For the last few months I have been spending some of my countless free hours volunteering for a non-profit organization on base. I was asked to come in today (I usually only work Wednesdays and Thursdays) to help set up for a brunch that was being given for a person everyone kept referring to as “the admiral.” Not being able to say no, I agreed.
I had planned my day on just that…setting up for a brunch and then going home. I didn’t fix my hair, though everyone was lucky enough that I at least blow-dried it, I wore hardly any makeup, and I wore jeans and a tight t-shirt that I have contemplated throwing out on several occasions.
I began my brunch duties by unloading the car of another volunteer as she rushed inside to get everything going. I was just finishing up outside when this man seemed to suddenly appear behind me. He introduced himself and his wife to me, and we continued to make small talk as we walked in the door.
I excused myself from this couple after a few more minutes of talking and continued to the room where the brunch was being held. I told one of the other volunteers there that this couple had arrived. “Oooh,” she said. “That’s ‘the admiral’ and his wife.” There is was again. “The admiral.” Beyond that, I had no idea who he was or what he was here for. I was, however, kicking myself for deciding to wear jeans. I had debated whether or not to get dressed up, just in case, but overruled myself when I figured I would just be hauling dishes and lox. I am consistently being made fun of for over-dressing, so I thought I’d spare myself the comments today. Oops.
I finished all that I could to help with the brunch and told the lady in charge that I was leaving if there was nothing else I could do. “What are you talking about? You’re staying.” I had no idea I was to be included in this brunch, and there was no getting out of it. Even my excuse of, “But I’m wearing jeans!” didn’t fly. Not only was I physically unprepared for this kind of event, I was also lacking in any information about the guests of honor. I usually have time to come up with conversation points with guests so I don’t look like a bump on a pickle at a social setting.
No big deal, I thought. I’ll just sit by the other volunteers and avoid conversation with “the admiral” and his wife. I grabbed a plate with some food, set it down at an arbitrary seat, and went to the kitchen to refresh the coffee pot for the room. When I came back “the admiral’s” wife had sat down next to my plate. There went my cover. Nothing to hide behind anymore.
Even though I thought I looked terrible and had nothing to offer in terms of conversation, I confidently sat down with a welcoming smile. The very little bit of professional experience I have in the fundraising field has prepared me for such occasions. I spent a year attending dinner parties, opening night celebrations, women’s guild meetings, luncheons, and lunches with board members…all the while feeling very shy and hesitant. But, I was being paid to represent my non-profit well, and darn-it, I would! I knew all of this social training would come in handy! My conversation with “the admiral’s” wife was smooth and pleasant.
After the brunch, I was washing the dishes with another volunteer and finally got to ask about “the admiral.” Turns out he is the president and CEO of the non-profit, in town from headquarters in Washington, DC. Not that it really mattered. They were just like any other kind couple that you find yourself drawn to…warm, friendly, humble. I’m so glad that I was invited to stay, even in my blue jeans.