There was a lot of talk in the media a few months ago about a couple who tried to attend a dinner at the White House, but they did not actually have an invitation. I was a little surprised at the uproar because I’m sure this has happened before. Perhaps with the necessity for heightened security in Washington, or the lack of it in this particular situation, helped generate public interest in the story. I was also surprised at how important it must be for some people to meet persons of position such as the President. It would be an honor to be invited to the White House for a dinner, but for any of us to try and present ourselves as important and sneak in the way they did was puzzling to me.
The closest I have come to attending a dinner by invitation would have been when I was in uniform and we had formal military dinners. This military tradition probably goes way back historically and strives to build esprit de corps while providing opportunity for social interaction. Dress up uniforms as you know display any medals individuals have achieved. I was not extremely high ranking so I was seldom going to be near the head table. I also did not have an abundance of medals. My wife and I were invited once to sit at the head table of a luncheon with three brigadier generals( one star), so that was a special occasion. I recall a few occasions where either a Lt. General( 3 stars), or a General(4 stars), were in attendance, but never one near the level of the President. The food was good and lots of toasting, so if you like to drink, you will have a good time. As for myself, I not much of a drinker; I was also seldom truly at ease. I’m sort of ashamed to admit this because I think it is for wise a person to basically be themselves wherever they are. Since I was a bit uncomfortable, it made me question myself. You know the feeling. When you are standing at the punch bowl and everyone else seems to be laughing and having a great time, except yourself. I find myself fidgeting with the cup in my hand as I search the room for a friend, anyone that I can talk with. At that moment I begin to convince myself I must not be that interesting to converse with.
A number of possibilities go through my mind. Maybe I am boring. Perhaps I present myself as not very approachable. I find myself wondering if I my face revealed the obvious fact that I was not that comfortable in those settings. Maybe they felt the same way. It helped when my wife was present, giving me someone to talk to, but even then I found myself worried if she was comfortable. If she was not, then I did not have a good time. I do not recall any outright negative experiences, so for the most part I think all was fine.
Every now and then I find myself reliving those feelings. Maybe at a wedding or a funeral, but for the most part I don’t worry as much about it now. When we were young I wanted to be invited to dinner parties and get-togethers. Now I Iook forward to being home alone with the wife. As a matter of fact she is just about to put something on the table to eat. Nothing much per say, just some soup and salad. We cannot eat as much as we used to. Oh, but it is quiet, and just the two of us ready to engage in meaningful conversation. We hold hands, offer a prayer of thanksgiving and genuinely enjoy our bounty and each other. I am quite content.
The phone rings. I wonder if it is the president: (yeah………….. right). No, just our usual dinner time telephone solicitor. They often invite themselves into our home at mealtime. I would like to make a suggestion to these evening intruders. If they will quite calling me, I promise I won’t intrude on the president during his dinners.