Respect (Just a Little Bit)Written by Catherine Rankovic
The solution: Put a little table off in the corner and seat there (with place cards) the least distinguished guest and the second-least-distinguished guest, both unescorted females. We could neither see nor be seen by the diners, who had their backs to us, nor could we take part in their conversation. We were told with an apology that this arrangement was by lottery. Forgive me, but I doubt that one or two of the nationally and internationally famous would have been seated at the kids' table, lottery or not.
I'm from an ethnic subculture that loves to host and treats even the most extraneous guests as royalty. We would rather face a firing squad than set a few human beings apart as if there were not several alternatives to this arrangement, to wit:
1. Serve dinner buffet-style.
2. Buy or rent a larger table.
3. Use smaller chairs. (Accommodating guests is more important than matching or having to move your furniture.)
4. Dining room too small for the crowd? Move the table to the living room.
5. Have the hosts (or at least one of them) seat themselves at the second-class table.
6. Have the hosts buzzing around serving and refilling and ascertaining that all invitees are well taken care of (the hosts can eat later).
7. Move the event to a restaurant (doesn't have to be expensive) and write off the cost as a business expense and as a way to head off even a whiff of an idea that they sort their guests by importance.
I was so embarrassed at being thus Jim Crowed -- regardless of status I am still a human being -- that I had to try not to cry, asking myself grimly and repeatedly, "What would Eleanor Roosevelt do?" She famously said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." I wonder if anyone else was embarrassed by this arrangement. (Nobody said anything. I considered leaving. My parents would have seen the score, excused themselves and left. I thought that might embarrass the hosts in front of their other guests, and politeness required I should be embarrassed rather than they; and finally, I did not want to leave my poor tablemate twisting in the wind.)
As fate would have it, this happened to the only one who would ever write about it. It is what I have always done to stay sane.
Writer, with 30+ years' writing and publishing experience, 20+ years' teaching experience. Last book read: Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton.
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Friday, 28 October 2011 14:20
Ugh. So sorry this happened to you. How did your other at the little table take it?
Thursday, 27 October 2011 14:44
posted by gaye g.p
I immediately wonder why the hosts even invited 2 more guests than they could seat! Good grief.
I vote with Susan's grandmother: making sure the "little table" was having much more fun would be a grand response to being put off into the corner.
I trust this did not happen recently. I consider you among the distinguished.
Thursday, 27 October 2011 07:14
posted by Susan Woods
My proper Southern Grandmother would sigh, "How can Ah know such people;" the sure sign of social extremis for said "people."
Her suggestion on these occasions, was to embrace the logistical and social freedom granted by the appalling exclusion. (Hardly anything disconcerts more than two unescorted women having an out-of-sight laugh fest, and there are simply times when decorum dictates a certain up-tempo festivity.)
But I'm terribly sorry.
Wanted to thank you for Sunday's reading; I thought you sparkled.
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:47
posted by Kim
Thank you for writing this, Catherine. Your host should be embarrassed, not you.
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