Monday, September 21, 2009

RIght to Bare Arms

I was just reading my favorite political threads in my never-ending attempt to better my mind and make myself a scintillating cocktail party guest-- not that I go to any cocktail parties but I will be conversationally prepared if you want to invite me-- and this is what I learned.

Michelle Obama's dress at the Medal of Honor ceremony last week was not only an insulting slap in the face to the recipient's family and a disgrace to the country, but it violated the Post Labor Day fashion rules.

This last is what caught my attention, because just last week I went to lunch with my mominlaw and she noted, very sweetly, that I had on white sandals after Labor Day.

I tried to feel embarrassed and guilty, but failed. I like those sandals; they are really comfortable. But obviously, I had committed a grievous error that at some time must have offended someone for some reason, who then protected herself from further insult by formalizing the NO WHITE AFTER LABOR DAY! rule.

Now I am not some eitquette-ignorant sloth; I was weaned and raised on Amy Vanderbilt. Her book on manners was probably the most referenced and used book in our home. The Bible may provide the rules for living a moral life, but Amy taught us how to avoid the sins of wrong utensil usage and the disgrace of an improper introduction. Thank you notes had to have more than one sentence (you must mention the item specifically and comment about wonderful it is, how you never realized your life was so empty until you received it). Formal acceptances were written in third person- as if your social secretary were acting on your behalf, you being too busy instructing the maids how to set the table. You wore gloves and hats to tea, and dresses and heels in the kitchen.

Those days are thankfully gone. But just as written thank you notes and shower invitations are being replaced with Email and E invites, there must have been a time that some first lady didn't wear a hat and gloves to a White House function. I wonder if people were as horrified then as they seem to be with Michelle's ongoing fashion choices (which are either boldly avant garde or offensive faux pas depending on your political allegiance).

And why on earth do we care if Michelle looked as if she were wearing- as one witty fashion critic suggested-- Scarlett O'Hara's curtains? Or that she was showing those famously toned arms after Labor Day? Wasn't she there honoring the soldier's life and family, where she was supposed to be, doing the right thing?

Since someone conveniently brought up Gone With the Wind (oh, that was I!), one of my favorite moments in the movie is when Scarlett, with prissy, self-righteous indignation, berates Melanie for taking Belle Watkins' money because Belle is a prostitute. Melanie graciously accepts the offering, because she realizes that despite Belle's dubious occupation and heavy makeup, the gesture was sincere and generous.

Although maybe Belle was wearing white after Labor Day, and, really, if so, Melanie should have known better.