You're not the only one who's asked me if I "get sick and tired of giving those embassy parties." I'm a little sensitive about the question because it could imply that "wife of" has a frivolous nature, while you and the others have loftier goals in life. Be that as it may, parties are my business. And as wife of Mr. Ambassador, I've made a detailed study of the kinds of parties we have given.
1)The Breakfast party.
Which is never called a party by Mr. Ambassador. They are meetings or briefings to which "wives of" are never asked. You'd think I'd be off the hook, Beverly, but these early-morning gatherings still present a problem. I'm locked in upstairs, like Mr. Rochester's mad wife, trailing around the bedroom in her nightgown, wondering if she should set fire to something so the guests will leave a little sooner. There is one consolation. Mr. Ambassador always comes upstairs with his usual report, "the rolls were stale," and then leaves with the guests.
2)The Mid-Morning Coffee Party.
Only for "wives of" who represent different charitable organizations including Congress. For some reason, they like to gather in an embassy to discuss their projects. There is always a male who gives a pep talk about the forgotten art gallery, the forgotten disease, the forgotten people, while "wives of" munch on carrot cake.
Mostly a repetition of the breakfast meeting, but with fresh rolls and a different cast of characters. "Wife of" should get out of the house or is again locked in upstairs. "Wife of's" only duty is to make up the menu.
3 a)Ladies' Luncheon.
Everything must look exceptionally attractive, including the food, which nobody eats. Daiquiris may be served, but are never finished. Some tension between "wives of" who have to go back to the office and those who don't.
3 b)Visiting Artist's Luncheon.
When a famous Canadian writer (Farley Mowat?) or cultural figure comes to Washington, it is Mr. Ambassador's duty to promote his career by giving a lunch. "Wife of" is present. Powerful Jobs are never asked because they are interested in politics, not culture. These luncheons can be disastrous if book reviewers and critics send in lowly proxies who have never heard of the artist and announce the fact as they come in. A successful artist's luncheon includes genuine admirers, bookstore owners and members of the arts community in Washington who accept because they want to see an embassy. Guests at artist's lunches, unlike those at working or ladies' lunches, will always take a cognac or two as a digestif. "Wife of" has only one problem with artist's luncheons. It's hard to know what to do with the guests at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.
4)Full Silver Service Tea Party (at which coffee must be served.)
Similar to the mid-morning coffee parties because the guests are all women who have something to do with a charity. The ladies talk in whispers and like the chocolate truffle best.
4a)This sub-category tea party is for tourists who come in buses for a half-hour stop. The bus group are usually widows on art gallery tours, a few widowers and their leader, a male curator. They stay only half an hour because the bus is expensive and waiting to take them back to the hotel. The group, which has already visited every museum in Washington, shows signs of dehydration and exhaustion. Members look longingly at our swimming pool rather than our pictures and sometimes put their feet in our little splashing fountain.
5)The Cocktail Party (cold canap,es only).
Sub-categories. Cocktail Reception (hot food on sticks), Cocktail Buffet (hot food on table).
This is the most dangerous kind of party for an embassy to give because the invited do not think it's necessary to say whether they are actually coming or not. There are either too many (guests bring relatives, etc.), or nobody comes at all.
The most trying cocktail reception "wife of" ever experienced occurred when we decided to tantalize Americans with the idea of holding their conventions in Canada. I was told by our Tourist Section that if we gave a decent party for the convention organizers ("be nice to the ones with the blue name-cards"), Toronto would stand to make a bundle instead of Atlantic City. Well, Beverly, 300 people came, and I must say it was a mixed group. Members of associations representing the Psychiatrists, Beauticians, Tree Surgeons, Trial Lawyers, Meat Packers and Gasoline Retailers of America stood about, wondering who everyone else was. The Psychiatrists were the most well-behaved, tiptoeing around looking at our pictures. The Tree Surgeons and Beauticians hit it off and made plans to go out to dinner together after the cocktail party. Unfortunately, the Meat Packers and Gasoline Retailers just began to enjoy themselves when "wife of" thought the party was supposed to be over. They took off their ties and moved the furniture so they could sit down and be comfortable.
"Close the bar," my social secretary said, "and they'll understand it's time to go." That wasn't such a good idea, Beverly, because they just lifted off the bottles from the trays as the waiters disappeared into the kitchen.
"Turn off the lights," she said.
Gasoline Retailers and Meat Packers don't mind whether lights are left on or off. Mr. Ambassador and "wife of" left them at the Residence and went out to dinner with the Tree Surgeons and Beauticians. I still haven't had a report from our Tourist Section if any of these groups ever held a convention in Toronto.
Number 6, Beverly, is the dinner party, about which I have written you many times before. It is a subject fraught with so many categories, and ensuing anxieties, that not even a whole letter would do justice to the perils that lie within it. Dinner parties are thesis material, and the only one I know who merits a PhD in the subject is Popsie Tribble.
Your best friend,