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There are few "fun" activities quite so vexing as the Office Christmas Party; that obligatory gathering of bosses and subordinates, cronies and rivals, back-stabbers and back-stabbees. Plus a horde of husbands and wives who spend the entire night planning their escape.

Every year you fantasize about sending an RSVP marked "Thanks, but no thanks." Then you return to reality and break the news to your spouse. "It'll be different this time," you lie. "It'll be fun."

"I'll go to yours, if you'll go to mine," your mate responds. "And you have to promise to behave."

This brings us to the art of gaffe avoidance. After all, who isn't but one faux pas from the unemployment line? Dodging the pitfalls of office party protocol can be a daunting challenge. But with the help of this agreement, you'll survive yet another function with your job intact.

AGREEMENT entered into on ____________, by Husband and Wife (collectively referred to as "Couple").

WHEREAS, Couple's employers suffer from the delusion that Office Christmas Parties are good for morale;

WHEREAS, Couple, being sane individuals, would prefer to stay home; and

WHEREAS, although Couple can't prove a connection, everyone who skipped last year's bash is now unemployed.

NOW, THEREFORE, Couple hereby agrees to the following office party guidelines:


1. Husband and Wife shall dress appropriately and shall be on their best behavior at all times. However, if Husband ever again advises casual attire for a black tie affair, Wife's promise shall be null and void.

2. Wife won't criticize the food, if Husband refrains from eating three desserts.

3. Neither spouse shall over-imbibe unless the other forgot to mention that spouses weren't invited.

4. The following behavior shall be avoided:

a. Acting too distant.

b. Acting too friendly.

c. Refusing to dance with the boss.

d. Asking the boss to dance.

e. Failing to laugh at the boss's jokes.


1. Husband shall not say anything sexist, such as the following:

a. "So you're the little woman's new manager. Tell me. How do you put up with her?"

b. "Aren't you the fellow they passed over to promote my wife? Affirmative action strikes again, heh?"

c. "I have to hand it to you -- I couldn't report to a woman."

d. "So you're the guy my Wife's been working late with on that new project. That is what you've been doing, isn't it?" (Wink, wink)

e. "I can't believe you put my wife in charge of the budget. She can't even balance our check book. (Ha ha.)"

Additionally, Husband shall not turn to Wife and say "How come you can't cook me a meal like this?"

2. Husband shall be diplomatic and refrain from saying any of the following:

a. "For a tightwad, you sure throw one hell of a bash. Just between us guys, how much did it set you back?"

b. "You promoted her just in time. She was working on her resume."

c. "So you're the fellow my Wife keeps complaining about. You seem nice enough to me."

d. "I hate these things. Don't you?" (Last year Husband said this to the President's wife.)

3. Husband shall not use Wife's party to promote his business by shoving cards or flyers under napkins. Nor shall he whip out a calculator and offer to save the Chairman "big bucks" on printing.

4. Husband shall not feign expertise -- especially about Wife's boss's business. Nor shall he say: "I sure was glad to hear you liked my Wife's new marketing plan. It was my idea, you know."


1. Wife shall not view the party as a feminist forum. Accordingly, she shall not ask Husband's boss why the only women present are wives and data entry clerks.

2. Wife shall not ask Husband's manager to hire Couple's son. Nor shall she say: "When are you going to give my hubby a raise? The poor guy makes less than I do."

3. Wife shall not complain about being stuck talking to the women. Nor shall she brag about being too busy to clean or cook ... even though it's true.

4. Wife shall not appoint herself official no-smoking enforcer ... except for cigars.

5. Wife shall not become irate just because a few couples brought their kids. However, pique is permissible under the following circumstances:

a. Wife becomes the target of a mashed-potato match.

b. Wife is seated next to a high chair.

c. Vomit.

6. Wife shall not spend the entire evening flirting with Husband's boss. Unless, of course, it gets Husband a bonus.


As Husband and Wife peek at their watches, waiting for the festivities to end, they shall keep one thought in mind: A command appearance at your office Christmas party means you're still gainfully employed.

WHEREFORE, we affix our signatures:

(Husband)___________________ (Wife)___________________

© Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
1st Published New York Newsday

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