by Christie Mellor
There are a few downsides to being a freelancer around the holidays. Like for instance, no Office Party! No co-workers making out in the office-supply room. No boss making racist remarks while wearing Christmas-themed boxer shorts on his head. No conga line snaking around the water cooler. No Christmas Karaoke! No next-day awkwardness, when you realize you spent the previous evening drunkenly declaring your attraction to the cute mail-boy. No evidence – left pasted on the walls of the office kitchen – of your co-workers mooning the Xerox machine.
Perhaps this is a good thing. Of course, the biggest downside of being a freelancer around the holidays? No fat envelope containing a Christmas bonus, like those lucky hedge fund guys get. Like a lot of people this economically depressed holiday season, we’ve had to tighten our belts even more than usual. The company that owes my freelance-copywriter husband thousands of dollars (should I name them? Hmm. Tempting.) have a rather interesting policy when it comes to paying their freelancers. They’ve been hiring my husband so often that he’s had very little time to work for other companies. It’s been great working so regularly. He makes himself available for rush jobs, he takes calls and emails during dinner, always delivers more work than he’s asked for, and always delivers it on time. And they must really love his work, they keep hiring him. But since they “can” wait for ninety days to pay, they do. And then some. Merry Christmas, Freelancer!
I’m guessing the boss will be taking home a nice paycheck for the holidays. I’m also guessing that the boss wouldn’t work for free. But what’s a freelancer to do? Sure, the company eventually pays, in dribs and drabs. Months after the job is done. And hey, they invited him to the Holiday Office party! Sadly, we’ll be out of town that night, which is probably also a good thing, because I might end up saying something regrettable in front of the boss.
My store of knowledge regarding office Christmas parties pretty much comes from the movies and episodes of Mad Men. Both of which may be presenting a slightly skewed picture. Maybe it’s time we had our own holiday office party. We could invite our other freelancer friends to come as pencil pushers and cubicle-dwellers. My husband and I could take turns playing the drunken boss. I could wear my cute pencil skirt and a pair of stilettos, and play secretary. We could serve punch from a water-cooler, and read a heartfelt Holiday Office Memo. Just before we lay off a bunch of people. Fun!
But instead, we’ll probably just have our usual New Year’s Eve We-Hate-New-Year’s-Eve-Parties Party. We hate New Year’s Eve parties because they all seem so fraught with hyper-forced gaiety and lots of people we don’t know. But neither do we like the idea of sitting on the sofa watching that big ball drop in New York City. Followed by an anemic toot on a noisemaker. Followed by bedtime. So we stay at home on New Year’s Eve. But we hole up with all the amenities of a good New Year’s Eve party. Delicious food. Delightful refreshments. Music. Singing. It’s sort of a homey pajama party, except I usually wear some kind of an evening gown and tiara. We pretend we’re at home, doing nothing, and a few friends know that they’re welcome to drop by, as long as they know not to expect A PARTY. If they want to go to a real New Year’s Eve party, they should look elsewhere.
A couple of good friends will probably show up on our doorstep with their two kids in tow, wearing full pajama drag. A few other friends who know the drill might stop by for a couple of hours and end up staying until 2 am. We may even have sparklers, and force everyone to do interpretive Sparkler Dances on the back patio.
The kids will drop in their tracks at some point, and sleep wherever it is they’ve collapsed. And a few days after New Year’s Eve I might check the pictures on my camera and find, as I did last year, a series of photographs someone took, of sleeping children. A lovely portrait of the sleeping nine-year-old girl, cradling an empty champagne glass, her party hat askew, a noise-maker hanging out of her mouth. A charming photo of her seven-year-old brother, sprawled on the floor, carefully posed with a bottle of Prosecco, as if he had passed out after a bender. Adorable! And hats off to those mischief-making parents who so artfully created the touching vignettes.
This year I’ll make a special toast to the freelancers among us. Those tireless hustlers who have to work to get the job, before they get to do the job. Here’s to those who get paid at the whim of a boss who always puts the freelancer at the back of the line. Of course there are upsides to being a freelancer, but getting to stay in your pajamas all day will never make up for having to beg to get a timely paycheck. Here’s Cheers, and a happy, healthy 2011 to all you hard-working freelance people. In fact, you can enjoy New Year’s Eve the whole weekend, since you won’t have to get up early Monday to go to the office, or head to your cubicle wondering what the hell happened at the office party. We salute you, and wish you a Happy Holiday season. And here’s to a brighter 2011 for all!