These days, "CBC" is more of an adjective than an acronym. Loosely translated, it means something like "being of the professional and black." So consider the receptions, galas, mixers, after parties and after-after parties with the sobriquet "CBC" to have been vetted. Sort of like Facebook five years ago, those .pdf evites with the Capitol dome looming large in the background have been pre-approved. The people there will be in suits. Or at least that's how it used to be.
Much has been made of the fact that, for many folks, it's the parties — not the panels — that dictate the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference in Washington. "Networking? No. You can network at the convention center all day," one young lady told me, annoyed people were talking business over booze. But who says you can't network in a cocktail dress? Clutches are practically made for business cards. On Tuesday I saw a quote from my book doing the rounds on Twitter: "CBC is to single-black-chick Washington as Fleet Week is to single-white-gal New York. Seamen? How 'bout degreed men!" I wrote that two years ago and meant it. Now … not so much.
Despite not being a Redskin with a birthday (as one of my friends teased), I was hosting an event Friday night at the Park at 14th along with a bunch of other people, but it was too packed to see anyone. "It's nice to see brothers so exquisite," one woman told me. "Right? Like bringing it," added her friend, who was wearing a tight red dress that was equal parts see-through and no-need-to.
"And dressed up for once. They were wearing belts!" If the appearance of appropriate support wear is your litmus test for "exquisite," then I rightly judge your entire value system and approach to life in general. But then again, I understood what she meant.
"It's like All-Star Weekend," said a political consultant friend of mine, as we wrapped up each other's experiences over the last five days. And he didn't mean it as a compliment. Partying is one thing, but brawling in bow ties is another. Supposedly, a fight broke out outside the California delegation's annual fete at Bobby Van's Steakhouse because someone couldn't get in. And instead of showing his business card, he decided to show out.
Nearly four thousand people RSVP'd for only 1,000 spots, the rumor goes. Mayors, congressmen, low-level staffers and somebody's cousin all waited in line together. Because if everybody's VIP, then nobody's VIP. Green wristbands are apparently easy to come by. The party was supposed to last until 2 a.m., but the lights flicked on at half past midnight. Apparently the DC Fire Department doesn't care whether or not a congressman gets to dance to Frankie Beverly. "It was like Vikram yoga in there," said a partygoer, who said the California party — usually a sure thing when it comes to good times and free drinks —- was just OK this year.
Thankfully, around that time I was safely ensconced in the funky diva vocal stylings of En Vogue. The '90s supergroup performed at Essence magazine's annual "Evening of Excellence" in the Ronald Reagan Building, which has avoided tomfoolery by sticking to a simple rule: no alcohol until the after party. Cindy, Maxine, Dawn and Terry all still have whatever it is girl groups nowadays don't.
Because of the foolishness that went down outside the California party on Friday night, many were skeptical about Saturday's "Tale of Two Cities" bash hosted by the New York and Chicago delegations at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. Getting there as early as the previous night's hangover allowed, I didn't wait in line for long. And once inside, one very resourceful friend pulled me aside to show off the contents of her clutch. No business cards were in there, but she did have a slew of "VIP" wristbands.
Sporting our ill-gotten green contraband, three of us waltzed into the "very important" section that housed everyone from comedian Niecy Nash to "I know that guy — he works at Banana Republic." A photographer stopped us only because she was bombarded and couldn't recognize a famous face from just a friendly one. "They're letting everybody in here, aren't they?" she asked. All I could do was smile for the camera.
Tempting fate and this year's new rule (go to one good party and stay there), I hopped in a cab to head over to Roland Martin's "Ascot Affair" at Toscana West downtown. Someone said Chris Rock was there, and I needed a good laugh, which is exactly what I got when the girl at the door asked for "ten dollars." Charity? No. There was a cover. The woman waiting behind me promptly turned around on her high heels and headed in the opposite direction. Everyone has their limits.
Clocking CBC No. 3, I think I've reached mine. There are only so many times you can hear "Before I Let You Go" before you take the same advice. Hitting the scene this year was a necessary reminder — an alarm clock, maybe — that certain scenes just shouldn't be replayed. You know, hopping from open bar to open bar has gotten old when the highlight of that game of leapfrog is someone buying you a pair of flip-flops.
Helena Andrews writes the "Single-Minded" column for The Root. She is the author of Bitch Is the New Black (HarperCollins), a memoir in essays.