As you probably have read, Washington is a tough town for wives, especially when they go to dinners and cocktail parties. THe first thing a woman is asked is, "What do you do?" If she admits to being just a house wife, the person who asks the question immediately loses interest in her.

A friend of mine named Lucy told me she got sick and tired of being asked the question, so she has come up with some replies that really throw the person who asked it.

Lucy said, "It came by accident one night when a man sitting next to me asked, 'What do you do?' I told him 'I'm a paper clip inspector for the State Department.'"

"He said, 'You're kidding me.'

"I said, 'I am not. They have to be twisted just right or the State Department papers won't stick together, and some of them could get lost. What do you do?" He just blushed and said, 'Nothing.'"

Lucy said, "Ever since then, while I'm dressing to go out, I think of something to say for that moment when the inevitable question comes up."

"Give me some examples," I pleaded.

"Not long ago a woman who thought she was important asked me what I did not I told her, 'I'm a food taster for HEW Secretary Califano.' And at another party, a congressman put the question to me and I told him, 'I design white lines for shopping mall parking lots.'

"I also told a general once that 'I run a halfway house for FBI informers.'"

"Those are very good," I said.

"My husband thinks I'm overdoing it," Lucy told me. "But he doesn't try to stop me. Once we were at a Georgetown pary and all the people were full of themselves, dropping names and quoting VIPs they had spoken to that day. Then someone asked in a very patronizing way, 'What did you do today?' I said, 'I finished carving the last gargoyle on the Washington Cathedral. I thought the wind would blow me off the steeple.'"

"What did they all say?"

"What could they say? After that we were the quietest table in the room."

"Does anyone really get thrown when you tell them what you do?"

"All the time," Lucy replied. "A few weeks ago a commissioner from one of the federal agencies asked me the question and I said, 'I can't anything for the moment until the grand jury decides whether or not to indict me. I promised to pay back the money, but my lawyer says the Feds still want of his head, and then I added, 'Maybe you can help me. You don't know any judges who can be bought in this town, do you?'"

"What did he say to that?"

Lucy chuckled, "He said, 'May I get you another drink?' And I never saw him again."

She continued, "Newspapermen are the worst. If you're not 'somebody' they refuse to talk to you. Once a columnist who was working a room of an embassy stopped for a moment between ambassadors and asked, 'Who are you?'

"I told him, "I'm from Lloyd's of London assigned to watch Elizabeth Taylor's diamond necklace. If anyone makes a move toward it I have orders to shoot. Now get out of my way because you're in the line of fire!'"

"What did he do?"

"He couldn't keep his eyes off my pocketbook for the rest of the evening."