I’ll start by saying that I don’t typically frown upon people just because they’re wealthy and well-connected or, for the sake of the argument, deprived and doomed.
Yet sometimes, some people just keep behaving in certain ways that I can’t help wondering if their circumstances help shaping their attitudes, logical fallacy rules be damned.
Earlier this week I had to attend what was supposed to be a lovely afternoon at the Museum Nasional Indonesia. We all know how dowdy Indonesian museums tend to be, but since photography book launching and the unveiling of fashion couture exhibition were on agenda, I got my hopes up. I honored the heritage fabric dress code by donning the vintage hand-drawn batik scoured at Triwindu flea market years ago and charged up my phone for snapping pics of the gorgeous designs.
What happened later, in the room full of government officials, culture voyeurs, fashion enthusiasts and socialites, was far from the gorgeousness of any couture featured inside. And instead of pictures, I almost snapped at people.
A gaggle of society ladies, in the best garb and makeup no doubt, just couldn’t remain shut. It is one thing to chirp around before the event commences, it’s another to buzz like hungry bees after it starts. They kept on chatting, laughing, even taking selfies after MC and honorary guests started making opening remarks just a few meters away. Didn’t help that the high-ceilinged hall amplified any voice inside.
Others in the audience, myself included, tried shushing them. Repeatedly. The buzz died for 2-3 seconds before picking up again, throughout speeches by the fashion designer who was holding the soiree and the chairwoman of one of Indonesia’s most powerful charities. The chattering got so loud that the next speaker, a chairwoman of one of Indonesia’s largest media groups, had to ask them to respect the designer and themselves– positioning herself like those gabbing women were supposed to be, a supporting friend of the designer. The noise disappeared for perhaps a full 23 seconds before returning in a vengeance.
At that point I was ready to walk up and shushed them personally, but then the most honorary guest, the spouse of Indonesia’s Vice President no less, was up to give remark. I thought that would clam up the socialites. Boy was I so wrong. They kept on spewing all kinds of noises that halfway through Missus VP paused then said, “I should probably just stop here since nobody’s listening to me anyway, right.”
She then almost unceremoniously hit the officiating gong. Most of us were too stunned to mouth anything than the variations of “Oh, my God.” The offending women? Most of them didn’t even register what was unfolding. A couple of them muttered that the VP’s spouse was “ngambek”, a word mostly associated with childlike tantrums.
Listen, the only ones behaving like bratty children throwing tantrums were you, rude socialites. You women had no basic manner to stop chatting when speakers giving remarks, and had no decency to alter your attitude after repeated direct requests. You gave no respect whatsoever to others in the audience who was trying to listen to the speakers. You didn’t reserve due respect for the spouse of Vice President. Heck, you didn’t even give a damn when the designer went up to speak—although you were probably decked head-to-toe in his designs.
What did you learn growing up– in school or from your mother? Were you raised by wolves, before suddenly stumbling into money and designer duds? Did you think just because you’ve invariably helped supporting Indonesian fashion and charities, and perhaps your hubby has donated to political causes, that you were privileged to misbehave wherever and whenever you landed your fancy feet? Nobody is that privileged, madams!
In fact, the real privileged people, like a prominent businesswoman or certain old-moneyed mother-daughter sitting politely throughout the debacle, know how to carry themselves properly at any event. They know when to be merry, cordial, or how to remain mum when speeches get wordy (which even weren’t that afternoon). The real society swans know how to gracefully step aside when it’s other people’s moment to take the limelight. The real class act doesn’t only faithfully follow the dress code, they dutifully adheres to code of conduct.
All socialites are snooty and self-centered, a pal commented after reading my impromptu tweets that afternoon. Full disclaimer; I’ve met Beverly Hills babes and Park Avenue princesses. But guess what, as self-centered as those pampered American trust-fund babies can get, they still know how to mind their surroundings, demonstrate a sense of decorum and stop yapping when needed. Perhaps those Swiss finishing schools do help, after all. Maybe American civilization is truly several steps ahead of us. Or, American socialites are simply too afraid to pull uncouth behaviors at fashion events because the designers are huge enough to not be afraid of banning them at next events, just as Anna Wintour can ban them off Vogue pages.
So there’s your choice, callous Jakarta socialites. You’d been a nuisance before, but what you pulled at Museum Nasional this week really crossed the line. Use your abundant money to get educated on proper etiquette and code of conduct. Because next time we will shush you on your face—your pricey handbag, diamond or husband’s connections be damned.