December 1999
s m u g
by Margaret Doyle

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Charity Ball

When you walk into the ballroom of the Old New Yorker Hotel, you're transported back to another time. Ladies and Gentleman gliding across the patterned carpeting, peau de soie gloves, watches on fobs, even top hats spring to mind and you're convinced you're walking into a Fred Astaire movie. If, like me, you've taken the three complimentary dance lessons you got in your Val-Pak last spring, you're harboring a glimmer of hope that you'll be Ginger Rogers. This feeling lasts until just after you check your wrap. (For the record my "wrap" was actually just a pretty standard shawl I borrowed from my Gramma, but work with me people.)

Trying my best to glide in my spiky heels, a style I'm unaccustomed to wearing (I even wore chunky heels at my own wedding) I head through the dramatic entrance into the ballroom proper, excitedly. This is when the fantasy starts to fall apart, and reality stops me in my tracks.

This particular Charity ball was for a good cause. They all are, really. What you should know though, before I tell you what I saw inside is this was one of a series of events aimed at "Young Adults" in an effort to teach them about charitable giving and social events as a medium for philanthropy. It seems today's recently out of college set has money, but is keeping it all to themselves and don't attend more traditional charity events because they're attended largely by aging dowagers and other prehistoric members of the social register. So someone got the bright idea, and it really is a bright idea, to rethink the structure of these events and try to make it appealing to younger audiences.

Imagine a frat party. Now drop that frat party into a beautiful restored New York landmark, and dress up all the attendees. Imagine the transition scene to be something like one of those old Esther Williams movies where everything looks pretty normal and then the floor opens up and the synchronized swimmers start in with a high value production normal. It's surreal, but you know you're seeing it, so you just kind of go with it.

However, I looked fabulous so I wasn't going to waste my great dress, and decided to circulate to show off just a little. I was repeatedly horrified. I think maybe I watched too much television as a little girl, or maybe I believed that was how people behaved when they got dressed up, because before the night was over, I saw five people vomit, two women passed out at their tables, and literally hundreds of men do the dance I call "the honky shuffle." You know all arms flailing almost no foot movement, while the dancer arythmically flails about fully believing he is "getting down". I forgive having no rhythm nine times of ten, but in a tux, it gets harder, and not being at a wedding it became impossible. I managed to convince my date to join me on a few slow songs so we could show off our (primitive and underdeveloped) ballroom dancing chops, and we were shown up by a few couples who apparently were expecting the same thing out of the even I was, not everyone was a complete heathen.

I think my big mistake in judgement came when I expected everyone to treat this as a chance to play grown up and not a chance to overdress and act like they naturally might in their own environment. I'm not sure who the people were, the vomiting potential put me off pursuing concerted mingling effort, but my gut instinct (and knowing how I got invited) leads me to believe these were largely young stock brokers and traders. At one point, I think after vomiter number four, I stepped back to look at the big messy Animal House goes to the prom setting, and thought, well, the financial future of our nation is not in good hands.

But it was for a really good cause.

in the junk drawer

feature car
ac/dc gun
compulsion vise
posedown cheese
and such
and such
blab fan

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