Tuesday, 6 October 2009
The Hungriness of Women
Why do I do this? Why don’t I learn?
Last time around was AdWomen, the event at Dubai's JamJar where I got torn to shreds by smart women with long, gouging fingernails while that craven ratfink of a journalist Austyn Allison looked on in vicarious glee and took photos. Did I learn? Did I hell!
Yesterday I gave a talk to the inaugural business lunch event of the Abu Dhabi International Businesswomen’s Group. And, like a fool, I let The National’s Jen Gerson see what was going on. I should have told her she couldn’t come, but she was insistent. Now I know why. Because she wanted to crow as I fell to a cannibalistic feeding frenzy.
The room was small, cosy. About 50 businesswomen, smart, educated, empowered. The same sort of bunch as AdWomen - just as pleasant and friendly and triggering the same gut-churning dread. Why didn’t I learn my damn lesson? Gerson is delighted as the room fills with ladies in smart outfits and suits, chatting to each other animatedly. She’s giggling insanely like a blonde Beavis and Butthead, darting glances at me as sweat breaks out on my brow.
“They’re gonna eat you!” she whinnies, licking her lips with sick anticipation. “Eat you! Hur! Hur!”
I try to ignore her vicious journalist’s jibes and prepare myself mentally for the talk. The projector’s bust and the Rotana people bring a new one. My palms are damp and I'm alternately freezing and sweating as the guests take their seats. They start to stand and introduce themselves to the new members who’ve turned up. This one runs a small business, that one's a lawyer. More than one lawyer. Too many lawyers. Dammit, they're going to eat me, then sue? Gerson’s standing by the door (just like Allison, I noticed, damn journalists always position themselves with a clear route to the exit) and leering at me. I can hear her gleeful whickers over the chatter in the room.
And then we’re off. IBWG committee member Pam introduces me and I walk up to the podium. Gerson’s words are ringing in my ears, “They’re gonna eat you!”. As I start talking, some fifty pairs of eyes are on me. The starter’s been served, but they’re not touching it and I’m suddenly keenly aware of the fact that I’m slightly overweight. They’d get a little over a kilo and a half each. I watch one lick her lips as I try to keep the flow of the talk going, showing them that image of the first Arpanet diagram, explaining how Caxton disintermediated the Catholic Church and the Internet disintermediated millions, talking about collaboration and the overnight movement of x-rays around the world. It’s disjointed, a tumble of thoughts and concepts and I just keep talking, suddenly aware that I’m in no danger as long as I stay up there, out of reach.
Gerson’s on her Blackberry, its lime green cover dancing as she thumbs profanities out to Twitter, lifting the damn thing to take photographs. She’ll be there as they tear my flesh and start feeding. I hit the last slide and we’re into Q&A. The questions are smart, businesslike. But I hear the rasp of indrawn breath through teeth in little sussurations, “Fff Fff Fff Fff Fff.”
One of the ladies smiles at me and I realise her canines are unusually developed.
Q&A is halted by the arrival of the main course and as I sit down I realise to my horror that Gerson’s legged it. When it’s so bad the journalists leave, you know things are going to get sadistically twisted fast. I’m still talking, trying to distract them. Pam and Karen are delightful company but I can feel the pressure around me. They’re just pretending to be interested so that they can move in when I’m relaxed. You don’t want the prey to be tensed up, ruins the meat.
And then it happens, the miracle arrives. The Beach Rotana’s chocolate covered chocolate mousse on a bed of chocolate and biscuit, drizzled with chocolate sauce and decorated with a long white chocolate twist. It’s an incredible dessert and I realise then that it’s distracted them – all eyes are on the plates and I have a window of escape. I babble thanks at them, but they’re not seeing me, forks rising and falling and little gasps of delight echoing around the room.
I grab my laptop bag and run, bursting through the door to freedom and the light of the lobby, chocolate still smeared across my cheek. My heart doesn’t stop hammering until I’m in the car and tearing up the blacktop to Dubai.
One day I’m going to get even with Gerson. One day.
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