened to be a top official of a company who had made it to the headlines this week and he started talking to me about that issue.  

I panicked.  I know the equivalent of one sentence about that issue - the only sentence I had read after the headline news.  As I gave what I hoped were intelligent nods and scanned my brain for appropriate responses, I realized what I was doing - I was doing a Becky Bloomwood.  

I excused myself and went to the restroom.  My seatmate was very solicitous and I did not want to display my ignorance of current events much longer.

When I returned to my seat, Mr. Official had invited another gentleman to sit on our side of the table, one who turned out to be a president of a huge company and whose knowledge of business I wanted to absorb via osmosis.  He gave me a lecture on the solution to the rice crisis, and I wished I had paid more attention to my Economics classes (I majored in Economics!  Don't tell my profs!) so I could contribute to the conversation.

I wanted to cover the "Atty." on my nametag.  Surely they expected a lawyer to know more.  I tried a different tactic - I introduced new topics.  This proved to be fruitful, as both men loved to talk about travel and family, two things I was at least more knowledgeable about.  The conversation became so interesting that I noticed that we were the second to the last group of people to leave the hall.  If we had stayed there all afternoon, I wouldn't have minded.  

I learned so much in just one sitting.  They shared their values with me and I stopped pretending I could say anything brilliant, and just enjoyed my moment of ignorance.  The official taught me the quickest route from my house to my office.  The businessman taught me the secret of his grandfather's, his father's, and his own business' success - perseverance and delayed gratification.  We exchanged business cards, shook hands, and wished one another well.

I did not meet my Luke Brandon this time, but I did survive my first press conference.  Next time, I will read more before going to such an event.  More importantly, I will open my mind to new people and the new ideas they could teach me.

There was a blessing in disguise - I left both of my cellphones (work and personal) at home, so I went to that meeting without a distraction.  I couldn't text my friends how the presentation was going.  I was thus more open to conversation from real people.  I'm glad it turned out that way.

Becky soon left her job and had more suitable positions later on in the series, where her skills, interests, and talents were put to better use.  I'm not yet in that part of my book.  I'm still trying to make it work.

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