Monday, June 30, 2008
Come along and be my party gal
Image from wallyspam
Since my husband is an academic, I don't go to fancy representational functions very much these days. And I can't say that I miss them. But as a child of the diplomatic corps, representation was one of the few constants in our nomadic life. Before I went out - whether it was for a simple walk or out to an embassy party - my parents often told me, "You are a representative of the United States of America. Everything you do reflects on our country." And the thing is, I took it very seriously and, till my teens, moved through these places with decorous care, like a girl practicing posture by walking with books on her head.
Well, last night, I went with my husband to a swank museum-show opening. His department had loaned a painting to the exhibit which was why we, the poor country mice, were invited to this open-bar, sit-down-dinner, very monied extravaganza. And, before I go on, let me just say that it is a sin and a shame that people who have hideous taste in clothes should be allowed to have buckets of money. There was a man there, a very wide man, in a bright coral-pink jacket and blue-and-white striped seersucker pants, and no he was not gay or being purposely arch and loud. The rich have no excuse for being tacky. Sorry, had to vent.
In any case, it was very odd, because, as we drove up to the party I was still just me - the silly, loud, mother of four, with a (pretty) second-hand-store shirt. But the moment the valet parker opened my car door and said, "Good evening ma'am," I became Representational Lady. I smiled enchantingly, introduced myself to numerous strangers, casually mentioned my husband's job title, pushed him forward to chat once introductions were complete, and just generally worked the crowd very vigorously. And it was as natural to me as breathing. At the end of the party, as I was making sure to say a warm goodbye to every single person I had spoken to that evening ("SO nice to meet you, Martha. Yes we MUST get together for lunch soon. We'd so love to see your husband's collection."), one of the men I'd spoken to leaned over to me and said, "You are dynamite, just dynamite!" Yes, it was kind of creepy, but it was also funny and enlightening. Because, until that moment, I hadn't realized I was being that old "dynamite" uber-representational me.
As we drove home in our rented Korean pumpkin (the insurance company has still not processed our claim), and I slipped back into my tatty everyday skin, I realized that I could easily, and fairly happily, have led a very different life. Normally I'm a say-it-as-I-see-it kind of gal, and killer-charm diplomacy is not what you you think of when you think of me. So it's strange to discover this talent I'd forgotten that I had and that I don't have any use for. Strange, but also fun to discover that, unlike most of my old clothes, the silly pretty gown and the ridiculous glass slippers still fit, and I can still do the dance, though I choose not to.