To paraphrase the late William Shakespeare, “Some writers are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have topics thrust upon them.” Etiquetteer most decidedly falls into the latter category, and this week two decidedly uncomfortable topics are being thrust into Etiquetteer’s face: President Trumps’s serving fast food to a visiting sports team, and Gillette’s new advertisement encouraging men to intervene when witnessing bad behavior. Etiquetteer would much rather chastise people who haven’t written their Lovely Notes yet or explain how to use some obscure piece of silver . . . but no. Noooooooooo! All you readers, snatching Etiquetteer out of the Comfort Zone! Etiquetteer will only cover the first topic in this column.
First, let’s talk about expectations, and how we react when expectations are not met. The father of the bride expects his daughter to wear a white wedding dress; what happens if she suddenly appears at the church door in red? The White House is “the Nation’s address.” Everyone has ideas about the kind of hospitality the House should extend to guests. It should reflect the style of the current occupant, to be sure, but it also has to befit the standard of one of the Great Nations. Etiquetteer remembers being outraged over the Obama “beer summit” in 2009. President Obama was inviting the two principals in a nasty dispute to the Nation’s address to drink beer on the lawn in their shirtsleeves?! Can’t you at least go in the Green Room and drink out of glasses?* Green is such a a calming color . . . and don’t go throwing a red flag at Etiquetteer by pointing out that a lawn is green.
Now President Trump is causing a fresh uproar for serving fast food in the State Dining Room to the Clemson Tigers football team. The President is using this White House visit in a very political way, underscoring that many of the White House residence staff are on furlough because of the government shutdown.** With no cooks in the kitchen, what else is there to do?*** For those who have an expectation of what White House entertaining should be like, packaged fast food served on White House china and silver is just like seeing the bride in red when you expected white. Etiquetteer imagines this is especially painful for those who revere the memory of Jackie Kennedy, who truly revolutionized White House entertaining in favor of both elegance and enjoyment.
This event also symbolizes the Great Cultural Divide in our Great Nation, because let’s face it, there are millions of people who think a Big Mac is [Insert Expletive Here] awesome and much better than any of that fancy [Insert Expletive Here] French food. And Etiquetteer can’t help thinking that if the President had done this with irony everyone in Brooklyn would immediately be buying gold-rimmed china for fast-food dinners.**** it may yet start a trend. Who knows?
So, no, Etiquetteer doesn’t really like this innovation in White House entertaining, but can’t deny that it accurately reflects the style of the current occupant. Etiquetteer sympathizes most with the Clemson Tigers in whose honor the event was held. For most of them, this is likely to be their only visit to the White House.
*In fact they may have been drinking that beer out of glasses.
**Etiquetteer is not going to talk about the shutdown.
***President Trump also seems to be making a big deal that he’s picking up the tab himself for this event. That’s nothing. Until the Truman Administration, the President was expected to fund personally the running of the entire White House. Plus, it’s really bad manners to talk about money like that.
****But this President has no irony.