Apparently at some, presumably Left Bank Parisian dinner parties, it is the height of rudeness to ask someone what they do. People talk rather about politics, and religion, and interesting movies, and everyone goes home feeling revived and invigorated after such a bracing dousing in the lives of others.
I suppose the French, always the leaders in this sort of thing, have realized that talking about other people’s jobs is tiresome. Equally, discovering that someone is a corporate lawyer really tells one very little about who that person actually is, apart from rich. (Which is, in itself, useful, but tricky to capitalize on at a dinner party).
It is for this reason (as well as a blinding and all-consuming lack of interest in other people) that I never ask people what they do. At an event last night, I noticed that other people still do. The trouble for me, I have realized, is that I can’t think in broad strokes. ‘An attention to detail,’ I pointed out to my little sister. ‘Is a wonderful thing.’ ‘No one cares what you had for breakfast,’ she replied, proving once again that she shouldn’t be allowed out to meet new people.
‘What do you do?’ someone asked me yesterday. I paused, but mostly because I was scanning the room quickly to check if my little sister was in earshot. ‘Well,’ I began happily. ‘There wasn’t any milk, so I had a cup of peppermint tea…’
Politics, religion and breakfast. Sometimes it’s quite tricky to be such a Left Bank darling.