May I quote myself, writing about the beautiful and moving Battle of Midway Commemoration in San Francisco last year?
The event was a formal one, which is much more beautiful than a civilian black tie affair. The women, of course, presented a familiar and pleasing picture. They had on lovely dresses ranging from safe (but always elegant) black to a rainbow of jewel-like colors. Their hair was piled high or cascaded down in graceful ringlets, curls or curtains of silky hair. Their make-up said, appropriately, “Here I am and aren’t I lovely?” I expected that.
It was the men who were such a treat — and a surprise. To me, “formal” means black tie. It’s a good look, since it’s the rare man who isn’t elevated slightly by the dignity of a black jacket, pleated shirt, and neatly tied black tie. Add in a cummerbund, and he’s ready to face anything. I am, therefore, not complaining about traditional formals. It’s just that, after having seen Navy formal wear, traditional men’s formal wear will, forever after, seem a little bit bland.
As I knew, but had never seen, Navy formal wear is white. The uniform therefore brings the light in a room up, rather than down. On their arms and shoulders, the officers wear the golden insignia of their rank. I know now, although I didn’t understand that fact when I walked in, that many of the men present boasted an Admiral’s rank. There was no shortage, however, of other ranks, whether chiefs or captains or lieutenants. The young men and women in attendance who had not (yet) attained the higher ranks were nattily attired from head to toe (or, if they were women, from head to knee) in whites. The only exceptions were the two tall, trim, young Marines who were resplendent in their dark blue uniforms, lavishly decorated with gold and red.
Every uniformed guest had a variety of “mini-medals” on his (or her) left chest, over his (or her) heart. The higher the rank, or the longer the years of service, the more of these exquisite medallions adorned the wearer — exquisite both because they are beautiful on their own terms, as mere objets, and because each represents a special level of accomplishment, dedication or bravery.
I’ll admit to being a girl (an aged girl, sadly) who still gets a thrill from a uniform. I can’t help but think, though, that my possibly silly attitude ranks higher than that shown by White House adviser Valerie Jarrett. She clearly believes that one uniform is pretty much like another — and that none are that special:
According to our tipster, Jarrett was seated at the head table along with several other big-name politicians and a handful of high-ranking military officials. As an officer sporting several stars walked past Jarrett, she signaled for his attention and said, “I’d like another glass of wine.”
White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, who was seated next to Jarret, began “cracking up nervously,” our tipster said, but no one pointed out to Jarrett that the man sporting a chestful of medals was not her waiter.
“The guy dutifully went up and got her a glass of wine, and then came back and gave it to her and took a seat at the table,” our tipster said. “Everyone is in tuxedos and gowns at this thing, but the military people are in full dress uniform.”
“There was no shortage of waiters either,” the tipster added.
It’s great to know that the world’s knowledgeable intellectuals are firmly in control of Washington, D.C.’s levers of power.