Now it’s no secret that I don’t do particularly well at stuffy, overly formal events. I find it difficult to relax and just be my usual, silly self. And let’s face it, maximum boredom plus maximum protocol equals minimum fun. It also pretty much guarantees that at some point I will misbehave.
Kind of like when you dress up a toddler and take them out to a fancy restaurant, and after repeatedly telling them that they have to be good, they only have about a 20-minute window where they can (barely) contain themselves before they have a total meltdown.
Unfortunately that’s also what I’m like at stuffy, formal events. I too have a about a 20-minute window where I can contain myself before I have a total meltdown. (I have about a 4-minute window if I don’t immediately have a drink in my hand).
So last month we were invited to yet another very fancy, very formal charity dinner. It was a relatively small, very exclusive gathering of some of the city’s oldest, whitest and wealthiest citizens.
I didn’t want to go but BR had already accepted the invitation on behalf of both of us (love it when he does that). And that night, while still on the tail end of my year long, wildly alcoholic nervous breakdown, I was feeling particularly bratty.
So we got all fancied up and I got my usual lecture in the car on the way there: Don’t drink too much. Don’t be rude. Don’t get sloppy. Don’t roll your eyes. Don’t swear. Don’t try to high-five anyone. Blah blah blah.
BR was a little more “concerned” than usual because the Very Important Person who founded this particular charity was rumored to be attending. Hint: He may have something to do with British royalty.
So we get there and I immediately run to the bar and order a giant glass of vodka. BR was already giving me the stink-eye.
BR: Blondie this is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself.
Me: I am pacing myself. I only ordered one. I haven’t even started doing shots yet.
BR: Blondie, that’s not funny! Now get your shit together and let’s go mingle.
So we started walking towards the very well dressed, very proper, very demure crowd when all of a sudden this woman in a red dress slyly sauntered up to me.
She was sizing me up. I don’t like that.
Woman: I’m sorry, but I don’t believe we’ve met. I mean I don’t recognize you… at all!
Basically a nice way of saying, who the fuck are you.
Me: Oh hello, I’m Blondie.
Woman: Oh, I see. So tell me Blondie, what is your connection to the people here? And what is your involvement with this charity and philanthropy?
Basically a nice way of saying, and what the fuck are you doing here.
Me: Oh, hah hah. Well… nothing!
Woman: I’m sorry? I mean… I don’t quite understand…
Me: Just kidding. My husband plays polo with that guy over there. He and his wife invited us.
Woman: Well that’s… fascinating! Believe it or not, I have never been to a polo match.
Me: Hah hah haaah… well you’re not missing much. They’re really boring!
She looked even more perplexed at that point and since neither of us knew what to say next, I just stood there and gulped my drink and waited for her to walk away. Which she did.
Then before I could turn around and order another double vodka on the rocks, we were suddenly being ushered into the dining room. And they were closing the bar! NOOOOO!
We found our table where our host had insisted on the typical seating arrangement – boy-girl-boy-girl, but no one is allowed to sit beside their spouse. I never used to understand the point of this, but now I know it’s because most people don’t really like their spouse. Apparently it’s also supposed to help “liven up the conversation” but really it’s just a way for some rich guy to try and bang some other rich guy’s wife.
Luckily I was seated in between two gentlemen who were very friendly and easy to talk to. Actually everyone at our table was quite social and enjoyable, but the conversation was cut short when the speeches began.
And this is where things took a bit of a “turn.”
Now the Very Important Person who founded the charity could not attend so he sent two things in his place: A very conservative, old-money proxy who spoke on his behalf, and a 30-minute video of himself talking.
I had already finished my glass of wine when they started serving the salad, and before I could flag down a waiter for another, someone stood up and proudly introduced the video. The half hour video. The waiters quickly lined up against the wall like a bunch of stiff soldiers and didn’t move for the entire duration. Everyone else was (uncomfortably) silent and stoic while the recorded speech played on. And on. I was getting thirstier by the second. And just when I thought it was coming to a close and I could finally get my hands on some fucking cabernet, he recited the entire speech again – in French.
My meltdown had begun. I was getting fidgety. I was getting bored. I was getting impatient. I was getting hungry. And worst of all I was getting sober.
Something had to give. So I casually nudged the guy on my right and gave a slight nod with my head. Then in my subtlest whisper of a voice I asked him what I thought was a completely appropriate question:
Me: Are you gonna drink that?
Gentleman: Umm… no, no… go… right ahead.
Me: Ok, thanks (glug glug glug).
