I grab all the papers and stuff them in the glossy navy blue folder they gave me at the orientation an hour earlier. My hotel room is clean and spacious but nothing to brag about. I have a great view of 7th Avenue. New York is misty today. I scramble to the restroom, fix my hair and take the small bottle of Burberry cologne I bought just for the occasion. I spray it a few inches in front of me and walk right into the floating fragrance with force, feeling the small particles land on my blazer and lime green tie. It matches my Kenneth Cole watch. Shit! I’m already late for the first meeting, so I rush out my room and down to the lobby to the main conference room.
The room is crowded with college boys all wearing black blazers. I walk in with confidence, a trait I’m certain all these men possess. Minutes before anyone takes the podium, I take a seat towards the back, perfect location to scope out the entire room. I open my folder, and read on one of the papers that the first thing on the itinerary is welcoming remarks by some hotshot at Lehman Brothers. Welcome to OUBC, Out for Undergraduate Business Conference—a two-day networking seminar in the heart of New York for all those overachieving, Ivy-league educated gay undergrads in the country.
How the hell did I get here? I was waitlisted at Princeton, my G.P.A. is dismal, I went to an overcrowded public school in California, and my creative writing major is not exactly the shortest route to i-banking or consulting. Damn, not even accounting.
I had first heard about OUBC two months earlier from a cute NYU boy I was drunkenly flirting with at Phoenix. He thought it would be a great opportunity to meet recruiters, network and hopefully land a golden internship at one of the big banks. He had intentions of becoming a high-rolling, i-banker. I had intentions of marrying one.
So this conference was perfect. Imagine the contacts I’d make? Dozens of put-together gay guys vying to be one step ahead in the competitive world of finance. And I would be the midst of it all, in the same hotel, undercover, trying to get them under the covers.
I got my resume together, highlighting my short experience at a national business publication and exaggerating my desire to enroll in an MBA program. And two months later, here I am, sitting at the Sheraton Hotel’s conference room in New York, listening a power lesbian give advice on how to keep in touch with recruiters, format a resume and informing us of the perks of joining the LGBT network at a firm. Apparently, there are many. Rumor has it that the gay network at Boston Consulting Group sent all their gay associates to Paris…
But instead of taking notes on how to secure a lucrative future career, I was surveying the room and taking notes on potential lifemates. If he raised his hand and kept asking questions? Too eager, next! If his tie is tied in an Onassis knot? Too flamboyant, next! If he has spiked his hair with pounds of product? He’s a lesbian, next!
Next thing on the itinerary, we break up into small groups and we’re given a business problem. We’re expected to work together and come up with a profitable solution. Bottom line: I don’t give a shit, so instead I volunteer to be the note-taker and agree with absolutely everything this Columbia undergrad, who has imposed his leadership, has to say. That’s perhaps the best way to deal with an Ivy leaguer: sit back, pretend like he’s correct and let him blow you. Yes, oftentimes they are right, but the way they go about it is so obnoxious. Columbia is cute, but I could tell he would be controlling in the long run. Next!
The plan for after dinner is a laid back cocktail social that the organizers had planned for us in order to relax a bit after a day full of bullshit. Now, that’s what I’m talking about. But since I heard that the year before, all of the participants had gotten wasted and ended up at one of the sponsor’s West Village townhouse engaging in questionable activities, this year, you had to carry a special red sticker on your name tag to get alcoholic beverages. Only the organizers had them.
After my second diet coke, I can’t bear the dry spell any longer. The only thing worse than being forced to make small talk with wannabe bankers is having to do it sober. On my way to the restroom, I notice that one of the organizers had left his name tag on a small table right outside the room, the name tag with the red sticker! Cautious not to get caught, I grab the tag and dash towards the restroom. I slowly peel the red sticker from the organizer’s tag and stick it right on mine. After smoothing it out a bit, I leave the restroom and head towards the bar.
After I order a gin and tonic without much of a fuss, a participant with long, sandy hair and green eyes looks at me and asks, “You’re an organizer! Oh man, this whole time I thought you were an undergrad. Where do you work?”
“Uh, actually, I’m not really an organizer,” I say as I start walking away not to draw the attention of the organizers that were mingling a few feet away from us.
The boy follows me, so I have to continue the explanation.
“I just stole the red sticker from a tag I found outside,” I say. “C’mon! Is it really that hard to figure out a way to get some gin around here?”
He laughs and takes a sip of my drink. Shortly after, I learn that the boy goes to Princeton and his family lives in the Upper East Side so he’s not staying at the hotel. He has just gotten back from studying abroad in Argentina, and really has no interest in being an i-banker, but his father a principal at McKinsey, made him come.
“I really just want to work for a non-profit,” Princeton confesses, “I feel like all this will still be useful.”
“Well, now that we’re being honest: I don’t want to go into banking either. The long hours, the pressure, I don’t think I’m cut out for it.”
“So what do you want to do?”
“I want to be a writer,” I say with a bit of an attitude. “Don’t worry, I’m fully prepared to be starving and living in a shithole in the Lower East Side for the rest of my life.”
“Yeah, it’s so infuriating to see all these people, all these guys, doing this for the money. That’s really the only reason anyone goes into banking: the money! I’d rather enjoy my life. So are you writing a story about the conference then?”
“Yeah, you could say that…”
“Alright, don’t worry. You’re secret is safe with me, I’m not going to out you.”
“Haha, well I heard during dinner that there are two straight guys here passing as gay, just to get the connections. Them two over there…”
“Haha, someone should really say something. It can be a public inning,” Princeton says, but before I can continue the repartee, his phone vibrates.
“Oh listen, I’m about to go meet my dealer downstairs, you want to come down with me?”
“Sure, you want to smoke up in my room upstairs?”
And just like that, I find myself smoking pot with a nice, down-to-earth Princeton boy whose dreams of helping the world outweigh the need to stuff his wallet. As I take hit after hit of the poorly rolled joint, I imagine my future as his trophy husband.
Inhale. His parents, progressive and supportive, would find me a breath of fresh air in their stuffy Upper East Side existence. I’d delight the elegant crowds at the galas and fundraisers and they’d be ok with me staying at home working on my novel. Once it sold, we’d take all the money and sail around the Greek isles for weeks, drinking champagne, getting tanned and inviting a boy or two to join us after dark.
Every morning before another draining day at the office, I’d have his coffee ready just the way he liked it, and I would make sure to have dinner reservations made before he got home. I’d iron his shirts and give him foot rubs on the weekends and take our dog, a husky named London, to the vet. We’d live below 14th Street because he would never really be able to get the hip out of me. And that’s what he’d love about me. Exhale.