Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hospitality


An hour ago I got back from one of the least pleasant events that I have ever attended. Had received an Evite for an End of Summer bar-b-que. The guest list consisted of people who had all volunteered on the McCain campaign last year. There was some concern on my mind as one of the invitees was someone who had behaved rather badly last Winter by informing me that I was of the wrong faith to be part of her social circle. Still I had not seen these people in almost a year and thought it would be proper to attend.

The evening began on an interesting note in that after picking up desert at the best German-French bakery in NY and gotten a bottle of liquor I walked down to the East Village. Just off 2nd Avenue on 10th street I saw an apparently young woman hunched over on a stoop. She was very still and supported herself with one hand on the pavement. After walking to the next corner I called 9-11 and reported it as a possible drug overdose. Somebody’s daughter, we still see such things and times are going to get worse.

Having arrived shortly after the appointed time I met the two ladies whose apartment we were in and things began well enough, meeting people, petting the dogs and nibbling on salad. Most people went to the back yard, a nice feature in NYC, to avoid some who were smoking where the grill was just getting set up. As a side note it is a good idea to start preparing the food before the guests arrive. One woman came over to me and said that I should not eat as others had not. I thought that was odd for three reasons, first it wasn’t her house, second the party had already begun and while guests were still arriving everyone had been eating whatever was available, and third I had not been eating at that moment, except for a piece of carrot and a grape. Later I helped set up a table and when some food was put out and others took some I asked for a piece and had some sliced hot dog bits. The same woman returned and said we should not be eating and took the cooked food away. Finally, about an hour and a half after the party began the people at the grill called out “Get some food” and after some people took some chicken I added a piece to my plate. The woman returned and yelled at me in front of the guests, “I told you to wait until everyone else gets to eat. You have been eating since you got here.” I asked “Who are you?” as one woman tried to stop her. She replied “I sent out the invitations.” So I said in a clear voice that everyone could hear that I would then leave and picked up the plum tart, best one in NYC by the way, and Slivovitz, and left.

Now the rules of hospitality and the duties of a host and a guest are simple, they haven’t changed much in 6,000 years. Leaving aside the technical matter that I had in fact not eaten before food was offered to others there are larger issues here. The fact that someone acted in a manner that is borderline deranged is not that unusual. At least I do not think that my concerns fall into the category of general internet gripe. Three issues come to my attention now.

First, are the general rules of hospitality. If someone had climbed the wall to steal food I would have called the police but I would never attempt to stop anyone from eating. You do not take food away from people once it has been offered. My biggest disappointment is that standards of conduct are so loose that people allowed this to happen and simply looked away. If I had seen someone else treated so shabbily I hope that I would have got up and left the party. If it was my apartment and someone had acted that way I would have thrown them out. If there was some arrangement between the hosts and the woman who sent the invitations that included the cost of supplies then I would have thrown money at her or asked for help before allowing a guest to be abused.

Second is what it says about the state of the conservative opposition that it gathered in this small group in New York City and could not handle this minor domestic drama effectively. The people are well meaning but clearly could not reach back into the collective memory and think of what to do when someone asserts unwarranted control and acts abusively.

That gets to my third point. If we are that ineffective in handling a situation that in any two reel movie or cheap novel could have been handled properly then how can we, and by “we” I mean those who were at the party and had been at the Tea Parties and fighting other losing causes, hope to have any chance against thugs like Axelrod and Emmanuel and the Jihadis? Rumsfeld said that you fight with the army you have and every political gathering attracts the socially awkward. That is especially true for struggling socially unrewarding movements like we represent in NYC. Add to those issues of gender and power that can provide a sub-text to any social encounter, especially likely given that we were across the street from Tompkins Square Park and the opportunities for the abusive and manipulative abound.

The ongoing challenge in any political or social group is to organize and motivate people to act correctly without either allowing the abusive to drive people out nor to allow excessive rigidity to discourage participation.

Hope the people at work appreciate the plum tart. Now what do I do with the Slivovitz?

Updated in Comments

4 comments:

Pascal Fervor said...

LOTM,

I discussed this story to a blog-friend, Og the Neanderpundit. He wanted to post, but you have comments limited only to blogger accounts. That isn't necessary, as I don't make that a requirement at my site and so I know it works.

Anyway, here's Og's comment.

I have not visited this blog before, so please pardon me if I speak with unnecessary rudeness, or out of turn.

Myself, I would not have posted this story without the name and address AND EMAIL, if possible, of the offending member. First of all, to tell you you were of the wrong faith, she should be b****slapped.

And to then be rude at you about eating, as if you were some kind of glutton, I'd invite her with some degree of vigor to pi** up a rope.

And illustrate for her a manner in which that could be accomplished.


This kind of BS is typical of the type of passive-aggressive interference with the process of conservatives acting in concert.

Og

This is Pascal now with my 2¢.

I find it hard to believe that this sort of thing could happen without the approval of those higher up in the organization. For them, indeed for EVERYONE to remain silent while that woman made a scene is very unusual, and so it is hard to believe it was not deliberately staged to get the "outsider" to leave.

Personally, I couldn't do what Og suggests, but I do believe those who have the confidence should.

LifeoftheMind said...

The fault is mine if I was unclear about a few small things that should be explained.

