20 floors above downtown San Francisco, a group of brilliant, articulate, professional women sipped Pinot Noir, sampled delectable gourmet appetizers, sighed over the spectacular view, and swapped stories. The members of VIP (Vintage Industry Professionals) had all, by definition, been in the meetings & events industry for at least 20 years, and the group had been started as an alternative to other networking associations where we'd been drowned out by men, or turned off by chipper young things who talked and texted too enthusiastically (while teetering in stilettos and tossing back tequila shooters). While the reception was ostensibly a networking event, and we all mentioned what we did, created, or sold, the evening was more a combination of sorority meeting, group therapy, and menopausal support session.
We shared about jobs we'd lost and jobs we'd just found, businesses that had flopped and new ventures we'd started, marriages, health crises, kids, friendships, the importance of taking time off, and discovering new passions for everything from standup comedy to growing heirloom lettuce. We laughed, commiserated about the economy, traded business cards, and reveled in knowing everyone could relate when someone began fanning herself, asking, "Is it hot in here or is it me?" - and no one was offended when my middle-aged bladder necessitated a quick bathroom break during someone's introduction. (Take that, Bohemian Club or all those other male-only secret societies - our group may not be as plugged in as the old-boy networks, but we're way more honest and much more fun!)
Something about the combination of humor, inspiration and estrogen made us all giddily intoxicated - I was so bubbly when I got home that my husband asked how much I'd had to drink (for the record, one glass of extremely good sparkling wine!) Of course, it was Cinderella-after-the-ball time, since I arrived to find a broken garbage disposal, a sink full of dirty dishes, a 16-year-old son with girl troubles, a 13-year-old with a dying pet rat, and a husband distraught over the San Jose Sharks' lousy defense. But as I consoled my boys (all 3 of them), washed dishes, and looked up plumbers, I was still glowing from the evening.
Networking with kindred souls, particularly women my age, is magic - I was even smiling while I wrote out the check to the plumber the next morning!