Texans are my favorite kind of people, so it’s a good thing I spent inauguration eve with nearly 10,000 of them.
I’ve gained a little weight since college, so my red coat didn’t quite button, allowing the freezing Maryland air to envelop me as my friends and I darted down the block towards the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center for the Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball.
Our Lyft driver dropped us at the end of the street to avoid the traffic. I called back “thanks” as I toddled on the concrete, not used to wearing heels. He flashed a smile and inched his way around the corner, perhaps to prepare himself for the morning.
Ah, the morning. Inauguration Day.
My friend Smoky works for a senior senator and put in quite a bit of extra time to ensure the inaugural ticketing process ran smoothly for his constituents (that’s how we “scored” seated tickets for the actual ceremony), but many people (surprise, surprise) never materialized to actually pick up their tickets for the standing areas, so she was tasked with getting rid of them.
After handing a few to our Lyft driver, we arrived at the ball with dozens of them stuffed in her purse, determined to give them all away.
I felt a little bit like Santa Claus.
While it was easier to take the Black Tie & Boots ball for what it was, a big party put on by the Texas State Society in DC regardless of who wins the White House, handing out the inauguration tickets inherently felt more political.
But it did give us some leverage.
We swiped some chairs from the first people we gave tickets to. I was crazy and wore blue suede heels without really breaking them in, so about 20 minutes after arriving it felt like there was glass attached to the balls of my feet.
While there were tables sprinkled throughout the Gaylord’s ballrooms, most of them were occupied with people chowing down on the available Tex-Mex (y’all, I must’ve eaten like 15 mini-burritos), so when I saw an empty seat, I pounced.
I sat down at a table with a pair of husbands whose wives were dancing and 100% would’ve gotten kicked out when they got back if Smoky hadn’t casually given them some tickets.
All of a sudden, they thought we were important. A man in the hallway pulled out a wad of 20’s thicker than my fist (which of course we didn’t accept) when he heard we had tickets, while another younger man chatted to us nearly non-stop for about 5 minutes, making us feel a bit trapped.
“Was he flirting?” Smoky asked.
“No, I think he thought we could do something for him,” another friend replied.
Jokes on him, though. He was talking to the least important group of people there. People who were wearing rented dresses, pinchy heels, and freely taking advantage of the open bar.
There were a few actually important people there though, like a congressman I had campaigned for as a part of my government class in 2008. Little me had a huge crush on him. I remember thinking that he smelled really good, so I wobbled a little when I spotted him talking to a group of patrons nearby.
He greeted each of them, and somehow I got tacked onto the end of the introduction, like I was part of the group.
“Hi, Congressman,” I squeaked, sticking out a clammy hand.
I wanted to have an actual conversation (about what, I don’t know….my mind was filled with radio silence), but when he turned to my “companions” to begin talking about some school issue, I could only manage to stand there blankly smiling for a moment or two before had to just awkwardly side-step away from the conversation and back to my friends.
It wouldn’t have been too bad if I hadn’t run into him again and again throughout the ball getting “who the heck are you” looks each time.
D.C. is filled with young people trying to make their mark on the world and so was Black Tie and Boots. If you work for the government, or an organization that needs government funding support, an inaugural ball is a good place to network. It’s also a great place to find a date (i.e. the highest concentration of motivated businessmen and suave military personnel probably anywhere).
Later in the evening, after the Beach Boys played and some widely entertaining swing dance groups tore up the dance floor (see below; how those girls manage those drops is beyond me) Donald Trump Jr. arrived to thunderous applause.
The majority of the people there fell into my demographic: straight, white, and probably evangelical in some way. At the time, before 45 had officially come to power, I felt more compelled to hear them out. Now, nearing the end of his first 100 days, I have less sympathy.
Jr. looks a little bit less like a serial killer than his younger brother, but being close enough to him that I could see the sweat on his forehead still gave me the creeps.
He spoke about his excitement around the evening and gratitude towards his father’s voters. He received an honorary Stetson and people laughed.
I thought about the words of a speaker earlier in the night.
“I know Black Tie & Boots isn’t partisan, but can you just imagine how sick the other side feels right now?” The crowd cheered in response.
That was me.
I felt sick.
I went to find another mini-burrito.
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PS: I also went to the Women’s March on Washington in DC.