First I have no intention of revealing anyone's identity. Given that I do not post under my own real name it would be ill mannered at best and foolish in all likelihood to use this form to post anonymous criticisms of identifiable persons. Besides my concerns are the larger issues and not my own annoyance. I am not that important.

The woman who found me socially unacceptable because I did not share her faith was another guest and not the person who sent the invitations. Her issues can be speculated on but let it be noted that while I did not date her or "make a pass" we had been friendly and she panicked. Passive aggression, incipient spinsterhood or extended emotional residence in High School are all possible explanations. She had many good qualities that were obviously overshadowed by an immature retreat into bigotry.

That was many months ago and given the relentless social networking that substitutes for achievement among those who think that they can tally up points for "social intelligence" the circle of our mutual acquaintances I had met on the campaign dwindled from a focus of my social life to a mere occasional observation. Given this event I would say that my social relationship with these people is now at an end.

The person who objected to my eating, really very strange if you saw me you would understand that "glutton" is as far from me as you can get, "ascetic" is closer to the mark, was a completely different person. She is an older woman. The following is purely speculation on my part. I was possibly the only single heterosexual male present I believe except maybe for an elderly gentleman and also someone's grandchild. The woman who challenged me is I believe a dominant lesbian and her hostility may have been stimulated by seeing me engaged in conversation with a young actress. Given that I try not to make a fool of myself pursuing women less then half my age any jealousy would have been uncalled for. It is also possible that had nothing to do with it and she was simply a free floating control freak who happened to seize on me as an object to attempt to bully.

As a former military officer and former law enforcement officer I was able to make it quite clear how displeased I was and why, without at any time engaging in a confrontation that could have been held against me. My biggest annoyance now is the realization that I left a good umbrella there.

My wish would have been that the other people present, if they were of the character that we need to associate with, should have seen how I was treated and left immediately. The fact that they did not speaks badly for them.

The event does not reflect on any larger organization except insofar as those present are members or volunteers of such organizations.

Thank you both very much for your comments.

Pascal Fervor said...

LOTM,

I discussed this story to a blog-friend, Og the Neanderpundit. He wanted to post, but you have comments limited only to blogger accounts. That isn't necessary, as I don't make that a requirement at my site and so I know it works.

Anyway, here's Og's comment.

I have not visited this blog before, so please pardon me if I speak with unnecessary rudeness, or out of turn.

Myself, I would not have posted this story without the name and address AND EMAIL, if possible, of the offending member. First of all, to tell you you were of the wrong faith, she should be b****slapped.

And to then be rude at you about eating, as if you were some kind of glutton, I'd invite her with some degree of vigor to pi** up a rope.

And illustrate for her a manner in which that could be accomplished.


This kind of BS is typical of the type of passive-aggressive interference with the process of conservatives acting in concert.

Og

This is Pascal now with my 2¢.

I find it hard to believe that this sort of thing could happen without the approval of those higher up in the organization. For them, indeed for EVERYONE to remain silent while that woman made a scene is very unusual, and so it is hard to believe it was not deliberately staged to get the "outsider" to leave.

Personally, I couldn't do what Og suggests, but I do believe those who have the confidence should.

LifeoftheMind said...

The fault is mine if I was unclear about a few small things that should be explained.

First I have no intention of revealing anyone's identity. Given that I do not post under my own real name it would be ill mannered at best and foolish in all likelihood to use this form to post anonymous criticisms of identifiable persons. Besides my concerns are the larger issues and not my own annoyance. I am not that important.

The woman who found me socially unacceptable because I did not share her faith was another guest and not the person who sent the invitations. Her issues can be speculated on but let it be noted that while I did not date her or "make a pass" we had been friendly and she panicked. Passive aggression, incipient spinsterhood or extended emotional residence in High School are all possible explanations. She had many good qualities that were obviously overshadowed by an immature retreat into bigotry.

That was many months ago and given the relentless social networking that substitutes for achievement among those who think that they can tally up points for "social intelligence" the circle of our mutual acquaintances I had met on the campaign dwindled from a focus of my social life to a mere occasional observation. Given this event I would say that my social relationship with these people is now at an end.

The person who objected to my eating, really very strange if you saw me you would understand that "glutton" is as far from me as you can get, "ascetic" is closer to the mark, was a completely different person. She is an older woman. The following is purely speculation on my part. I was possibly the only single heterosexual male present I believe except maybe for an elderly gentleman and also someone's grandchild. The woman who challenged me is I believe a dominant lesbian and her hostility may have been stimulated by seeing me engaged in conversation with a young actress. Given that I try not to make a fool of myself pursuing women less then half my age any jealousy would have been uncalled for. It is also possible that had nothing to do with it and she was simply a free floating control freak who happened to seize on me as an object to attempt to bully.

As a former military officer and former law enforcement officer I was able to make it quite clear how displeased I was and why, without at any time engaging in a confrontation that could have been held against me. My biggest annoyance now is the realization that I left a good umbrella there.

My wish would have been that the other people present, if they were of the character that we need to associate with, should have seen how I was treated and left immediately. The fact that they did not speaks badly for them.

The event does not reflect on any larger organization except insofar as those present are members or volunteers of such organizations.

Thank you both very much for your comments.