Register Wednesday | March 21 | 2018

Back Patting

"So the suit is off."

I always feel like an imposter when I wear a suit to work. It’s like trying on someone else’s life, someone whose size is just out of proportion. My father might say this is an affected view I’ve adopted, perhaps to suit some philosophical stance I’d taken, but it’s just something that doesn’t fit. I’m not saying I hate wearing a suit. Put me in a wedding tux and I feel like James Bond. A suit for a show and a nice dinner. Big Pimpin. But today I had to wear a suit to work—each hour worrying that my Hipster Card was up for reconsideration—because I was attending a ceremony honoring my step-mother, Robin, and 3 other women.

The Women’s Project is a theatrical organization dedicated to developing and producing the vibrant work of theater artists. This is from the program. That’s exactly what it says. Every year they hold a fundraiser, their annual Women of Achievement Gala. Tonight they honored my step-mother, actor Donna Murphy, writer Gail Sheehy, and Susan Wadworth, founder of the Young Concert Artists, Inc. You’ve just gotten the notion that my step-mother is a pretty damn big deal. I like to think so.

Though a tad overlong, the night was a good one. My father was there, Robin’s aunt, and my sister was there with members of her company. (When I say “her company,” don’t get the idea that she runs a company all of her own, though she probably will one day. How To Deal With A Younger Sibling Who Far Out Earns You will be the subject of a future blog.) Being honored for her career is not something new for my step-mother. In fact, it’s something of a regular occurrence. (At its simplest, she sells perfume and cologne. You’re probably wearing a scent she was behind right now. In fact, if you’re around my age and wearing a scent, my sister is probably directly responsible for how you smell as well. It’s a cottage industry, an odd gift, and something they are, from different ends of the beauty industry, very gifted at.)

This night was something different. It’s easy to honor someone’s career accomplishment, but this group was holding up my step-mother as something of a role model. She was being singled out as much for who she is as much as what she does. While her success is something that has frequently intimidated me, who she is as a person is something I’ve grown to love and appreciate.

When my step-mother was being introduced, her long list of career accomplishments called off, a woman at the table behind me whispered, “I smell a Republican.” I’m a hypocrite. Stipulated. I am the first person to stereotype the upper class. Cigar smoking masters of their own universes. (Of course, I know my step-mother, and rather well, so she’s excluded from my generalization. She's also a Democrat, if the simple-minded whisperer is interested.) The woman’s comment pissed me off. Here we were at an event honoring remarkable women who have made an effort to support the rights of women, and here was some artsy fartsy quick snap artist, a WOMAN, criticizing my step-mother. WARNING: Digression Ahead! I was temporarily reminded of why, although I am generally a supporter of feminism, civil rights, etc., I don’t consider these movements successful. It’s not that they didn’t aim high enough; it’s that, once they’ve reached some modicum of equality, they forget that their fight was not one dimensional. You fight towards a common goal, but peronally I think distinguishing between what sections support or even attend your events is not a luxury you can afford. That's something that should be left to us silly white men. What anyone involved in any cause (and I am very cause oriented), big ones like movements or smaller one's like the Women's Project, is dealing with, at heart, is general class war. You’re not going to agree. There are going to be Republicans in your group, I promise you.

My step-mother’s speech was simple and eloquent. She talked about how instrumental chance was to where she is now. Someone opened a door, there were people there, and in her past, to support her, to help her along. There’s no denying that she’s good, great actually, but someone opened a door. I loved the look of pride on my father’s face. I loved being there with him and my sister and step-aunt to see it.

The highlight for me was meeting Gail Sheehy. She’s a monster writer, an honest listener. I just quickly walked up to her, offered my admiration. She was incredibly gracious in return and I, being the fool that I am, was inspired. I don’t know if I ever want the type of professional success Robin has had. I am in awe of it, proud of, intimidated by it, and think it is worthy of being celebrated from time to time. But I do know that I would like to create at some point, through some medium, something like what Gail Sheehy has accomplished with hers. I don’t know if I need the same level of success these women have had, but I’d like to be as good at what I do as they are at their life work.

So the suit is off. I just polished off a snifter of whiskey and now I'm off to bed. Tomorrow I'll rock jeans, a button down, my sporty coat, and probably my yellow sweat band for good hipster credentials. But tonight I sold out, suit and all, and had a great time doing it. Sorry for the “all in the family” pat on the back. But it was a very, very, very nice evening.