Dec. 24, 2001 -- They are young, jobless, and ready to party. Once a month, unemployed refugees from the dot-com revolution gather in bars around the country for the latest innovation of the newly downtrodden Internet generation -- the pink-slip party.
By Helen Kirwan-Taylor
Many years ago I had a falling-out with a girlfriend that proved so painful, I can hardly talk about it today. My friend (let's call her Mary) was a colorful television personality and had the world at her feet. She was engaged to a handsome European, and her face was plastered across the newspapers. I was working for 60 Minutes at the time, and we often met for lunch. Then one day her show was canceled and she asked me - casually, as though it didn't really matter...
Partiers are given glow-in-the-dark, color-coded wristbands at the door - pink if you are jobless, green if you're looking to hire, and blue if you are neither. They drink Bud Lights and tequilas as they network and study the message board filled with resumes and job postings. They listen to music selected as a soundtrack to the dot-com demise. Greatest hits include "It's the End of the World as We Know It," by REM, and Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust." Some parties even include dot-comedy to help the unemployed techies laugh at their troubles.
Laid off, downsized, or simply fired, many erstwhile employees of failed or foundering Internet start-ups appear to be handling the emotional pitfalls of joblessness pretty well. Just two years ago, the mostly twenty- and thirtysomethings were poised to take over the world, or at least amass enough wealth to buy much of it. But that was a different millennium.
Now that the dot-com bubble has exploded in their faces, many are dealing for the first time with the psychological strains that accompany job loss. And they seem to be coping in uniquely public ways. In addition to the pink-slip parties, job-loss support groups and group therapy sessions are common. In San Francisco, where a large portion of the population works in the tech sector, laid-off techies can even go to camp. Recession Camp offers regular outings like golf and movies. Campers also volunteer time to area charities.
Allison Hemming, who organized the first pink slip gatherings in New York City in July of 2000, says the mood is more subdued and less defiant these days than when the parties began.
"A year and a half later, people are more humble," she says. "But they are not embarrassed that they were laid off. That is what the parties are all about. I have talked to people in their 40s and 50s who are veterans of corporate layoffs and they say, 'Where was this in the late '80s and early '90s?' Back then they just went home and felt lousy."