BR was glaring at me from across the table. I didn’t care. Then after a few more minutes of the recorded speech en Francais, I casually nudged the gentlemen on my left.
Me: Are you gonna drink that?
This time I didn’t even wait for a response. I just grabbed his wine glass and chugged it.
BR was literally fuming. And the woman beside him (who invited us) was giving him the panicked, “what the fuck’s wrong with your wife” eyeballs while still trying to maintain a gracious smile and pretend like everything was fine.
Finally the video was over and the waiters were allowed to begin serving again. I immediately flagged one down. And let’s just say that by the time the entrees came and the Very Important Person’s proxy stood up to give her dry, lengthy, politically incorrect speech, I was drunk.
Now I realize that I may sound like a bit of a spoiled brat who’s complaining about having to partake in a social event that most people would never, ever have access to. But just hear me out:
I not only dislike these charity functions because they are dreadfully boring and socially stressful, but also because they are dripping with hypocrisy. You could literally build fifty schools in Africa with the amount of diamonds these ladies wear. I myself was wearing several thousand dollars worth of clothes and jewelry so I could “fit in.” At a charity event.
And then I look around the room at all the extravagant clothes and expensive champagne and at a bunch of people who’ve probably never had to eat Kraft dinner as a necessity (and not just because it’s a delicious novelty food product) and who seem to care more about schmoozing and being seen than the actual charity they’re supporting. And I just don’t get it. And worse, I’m part of it.
And it baffles me because I didn’t grow up with money. In fact, it was quite the opposite. My mother had me by “surprise” when she was 20 and a waitress, and hadn’t even earned her high school diploma. We had no money. It was a stressful existence… for both of us.
It’s a very strange thing to experience completely opposite ends of the wealth spectrum – neither of which were my fault or my own doing. I just sort of… landed in them. But it gives me a unique perspective. And a very low tolerance for bullshit.
And this is why, by the time the Very Important Person’s proxy stood up to give her speech about this Very Important Charity in her very proper British accent, I didn’t react too well.
Dame So and So: …and for those poor people who have had the misfortune of being born on the wrong side of the tracks, they have a chance of becoming better people with your generous support… blah blah blah.
Don’t roll your eyes, don’t roll your eyes, don’t roll your eyes…
Dame So and So: …and I’m so proud to announce that we’ve helped thirty black people find jobs in the last seven years…
Ok, now that’s just racist. DO NOT roll your eyes…
Dame So and So: …and this is why the generous act of philanthropy is so important and why you should all be patting yourselves on the back for helping to improve the lives of these poor, poor hobos living in a ditch…
She didn’t exactly say that but she might as well have. I think I rolled my eyes about 17 times. And I continued to drink any alcohol that I could get my hands on. Until BR angrily leaned in towards me from across the table.
BR: Blondie, get your shit together and act like a lady!
A lady? A lady?? Well if you wanted a lady BR, then maybe you shouldn’t have plucked me out of my normal, nine to five, middle class life, dressed me up in a bunch of fancy-shmancy clothes, and dropped me in the middle of this bullshit fucking charity event!
When the dinner was finally over our table agreed to meet up for some drinks at a bar close by – but not before I stumbled out of my chair and yelled, “let’s get out of here and do some shots!” and then awkwardly high-fived a very bewildered eighty-something year-old gentleman at the table next to me.
BR very quickly ushered me out of the building and threw me in a cab.
BR: Blondie, I can’t believe you rolled your eyes through Dame So and So’s entire speech! What’s wrong with you!
Me: First of all, that speech was racist and classist and patronizing and she obviously has no idea what it’s like to be poor. Second of all, my mother was a waitress! WHAT THE FUCK DID SHE DO FOR ME?!
BR: Ok, I guess that’s actually a good point…
Me: And you dragged me to this stupid charity event where I had to watch a bunch of stuffy, old, rich douchebags pat themselves on the back for doing their “good deed” of the season… and it’s all fucking bananas!
BR: Well lucky for you, we probably won’t ever be invited back to another one.
Me: I know. You’re welcome.
The rest of the night was a bit foggy but at least I was able to relax at the bar. And order shots for everyone. And then high-five everyone. For a while I was sitting next to a reporter from a posh magazine who was covering the event. I don’t remember exactly what I blurted out to her, but I do remember slurring, “donn prinn that” a bunch of times. Oops.
But at least we won’t have to attend one of those functions again for a while. Or if BR is correct, possibly ever.
I know, BR. You’re welcome.