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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Fat Tony

OPINION - Members' clubs can seem so macho — but it's incredible women who keep them going

I’m not being funny but… we live in a membership world right now. Whether we’re talking about a gym or a members’ club or digital subscription services like Prime, we all rely on these more than we care to say. On average a Brit spends £500 a year on entertainment services. Those who are into fitness or use members’ clubs as work spaces or purely for enjoyment run their bills into the thousands.

Let’s be honest, we all take it for granted. All of it. We want our packages delivered yesterday. We want the clubs to be not empty. but not be busy. We want fresh content to inhale all the time and the list goes on and on and on.

One of the things that attracts us to any kind of club membership is that it gives us the all-important sense of being part of something, that sense of community. Just like with everything else, though, too much of a good thing and we get the urge to want more. We become unhappy with imperfections, we expect everything to be right and perfect every single visit and that’s just not how the world works.

We easily forget how lucky we are to be part of a shared experience, we take for granted the effort a server or trainer or customer service person puts in day in, day out, managing relationships with all sorts of people — good and bad.

I’m the first to admit: catch me at the wrong time and do the wrong thing and I become a total so-and-so. I always regret it and fix it, but it still happens. Some of us do forget about our humanity a little. Just take a little breather before you react directly to someone.

We are unhappy with imperfections; we expect everything to be perfect and it’s not how the world works

I know how frustrated we can get when our daily routine becomes rocked because someone else’s daily routine has also been rocked. It creates a ripple effect, but we do have the power to nip it in the bud. I don’t do things right most of the time and I get angry about the most random things, but I just try to let it all out and then reset, so it doesn’t affect me or those around me for the rest of the day.

Anyone who reads this column knows I’ve gone as far as even slagging off airport lounges. Don’t I have anything better to do? Haha. I guess when you pay for things you grow to expect a little too much in return. I find myself completely guilty about my own privilege.

And let’s not even talk about tiered memberships! Why am I so obsessed with keeping gold on my BA rewards? What does it give me in life? Jesus Christ, Tony! We have created a world that moves at the speed that it does and with that we’ve shortened our attention spans so they no longer allow us to live in the moment and enjoy the little things. I mean right now you’re reading a newspaper free of charge that is keeping you — I hope — entertained on your commute.

How amazing is that? Look around. We live in the greatest city on the planet. I know I’m grateful for that today.

I tell you what else I’m grateful for, or rather whom. The world of members’ clubs has always appeared to be a macho male-oriented industry, right? We don’t actually talk about the incredible women that keep this unique world going. The women who add unbelievable creativity to event rosters, who have input into design, who contribute strategy in board rooms, or run a front desk. Most of them pretty much work twice as hard as anyone else in order to move up in that world.

I admire these women so much. There are too many to mention, but I have to single out one — Vanessa Xuereb. She is the Chief Membership Officer at Soho House. Vanessa started working there on reception back in 1997 when there was only one house on Old Compton Street. Now there are more than 40 worldwide and she has essentially been taking care of a family of more than 190,000 members along with the team she created who are second to none. So to all the women who put up with us, who show the rest of us what hard work truly is — I salute you.

Track of the week: Somebody — Gotye, FISHER, Chris Lake, Sante Sansone, Kimbra

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