Jealous Davos Mistresses
Of Snubs and Men
The point about Davos is that it makes everyone feel wildly insecure. Billionaires and heads of state alike are all convinced that they have been given the worst hotel rooms, put on the least interesting panels and excluded from the most important events/most interesting private dinners. The genius of World Economic Founder Klaus Schwab is that he has been able to persuade hundreds of accomplished businessmen to pay thousands of dollars to attend an event which is largely based on mass humiliation and paranoia.
Wives feel sympathetic to their husbands and share their pain. But we have our own problems to cope with. After all, we are the on the bottom rung of the Davos ladder.
The most revealing sign of our lowly status is that we are forced to wear the ultimate badge of shame — the white name tag.
Here is how it works: everyone at Davos has to wear a name tag and these are color coded by status/occupation (speaker, organizer, journalist etc). Usually these name tags include some kind of affiliation, such as the company or organization you work for.
But wives’ name tags state only their name. This means there is nothing on it that could help a stranger strike up a conversation. If you don’t use your husband’s name then you are guaranteed virtual anonymity. Upon being introduced to someone new, the normal Davos gesture is not to look at the face of the person they are meeting but to look down at his/her name tag.
The wives’ name tag guarantees that the Davos man in question will instantly decide you are of no value and so he immediately looks over your shoulder for the next best opportunity, i.e. someone without a white name tag who is, by definition, more important than you. Many wives refuse to be Davos wives and the white name tag is the reason they most often cite for their decision to stay home.
I have often thought that the WEF should put something, anything, on the wives’ name tags just so as to give us a talking point. I wouldn’t mind wearing a tag that read “loves cooking” or “adores cats” (Not really. I hate ‘em.) Anything so that someone who actually wanted to talk me would know how to strike up a conversation.
People lose their heads in this hothouse atmosphere and behave in ways that they probably would never even consider in another setting. My own introduction to Davos’ competitiveness was years ago. The husband and I had just arrived from a night flight and a limo ride to our spartan but centrally-located hotel room. We dropped off our bags and staggered over to the Congress Centre to pick up our name tags. Winding through the little corridor on the way to the registration we ran into an old colleague of my husband. We stopped to say hello and were greeted with a gloating reply: “I see my book got a better review than yours did in the New York Review of Books this year.” (!).
Another time I was sitting at a lunch next to a tycoon who happens to be a close friend. Without a word of apology, a woman rushed over and took him away so he could sit up front with the VIP giving a lunch talk, leaving me stranded. Needless to say I am used to being abandoned for a better offer but as it happened, the tycoon and my husband already had a small meeting scheduled with the VIP the next morning. They didn’t need this randomly pushy woman to provide an introduction.
But if wives have it bad, mistresses, who are invited under a variety of guises and usually wind up with a white name tag, have it worse. Typically their men are swallowed up by a tsunami of meetings and interviews and don’t have the time or inclination to take their mistresses around with them. Often these men go to high-level dinners to which wives and mistresses are not invited. The skinny and beautifully dressed Davos Mistress typically hangs around the auditoriums waiting for a couple of minutes with her man. While waiting, she keeps her eyes peeled looking to search and destroy the competition.
The only thing worse than a white pass, is no pass. Rumor has it (heard first-hand from more than one jealous Davos Mistress) that there are legions of women — let’s call them the aspiring mistresses — who do not get a coveted Davos invitation and badge and so can not enter the Congress Centre but who come anyway. They book a hotel room and prowl the streets hoping to snare their prey. They are the worst enemies of the Davos Mistress.
Big dinners and the Saturday night soiree present another ugly dilemma for the Davos Mistress. If her man does not want to take her or has to go to a small working dinner, she faces a quandary. Does she go to the gala and hope to find another man, one who could perhaps become a boyfriend who will eventually marry her? Unseemly as it is to trawl for new prospects while officially at Davos as a companion to her man, it makes sense to use the World Economic Forum as a place to find a better boyfriend. Does she go back to the hotel room and simply wait for her man to return? Or does she find a gay friend and get him to take her out in the evenings? Many a Davos mistress has suffered greatly from her ambiguous position.
Wives, mistresses, girlfriends. We are the hangers-on, the bottom feeders of the great circus that is the World Economic Forum. The pit in my stomach tells me it’s time to get ready for another trip to Davos. But the rubbernecking is irresistible. Soon I will be hanging around the coffee bar with the other Davos Wives watching the endless parade of strutting movie stars, presidents, former senators, zillionaires and has-beens pass me by.
Photos, Top: Shoes of Davos attendees at the World Economic Forum. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
Bottom: A woman is accompanied by a dog near the Swiss mountain resort of Davos. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann