By Ruth Conniff
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Some have asked, “How did YOU get invited to the White House State dinner?” The incredulity of the question implies we were like the reality couple that crashed the dinner. They were the first couple we saw when we arrived by taxi. I’m not one of those new security behavioral observers, nor do I play one on TV, but they seemed odd.
They came with a camera crew and their exit from a black stretch Hummer limo was well-lit in the dim evening. She was a tall thin blonde in a garish red beaded sari-esque something and he was stocky, grinning junior high coach looking guy. They stood behind us in line. I heard her tell Pepsico’s CEO, Indra Nooyi how they’d just gotten back from India and that it was great shopping. Does wincing make a sound?
Okay is two paragraphs enough on that episode before the whole amazing evening gets derailed by those self-serving balloon boy gate crashers and the media makes a four day news cycle out of If-Obama-can’t-protect-the-White-House-how-will-he-protect-the-country-narrative like it was some kind of 9.11 breach? Ugh.
As an Indian and long time activist Urvashi was invited and she brought me. Since we were in a very diverse room for mainstream DC where media and government boldface names were gathered, we vowed to work it.
At the cocktail reception, we met as many people as we could and after suitably pleasant openers, pushed either for LGBT equality or for peace. Both if we had time. When we were hustled through the receiving line to meet the very cool President Obama, the very hot First Lady, and the Indian guests of honor, Urvashi thanked Mr. Obama for what he is trying to do and suggested he be tougher on the right wing. I seconded that. Urvashi and I held hands and represented as we walked past the press. We worked the dining room. At our table we again inserted peace and full equality whenever we could. It wasn’t like, “Pass the papardam, I’m a pro-choice, pro-peace lesbian, here’s the chutney.” But close.
During the entertainment, before Jennifer Hudson practically blew the tent down, I sat thinking how ironic it was that a month earlier we had been in DC for the Equality March. We weren’t gassed or thrown in jail and there we were at a state dinner sitting next to the CEO of Tata in India and the new US Commerce Secretary.
Others have asked, “WHAT did you wear?” Since you asked, Urvashi wore a red silk kurta with an embroidered shawl, and I wore a knee length black Nehru-esque jacket and pants with an orange scarf.