Black Tie Optional

I opted to wear a silver tie. I wasn’t about to rent or buy a tux. A co-worker had given my wife and I the $120-a-plate tickets for the American Diabetes Association gala. I went…reluctantly. Galas aren’t my bag.

I walked into a room full of men in tuxedos. I shouldn’t have been there. The silent auction was underway and I was underdressed. Black tie optional, my ass.

I was just about into full-blown social anxiety and decided I needed a drink. I asked a colleague–quietly–if the drinks were free or if it was a cash bar. Tux Guy was evesdropping and told me–with a look of uppercrust disdain in his eyes–that beer and wine were free. I could see him secretly ending his sentence with the words “…if you and your cheap suit are too cheap to buy a liquor drink.”

I could smell the money in the room. It smelled like silicone breast implants and sequins. I was out of place and felt like a cheap bastard.

The meal was high-dollar. Seven courses of gourmet bliss, capped by a Baileys Irish Cream Cheese Cake wedge. Children with diabetes gave heart-felt appeals for donations. “Your help will make sure my legs aren’t amputated like my grandfather’s,” an ten-year-old youth advocate told the rich crowd.

In a moment of pure embarassment, I bought a ten-dollar raffle ticket. I had to throw some money somewhere. The big-ticket auction lots were about to hit the block and I foresaw thousands of dollars flowing from the tables for ten.

The auctioneer (also wearing a tux) hit the block. His southern drawl mixed with jackhammer auction calls led my wife to dub him “Bubba McNasty.” He was the auctioneering rapper.

I planned my escape. As soon as the first two thousand dollar bid hit the block, I was going to hit the road.

Then something happened. The rich folks sat on their wallets. The purses were wrapped somewhere in a chastity belt. The rich folks–decked out in high-dollar dresses–didn’t want to pony up for charity. They liked seeing and being seen…but they weren’t about to throw any money toward the cause. Sure, they bought their tickets and drank the free wine, but their half-million dollar salaries didn’t afford them the ability to throw a little extra around.

Suddenly, I was feeling less embarassed for myself and more embarassed for everybody else who was there.

I didn’t belong there.

But as it turns out…neither did anybody else.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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