I just spent a long weekend attending the Bermuda Gourmet Getaway with my friend Birdman. I’d won the trip at a press event and knew nothing about the Getaway. What promotional materials I had told me little other than that Bobby Flay would be there — indeed, he was being marketed as the main draw.
Bobby Flay is based in New York so I don't need to go to Bermuda to see him, but I didn’t mind. I took my prize and planned for a casual, relaxing weekend on a warm, sunny island.
Shortly before the trip one of the publicists who promote Bermuda in the United States invited me to have dinner with the other journalists who were being taken to the Getaway. Dress was to be "smart casual," so I brought along a button-down, long-sleeved shirt and an off-white sport coat that seemed appropriate for island activities. Jeans count as smart casual, so I brought a pair of them, and a pair of shoes other than sneakers.
I didn't realize how British Bermuda still is, or how rich. The annual per capita income is something like $52,000, and they dress appropriately, except for the men's truly bizarre habit of wearing (Bermuda) shorts with knee-length black socks, dress shoes, dress shirts, ties and sport coats.
So I was ready for one dinner, but not for the smart-casual "Grill & Chill" event the following night, which I attended wearing shorts, a t-shirt and sneakers (Birdman had shorts, tivas and a short-sleeved button-down tropical t-shirt with some sort of giant white bird on it; maybe a Pelican). No one seemed to mind, but I didn't like it.
Then I found out that the next night, as Birdman returned to New York, that I was to attend a gala.
Where I come from, "gala" means formal and indeed a few tuxedos and ball gowns were in evidence. So were some kilts, since Bermuda still is a British colony.
Everyone but me seemed to have gotten the memo to dress up. Had I gotten such a memo, I would have had finery in tow. I'd have brought my mother-of-pearl-and-onyx tuxedo studs and matching cufflinks. I'd have tied my own bow tie. But as it was, I had jeans, a black t-shirt and my off-white sport-coat. That's a perfectly fine look for most occasions, but I felt naked at the gala, and the boss of the publicist who took me to dinner glanced down at least twice at my jeans while chitchatting with me.
She didn’t have me thrown out, though.