The fine art of the Davos snub
To my great surprise this year, the Davos registration forms arrived with a space for Davos Wives to fill in our institutional affiliation. Having written last year about the humiliations of the blank badge, I’ve decided to take full credit for this major step forward for womankind: the recognition that we have lives outside our existence as the Wives of Davos men. My editor Chrystia Freeland is now waiting for a change in policy that would allow Davos mistresses to also list their affiliations.
When I wrote my column last year, I didn’t expect the outpouring of responses from Davos Wives, but I was delighted to find myself buttonholed by many in my cohort who longed to share their experiences of being snubbed at Davos.
While walking down the Promenade of Davos Platz on a sunny winter morning looking for a place to have a decent cup of hot chocolate (tip: better wait till you are in Zurich), I was approached by a Davos wife I’d never seen before. She thanked me for saying in my Reuters columns what she and other white-badged wives had been thinking for years.
She got the absurdity of our situation and knows that the way to cope is to laugh. “I love the snubs,” she said, and then explained how she handles the working lunches. “My strategy is to sit at the end of the table because then only one man is ignoring me while playing with his smartphone.
“The worst was the time I put my bag down, went to get a drink, and then realized I was sitting next to Abdullah Abdullah, who had just lost an election. He didn‘t come to Davos to talk to me, so I got up and moved to another table to sit with some wives.”
She put me in mind of a few other snubs that my own obliviousness had led me into in the days before. As soon as we arrived at the Caixin magazine breakfast, the organizers grabbed my husband and steered him away from me. It was 2:45 a.m. New York time, and I was not at my best. Not knowing where to go, I followed and then sat down next to him, my laptop balanced precariously next to a plate of old ham and a pot of tepid tea. I didn’t realize that I had cheekily invited myself to sit at the speakers table until a China expert from New York City who was at the panel called one of my friends at home a few hours later to report on my pushiness; said friend kindly relayed his comments back to me on a Skype call.
The next evening, entering the Indian cocktail reception on my husband’s arm, I saw a photographer maneuvering to get just the right angle. Helpfully I turned so as to avoid having my hawk-like profile immortalized — only to find that all his maneuverings were aimed at getting me out of the way so he could shoot my husband with a group of more important people.
In these situations, I laugh my head off, but the Promenade wife said stronger measures may be needed.
“It’s that deep-down ambivalence. Every year I sort of hope he won’t get invited. I think we need a therapy group or a spiritual group. I look with envy at the Muslim prayer room. We need a spiritual group,” she concluded before continuing down the Promenade.