the week in awkward

Stuff Middle-Aged White People Said

“Goonies are good enough, Blair.”

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States ten days ago, many Americans were overcome with joy. A mixed-race black man! President! Of a country that abolished slavery not that long ago (relatively speaking)! It was an historic moment, to be sure, and deeply moving. And, as you might imagine, it was especially moving for some Americans.

White, middle-aged liberals have been positively spilling over with emotion since the election. And many have taken the opportunity to pour out their feelings by writing, well, some of the most embarrassing personal essays we’ve seen since 9/11. Herewith, our favorites of the week.

Maureen Dowd was so excited when she observed blacks and whites “intermingling” in Washington, D.C., in the wake of the election that she decided to try it, too:

I heard my cute black mailman talking in an excited voice outside my house Friday, so I decided I should go ask him how he was feeling about everything, the absolute amazement of the first black president.

“Are you talking about the election?” I said brightly. “How do you feel?”

He shot me a look of bemused disdain as he walked away. I suddenly realized, with embarrassment, that he was on his Bluetooth, deep in a personal conversation that had nothing to do with Barack Obama.

Yeah, that was awkward. But it’s okay, because she can talk about the election with Gwen Ifill because, she noted in her column, they are friends, because MoDo doesn’t actually see color — she was just being self-deprecating.

• In The New Yorker, Roger Angell wrote about how the election made him think, “predictably” about Martin Luther King Jr. and less predictably about this black guy he knew at Harvard, Lucien Victor Alexis Jr. Well, he didn’t really “know him” know him.

His name wasn’t far from mine in the alphabet, which meant that he sat close to me in a couple of classes. I could almost see him, and though I never knew him or exchanged a word with him, he had been in my mind all this time — and in the minds, I’m almost sure, of most of the 1,097 of us in the Harvard Class of 1942.

He died in 1973, which is too bad, because if he were still alive, maybe Roger would have called him and accidentally made him feel bad about going to business school and not even trying to be president.

• Then Leon Wieseltier revealed in the New Republic that the day after the election, he threw over his usual ponderous, academic, white-people hobbies in favor of doing spirited black-people things:

I woke up the next morning still under the spell of solidarity and love. I
decided to make the spell last. I gave away my tickets to a performance of some
late Shostakovich quartets, because for once I was not interested in the despair. Instead I spent the day listening to the Ebonys and the Chi-Lites and the Isley Brothers. For lunch I went to Georgia Brown’s for fried green tomatoes.

Later on, emboldened by the new solidarity between the races and fueled by four Alizé and Cokes, he told a dude that his wife had a “damn fine booty.” He can’t remember what happened after that, though.

Stuff Middle-Aged White People Said