I grew up in middle-class suburbia, the child of working-class parents who did well enough, and not more. I had everything I needed, and have very fond childhood memories, replete with bikes, a boom box, and the essential collection of Garbage Pail Kids. I have not improved my lot any, but do not regret the lack of rise to a more enviable social status. Needless to say, the black tie events were nil, and I needed less grace and etiquette than energy, and good old American know-how. However, I pride myself in being decently able to carry off a semi-classy moment when I need to.
So, now that I’m working for a group of people, that especially for this area, make more money than the President, I come across times here and there where I am not exactly in my element. For instance, every month we have an evening meeting that ends with a dinner at some posh-ish restaurant or another, where I watch in amazement as they order a couple $200 bottles of wine, just to make sure everyone knows they can. And while deep down this squandering of money for show hurts my sense of altruistic social responsibility, I ride their coat tails to a good buzz, and enjoy the extreme superiority of the flavor. I'm like their little charity case. Poor Jessica, can't even afford something better than Kendall Jackson. Poor thing.
Because of this, I am now in the midst of planning the group’s private holiday dinner, which is to be held at one of the loveliest, fanciest “mini-mansion turned hotel/restaurants” in the area. You see, back in the late 19th century, this area was popular with jet set (like the Rockefeller family), who built splendid “cottages” to rival the greatest homes in America. We still cater to a large NYC second home-owner population, and if you can ignore the overwhelmingly large number of poor people and drug dealers, give plenty of basking in culture opportunities in the summer. Anyway – so I’m talking to the catering manager for this hotel, and she instructs me to choose the allocated number of selections for each course, or to give her specific instructions for the chef and sommelier.
“You’ll need to choose several canapé’s, and alert me to any vegetarians, or other dietary constraints”, she says, moving on to the entrees, which are apparently prix fixe – which I assume means they are endorsed by NASCAR.
I want to say, “Lady, it’s going to be the middle of December in New England, I don’t think we’ll be outside under a canopy, no matter what it looks like.” But, assuming by context she meant something more like appetizers, I just make note that chips and salsa are not an option. Then I google it. Why the hell isn’t hors’dourves good enough? Its hard enough to spell to make it sound all special and stuff. No matter, I just murmured my assent, and assured her I’d have our selections to her well in advance, and that I was sure we’d want plenty of goat cheese and whatnot.
It’s possible that this planning will be good for me. Even with the plethora of events I’ve planned in the past, including various company Christmas Parties, cookouts and team building days –this will be by far the most elegant event. But given my knowledge consists more of barbeque's, clam bakes, and tailgating - I'm not sure I'm prepared to face this challenge without severe Internet usage, and over-googling. I feel obligated to take out a small loan to get a mani-pedi and a sleek new hair-do. I may even need to accessorize just to avoid looking like Elli May Clampet in a Beverly Hills Boutique.
In fact, I am considering skipping TJ Maxx and getting my dress from JC Penny.
Now that’s class.