For me it all started with French cuffs. I despise them. I hate the look, hate the extra work to put them on, and, honestly, have always hated the tuxedos that are wrapped around those useless wrist-decorations.
At best, “formal wear” is a form of self-congratulation: “Look at me! I’m rich enough to afford, and “classy” enough to be invited to an event at which I must wear, this pathetic approximation of the sheath God gave to penguins.”
Studs, bow ties, suspenders, pants with a silk stripe down the legs — how glad I am to know I will never wear any of that crap again.
Just as I was happy to avoid restaurants which demanded that I wear a jacket. The best eateries in the world, 3-star joints in France, don’t require jackets. They, in fact, will often allow a well-behaved dog to accompany its owner to the table.
Behavior, not costume, is what they care about. The quality of the meal counts; the décor of the diners does not. And if someone else in the room develops dyspepsia on account of my tee-shirt, let him or her chew on it like any other bovine ruminant.
When I lived and worked in New York City, I liked going to the White House Correspondents dinner. It was, for me, a rare chance to mix with the largest single-room collection of colleagues, many of whom I treasured as friends, some of whom I aspired to meet or even just to gawk at. Also to gawk at were movie stars and heavy-weight political guests.
Then I moved to Washington and was pressured to be, not an out-of-towner guest, but a celebrity-recruiting host. I was miserable at it. Basically, I don’t know any celebrities, or at least not in the way of, “wanna have dinner together?” My practice was to keep a membrane of distance from my subjects, so if I had to do a “bad news story” about them, I wouldn’t feel like I was betraying a friend.
The people I would want to add to my party at such a professional-social occasion, real friends, were not the sort of “one names” my DC employers had in mind for their table. So, it was probably the most positive aspect to “being retired” by my industry that I never had to go to a Correspondents’ Dinner again.
Another aspect of my social disconnection that left me happy was that I was never invited to a celebrity “roast.” I don’t like gratuitous confrontation (actually, it is one of the weakest points of my character that I avoid almost all forms of confrontation, except when journalistically required). “Insult comedy,” it has always seemed to me, isn’t comic, and I take little pleasure in spew for its own sake.
So, as what had always been a questionable event because of its pressurized suck-up invitations and faux-bonhomie among people who only like the others in the room if they can use them became intolerable as comic presentations became more and more recognizable as “roasts.”
Dogs dining with cats, or cobras co-feeding with mongeese does not occur in nature. Neither should annual “social events” in which journalists grin at people whose relationships with them are strictly transactional.
Those who do have genuine friendships with people who they cover should enjoy them. In private. And real friends don’t publicly “roast” one another, however ruthlessly they apply the humor-needle one-on-one.
There is a hateful one-upmanship to French cuffs. I have something at the end of my arms to display; you don’t even have sleeves. Even though there is usually some obligatory needling of journalists in the White House Correspondents’ Dinner monologue, everyone knows the deepest punctures will wound their guests.
Snotty is as snotty does. Wipe that on your French cuffs.