Tuesday, May 4, 2010

gala gaffe

Last Saturday night, Brad and I attended a gala for the organization he works for. It was a fundraiser for the D.C. recording studio, and a woman who is very active on the organization's local and national boards invited us as her guests, meaning she covered the $300 per person costs. Nice!

We had a great time. The event was at the National Geographic Museum downtown and we browsed through the Sacred Waters exhibit there during the cocktail hour. Because our car was in the shop (more on this topic later this week), we took a cab from our house to the gala. Imagine my surprise when one of my students--a senior--opened the door of the cab to help me out. (He was working the valet parking for the night--he was as shocked to see me as I was to see him.)

Most of the people in attendance were older than Brad and me. At our table, Brad and I were the youngest by at least twenty years. We were also the poorest; all of our tablemates seemed to be part of the elite DC social circle that attends these types of events often. They were very nice and welcoming, though, and we felt comfortable with them.

Much to my surprise, our hostess separated all of the couples during dinner. I assumed I would be seated next to Brad, but I found myself forced to make conversation with the two older gentlemen on either side of me. The man to my right was at least 80 years old, and not much of a conversationalist. When he did speak, I practically shoved my ear to his lips to hear him. I spent most of dinner conversing with the man on my left, the hostess's husband. 

Except, right at the meal's conclusion, the quiet old man on my right caught my attention.

After spending an hour mumbling and speaking in the faintest whisper, he suddenly exclaimed at his maximum decibel, "Now there's a woman who can clean her plate!"

I turned to find him staring in horrid fascination at my now-empty dinner plate.

I awkwardly swallowed the last bite in my mouth while my eyes darted around the table. Brad's plate was empty, too. Of course it was. Would either of us waste a crumb of a $300 dinner? The women's and men's plates in my line of vision still contained at least half of their dinners. The old man next to me had done little but push around and play with his food. The vicious part of my mind smirked that his dentures couldn't break down the beef wellington.

I tried to respond to this man's rude comment as gracefully as I could. "Did you forget that I'm a farm girl at heart?" I exclaimed, trying to sound lighthearted. "I was taught at an early age to clean my plate. I guess the habit's stuck with me."

And then, of course, I changed the subject, thankful for the dark room to hide the fire burning my cheeks.

I am not ashamed to admit I have a hearty appetite. My parents refused to let my siblings and me leave the dinner table each night until we had cleaned our plates. I abhor wasting food, which is why I either eat it all or save it for another meal, not exactly something I can do at a gala--imagine the uproar I would have caused if I had asked for a to-go container! In my defense, the meal at this gala was not excessive--the portions were small to moderate in size. But I had obviously committed a faux pas. Or, he was just a very rude man. Who makes that kind of a comment to a woman? And why didn't he pick on Brad, who also cleaned his plate?

Lesson learned: eat dinner at home before attending a gala. Pick and push at your fancy catered dinner, but certainly don't eat more than a bite of it!

My feisty nature got the best of me--despite his ridicule, I cleaned my dessert plate, too.

A woman at our table gushed to me several times about how adorable she thinks my husband is. Brad's less than thrilled with her choice of descriptor, but we had a good laugh as we left. We made a name for ourselves at our first upscale gala: the adorable lobbyist and his wife who cleaned her plate.


Test 1 said...


Organized Living by Amy said...

That is hilarious. I would have cleaned the plate too!

Katie said...

This guy was out of line! Having dealt with MANY socially inept men in my current job. I think he was just trying to find a way to get your attention, not realizing he was insulting you (What's sad is he probably still doesn't realize it). You did nothing wrong by eating you dinner.

Amanda said...

That's really funny. I've noticed that it's the same deal at NY restaurants, the trendier the place, the less you're expected to actually eat. I've definitely been on the receiving end of many judgemental looks for the same reason. I can't help myself though -- it tastes good and costs a lot. Must be my Midwestern background too. (but I have to believe the chef appreciates someone cleaning the plate!)

SusanL said...

Thanks for the laugh and advice! I would have cleaned my plate and dessert plate, too!

diana onorio funk said...

rebecca, you would have been justified by sticking your fork in his eye!

Mania_Momma said...

Maybe it is a Midwestern thing, but if the meal is good...generally, I eat it! Seems obvious to me. Guess i've never been a pick at my food, order a salad to fit in kind of girl, though...good for you for handling it so gracefully...and for being feisty enough to finish your dessert, too! ;)

Aimee @ Smiling Mama said...

I've been to many a gala (rarely on my own dime!) and have seen lots of people clean their plates. I have a different take: I think he was truly complimenting you! So, go ahead and take it as such!