I recently received an interesting reader question from Jazmin of Capital Web Writing. Her question was about whether or not it would be appropriate for her hubby to accompany her to a conference, especially given his unique quirks. She gave me permission to share the email and my thoughts here. I'd like to hear your thoughts on the topic as well.

Here's the email:

I finally have a question that you may have never been asked! Is it customary to bring your spouse to networking events? What if the event is out-of-town (think Seattle, and I'm in NY)? It might be nice to have my husband there because I'd like to avoid being the weird loner standing next to the food table. But, I also don't want to seem weak (e.g. I'm not confident, so I had to bring my husband along).

Additionally, my husband is very unconventional. He plays the drums. He's the GM of a store, so he's not an office type of guy. And, he insists on wearing a Steelers cap even when he's in a suit! If it is customary to attend networking events with spouses, would you bring my rocker-boy husband if you were in my shoes?

And here's the gist of what I told her, and a few additional thoughts after the fact:

  • Go for it.
  • You're not going to be tied to conference events 24/7, so if you think you'll enjoy the city together why the hell not? It's not like he has to be chained to you the whole time.
  • I wouldn't say bringing a husband along shows weakness. Only you can show weakness in yourself. Your arm candy doesn't have that superpower.
  • If your partner's unconventional, so what? I say that's all the better. Maybe Jazmin's hubby's cap would prove to be an interesting conversation starter and help her meet some interesting folks. Things like that can only make you uncomfortable if you let them. If something like that ever makes me uncomfortable, please remind me to promptly remove stick from ass.

I have plenty of my own quirks, so in my case my guy would be the "normal" one. For example, I won't wear suits. If you ever catch me at a conference in a suit (unlikely given that I usually refuse to go -- although that's another story altogether) it means I'm either there in disguise as someone who gives a sh*t about such things or I'm preparing a strip tease and that's my get-up.

Another thing is that unless there's more than a half inch of snow on the ground, I'll be in flip flops. I don't care what else I'm wearing at the time. My feet will be relatively free. They're happy that way. I'm happy that way. And I don't particularly care that other people often find said flip flops inappropriate. Attending, presenting, whatever -- you be you, I'll be me. I don't believe in putting on a show to impress people, and I wouldn't expect that of my partner or anyone else I might drag along with me.

Now I bet there are plenty of folks who disagree -- who either think you should be all buttoned up at these things or who think it's important to keep up appearances because (God forbid) you might meet someone "important." That's cool. Do what you want. My philosophy though is that no editor, publisher, colleague, etc. is more important than I am (or anyone else is) -- people are just people, and they can either be impressed by who we really are or they can suck rocks for all I care because I won't think about them again anyway.

While I can already sense the cringing, I can say you'd probably be surprised by how many so-called "important" people have been impressed over the years by the simple fact that I'm not one to conform to their self-imposed standards. And if that means bringing along a partner, friend, kid, or whatever to a professional event, then so be it.

Thoughts? Would you bring someone along to a conference? Would you care if they (or you) didn't meet people's standards in some way while there?

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