I'm finally getting around to reading How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, British journalist Toby Young's memoir of having spent 1995 working at the Conde Nast publication Vanity Fair in New York. I can already tell the book will yield a trove of quotables, among which the following:
Needless to say, any attempt to chat up the goddesses at Conde Nast is completely taboo. I discovered this shortly after I arrived when I made the mistake of cracking a faintly risque joke during a tour of Conde Nast's headquarters by a woman from "human resources." I was thrown in with a bunch of other new recruits and, at the conclusion of the tour, I asked her what we should do if we ever got lost.
"You could always consult the model in the lobby," she suggested.
"Which one?" I quipped.
The following morning I found a memo on my desk headed "Policy on Harassment." . . . It went on to list various forms of conduct that would "result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal." They were:
Sexual remarks, advances, propositions
Touching or other physical contact
Repeated requests for dates or other social engagements
Comments about an individual's body
I was flabbergasted. I pointed out to [coworker] Chris Lawrence that if Romeo had stuck to these rules he never would have ended up with Juliet. . . . How were we supposed to get dates with the women at [the Conde Nast building] if not by flirting with them and asking them out?
"It's all bullshit," Chris explained. "They just don't wanna be hit on by dweebs like us."
It's true. With the $3,000 handbags and mink collars, the fashion plates at Conde Nast can hardly be descibed as politically correct. The company's policy on sexual harassment isn't a concession to the feminist sensibilities of its female employees; it's designed to protect them from men who earn less that $500,000 a year. They don't spend all those hours getting their bikini lines waxed by Brazilian beauticians just so they can go out with journalists. They want to date movie producers, club owners and investment bankers.