The holidays are a magical time in New York City. The streets are so festive, and at seemingly every turn you see decorations and cheer. While I'm not always the most festive person, during the past few weeks I've felt compelled to take in many of the city's famous holiday events: getting fresh produce at the Union Square Holiday Market; seeing the famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza; watching people and their children face plant while ice skating in Bryant Park.
So when I was invited to the NBA's official holiday party, I could not say no. The league hadn't hosted such a party in seven years, and new Commissioner Adam Silver aimed to make this his first. Bonnie Thurston, the Director of Player Personnel for the WNBA, extended the invitation to all the WNBA players like myself who are currently in the city.
My relationship with Bonnie has always been a fun one—and often sarcastic. We usually speak to each other in a thick code that combines a bit of truth with a lot of levity. It's up to the listener to decipher the correct message. I should have kept that in mind when I texted Bonnie to ask what I needed to wear to the event. (As you know, the dress code for a holiday party can range from ugly sweater to black tie.) Bonnie's response: "Business Casual/Festive."
So on the night of the party, I made my way from STACK's offices back to where I'm staying in Brooklyn to put on some business casual clothing. The problem was, I didn't have anything you'd consider "festive." Bonnie suggested that I get a Santa hat from a local pharmacy. So on my way to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where the holiday party was taking place, I stopped at a Duane Reade. The one Santa hat left in the store had Mickey Mouse ears attached to it and "Ho! Ho! Ho!" written across the front. It was ugly, but it was my only option. I purchased the hat, placed it snugly atop my head and made my way to the party.
When I stepped into the party room, it's safe to say I got an immediate reaction. Meghan Hughes, another WNBA staffer, greeted me at the door, and the look on her face was priceless. "Wow! You, um … really went all out for the holidays with that hat," she said to me.
All out? It's a holiday party! I thought. Surely there must be somebody around here in a Santa suit, or wearing reindeer antlers on their head. But as I walked deeper into the room, it quickly became clear that I was in the minority in terms of attire. And by that I mean pretty much no one was wearing anything that looked remotely festive. There were a couple of guys sporting NBA Holiday sweaters, but for the most part the room was full of suits, sport coats and dresses—and definitely no one else was wearing an embarrassing Mickey Mouse Santa hat.
My first thought was: I'm going to kill Bonnie. But when we finally found one another, all we could do was laugh. After all, there I was at an event where I'm flanked by Commissioner Silver and the self-proclaimed Prince of Zamunda, Dikemebe Mutombo, and I have this stupid hat on. The one time I actually took Bonnie's word literally, I got burned.
Anyway, I wasn't going to let inappropriate headgear stop me from having a good time. Mutombo was just named the ambassador of United for Wildlife, a new charity of the Royal Family, and I got to speak with him for quite a while. I was so fascinated by the Prince of Zamunda's stories about sitting courtside with the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge that I forgot I was wearing that silly hat until late in the conversation.
Later, I got to speak with Commissioner Silver. I'd met him before, but in a much less intimate setting. I decided against reintroducing myself with that ridiculous hat on, so I took it off and got to spend a few minutes talking with one of the busiest men in the country.
There were plenty of trash cans where I could have tossed the hat, but it's still the holidays, and there will likely be more parties to attend—including some where the hat might actually work. So I was stuck carrying the thing around all night.
By the end of the evening, my shame had died down. I even threw the hat back on a couple of times, partially because I was tired of holding it. It's hard to hold a hat and eat hors d'oeuvres at the same time. Whenever I passed Bonnie, I saw the world's largest grin come across her face. By the end of the night, I was laughing more about it.
After dancing for a couple more hours and enjoying great conversation with friends and colleagues, I went to the photo booth and dragged Bonnie with me. I wanted to get a few more moments with the hat, because after a few more holiday parties, it will probably be the last time you ever see me in a Santa hat—especially one with Mickey Mouse ears.
Happy Holidays to everyone. Enjoy it with your friends and family. Just try not to look like a fool in front of your boss.
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