Avoidance of Pretentiousness or What?

I was speaking with a friend, as well as my partner and my brother about a situation that came up recently. I was invited to an evening event that is being held in an upscale hotel’s penthouse that has a commanding view of the city of Washington, DC.  The event begins with cocktails, and is followed by dinner.  It begins “around” 7:30pm… with no stated end-time.  My partner was included (as in, “you may bring your spouse or ‘significant other’.”)  The dress code is “jacket & tie.”

When I received the invitation, I read though it and then rolled my eyes.  This event should be something I should attend, as it as to do with my new job.  It would give me an opportunity to “meet the team.”  However, it is being held in a place that is far away, late at night, in what, to me, is a pretentious atmosphere.

That is, I assert that events such as I described where people dress up to attend, that they are dressing to play a part, and the part that they play is not really who they are.  Thus, they are pretending… “putting on airs” … and perhaps showing off.  I detest this kind of stuff.

As I was reading the invitation, my stomach was tightening into knots.  It really was making me a bit ill even to think about having to go to the event.  But… it’s for the new job, so I would have to buck up, get over my reluctance to attend, suit up, and join the party.  I would have to go alone, since my partner absolutely, positively, would not go with me (and I wouldn’t force the issue).

However, then I realized that the date of the event is one day after I am scheduled to have my hernia repaired.  There’s no way that I could drive all the way across town to an event that runs late into the night when I am just recovering from surgery.  Surely, the new boss will understand that!  (He did.)

Anyway, I feel that I am quite in the minority when it comes to events like this.  Most people would jump at the chance to go to this venue, and be wined and dined in such an upscale atmosphere.  Am I alone in feeling repulsed by this?

The timing of these things is about as follows:  “starting at 7:30pm” means that the “fashionably late” time to arrive is 8:00 to 8:30pm… with an hour of drinking alcohol (which I don’t) until about 9:30pm, then dinner with stuff I can’t eat… estimating the event ending about midnight, followed by an hour’s drive home.

How does one tell the new boss that he turns into a pumpkin at 9pm?  Or tell him that he can’t eat what likely will be served? (don’t tell me, “share your diet restrictions.” Believe me, that doesn’t work.) … or that I don’t drink alcohol, including wine (which makes me physically ill)… so “have plenty of water?”  Yeah, right.

Do men who dress up in a suit and tie escorting their lovely (female) spouses dressed in a nice dress to events like this behave differently compared with men who, for example, show up at a buddy’s house in comfortable clothes to watch a football game?  I contend that they do… and further, much of the behavior in such costume is pretentious.

I could be wrong, and would invite comments to disabuse me of that notion.

Meanwhile, I’m just hangin’ out in jeans, leather, and boots.

Life is short:  be who you are, not something you’re pretending to be.

7 thoughts on “Avoidance of Pretentiousness or What?

  1. While I can appreciate that there all sorts of reasons why events like this one would be inconvenient for you to attend, I don't think "pretentious" is necessarily very fair as a blanket description of the dress code and/or all of those attending.

    Arguably, all clothing is an artificial extension, exaggeration or obfuscation of one's persona, and I don't think it's for others to judge its authenticity (or otherwise). I have known plenty of colleagues who are at their most comfortable and "natural" in suit & tie, and absolutely a fish out of water in t-shirt & jeans.

    Myself, I love formal "occasion" dressing and see it as a chance not to pretend to be someone I'm not but to express parts of me I don't always express in my day to day lifestyle. I don't think I'm putting on airs or showing off – any more than I am when I visit a leather bar or pull on a Morrissey t-shirt to indicate to the world (or, at least, my favourite Saturday gay club) that I'm a Smiths fan.

    I enjoy experimenting with the images I present, whether I'm going with full leathers, pinstripe suit, tweed jacket or police uniform. Being a Scot, I have full Highland regalia, which gets a full airing at weddings and other "black tie" events. It's great to dance in, and I love wearing it.

    All clothing contains a message, or messages; none of it is necessarily inauthentic simply because it's not what others would choose to wear.

  2. Thank you for your insightful comments, SJ. I'm just one of those who is a fish out of water in a suit. Always have been, always will be.

  3. And yeah, of course people behave differently at a dinner event as compared with rolling up to a friend's house to watch sports on television. People behave differently in different settings.

    This is not to say that the one is necessarily "natural" and the other is "pretence". I really enjoy social gatherings over dinner, whereas I can think of nothing less pleasant than being forced by male peer pressure to endure a football game. Even among straight male friends and colleagues, I know several who detest watching sport but go along with it because it's an expected male bonding thing. For them, that situation would be an artificial social ritual.

  4. Okay, brother, I'm calling you on this one. Just because I wear a suit regularly, does that make me pretentious? No… Does your perception of men dressed that way cloud judgment? Perhaps. I always love you, no matter what you wear, and I know you love me. Just face it, you got the "jeans genes" and I got the "suit genes" when we were born four minutes apart. Mom loved both of us for who we are, not what we wear.


  5. Yes, you're all right… and sorry, J, 'cause you're the most unpretentious person I know, regardless of your comfort in suit & tie (and those yucky dress shoes).

    Perhaps my problem is that I pick up on nuances of behavior and attribute certain perceptions to them. I stand corrected, and grovel for forgiveness.

  6. I always love you, bro', whether you're in boots, bell bottoms, leather, or butt naked. Besides your partner and our Mom when we were babies, I'm probably the only one who has seen you that way 🙂

    I've given up on you with this aversion to shoes, but then again, you've always looked cool in boots. I wouldn't know you otherwise!



  7. Does your big sister have to step in and referee here?

    Little brother, don't read something into things that aren't there. Littler brother, I agree: perceptions can be implied, but probably don't mean a thing.

    I still do not understand why Little Brother doesn't like to dress up every now and then, as he looks great that way. But he has ALWAYS been like that! I remember when he was five or six… ripping that suit off right after C's wedding.

    I love both of you, as you both are. (And I've seen both of you butt naked, too! Better watch out, I have pictures!)

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