A Wasp’s Christmas

Family-centric holidays can be fraught: who carves the turkey? Do we need to wait for everyone to have food on their plates before we start eating? Is someone saying grace? And then there are the oddball friends and relatives whom we see once or twice a year. They ask invasive questions, take the day to let their passive-aggressive flag fly, or drink until things becomes a soggy blur. These are the times when I am grateful to be a WASP. […]


I’m Sorry If…

I’m SORRY IF is no way to begin an apology. It’s a variation on a theme that we often see with celebrities and politicians: “I’m sorry if what I said hurt some people.” is not an apology, but a refusal of blame for another’s hurt by suggesting that their feelings aren’t valid. When I worked at the White House we learned the value of a sincere – and quick – apology. Anything less would have reflected poorly on the president […]


Receiving Lines at Weddings

While a receiving line is usually only seen at a wedding or engagement party, we rarely had an event at the White House without one. A receiving line consists of the host and hostess – and a guest of honor if there is one – standing at the entrance to the party to greet the guests. Since the invention of the camera, the receiving line at the White House has taken on Cosmic Significance. A photo with the President is […]


Summer Dinner Party

Summer comes early in Washington, DC. By late April we need air conditioning, and any thought of outdoor parties has to be put away until the fall, unless you manage to spontaneously catch a rare cool night. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t summer parties here, though it helps if they involve alcohol and light clothing as distractions. Washington was built on a swamp; in fact, British diplomats who served here in the 19th century were given extra pay for […]


Picnic Etiquette

Is there an etiquette to picnics, that most casual and relaxed of summer get-togethers? Sadly, yes – just a little – because wherever humans gather in groups of more than one, the potential for thoughtless behavior exists. It’s a bummer, I know, but just a little bit of self awareness and forward planning can help ensure that your next sunny day in the park or out in the backyard with friends will be as much fun as you imagined it […]