In Praise of Our Nonbiological Nuclear Family
“It’s interesting to grow old and see how things turn out,” Edmund White wrote in his memoir, “My Lives.”
When Ann poked her head into my office and introduced herself one day back in the … What was it — late- ‘80s? mid-‘90s? Who remembers? Anyway, when she entered my office, I had no idea there would ever be a story at all, let alone one that’s become as precious as an heirloom.
Ann was a senior executive at a big New York PR agency. I was head of corporate communications at a pharmaceutical company that was among Ann’s clients. We hit it off and eventually began collaborating on a few projects.
Lindsay joined Ann’s team as a bright young prospect, and soon the three of us were joined at the hip, hopping around the country together running workshops that convened all the company’s U.S. affiliates to work on plans to strengthen the corporate brand and increase its visibility.
In 2001, just a month before the towers fell, I was sent on an international assignment at my company’s global headquarters in Switzerland; Ann, as luck and fate would have it, began an expat assignment for her agency in the U.K. Thus began a whole new chapter of our relationship that strengthened our bond. Our shared expat experience injected us both with the inexplicable but undeniable life-transformation that Americans living abroad understand, especially those who lived overseas in that turbulent, post-9/11 time. My visits to Ann’s office in London connected me with someone close to home but far away, like me. In some ways those visits were even more satisfying than going home to New York.
When Ann returned to the U.S., my job responsibilities expanded and I once again had the opportunity to team up with her and the now-more-seasoned Lindsay on workshops with a broader range of affiliates. Like the proverbial exercise of “herding cats,” we’d corral a pack of about a dozen corporate animals — smart, independent and sometimes resistant — and try to finesse them into consensus, alignment and shared enthusiasm, all without the benefit of direct authority.