Sally Quinn, Disinvited

SALLY FORTH[CORRECTION APPENDED: Due to a totally reasonable inability to keep all of the Bradlee divorces straight, we did indeed get one of the Bradlee divorces slightly confused! A correction is inserted; a handy family tree of the Bradlee family will surely be published at a later date.]

Choire: We need to discuss DAVID PATERSON: THE TOLD UNTOLD STORY but my mind is so blown by Sally Quinn that I can barely think.


Choire: I mean, for starters, I’ve never gotten over them naming their son Quinn Bradlee? This naming speaks either of WASP customs I don’t understand or narcissism. (If those aren’t the same two things.)

Choire: But not being a Washington insider like yourself, I was not aware of this controversy about the Bradlee clan’s wedding dates, though I did just Google up a post from Politics Daily on the subject.

Tom: It is hard to know where to begin with this Quinn piece, but one way to begin is to pull back and take the wide-angle view, which is that she believes she has been given a column in the Washington Post Style section to deal with her personal business.

Choire: A WaPo Tumblr. About time!

Tom: I also had no idea that there was any controversy about wedding dates until Sally Quinn got into my morning newspaper and told me about it. I guess we, unlike Sally Quinn, don’t have Google alerts for “Sally Quinn.” But her column helps us make up for our failing.

Tom: Otherwise we might have missed the fact that anyone had something bad to say about Sally Quinn.

Tom: But. Could anybody have anything worse to say about Sally Quinn than Sally Quinn does? The column is like a particularly unhinged and confused letter to an advice columnist, only no advice columnist ever shows up to point out how self-deluded and wrong the letter-writer is. It is the Garfield Without Garfield to Ask Amy.


Tom: Sally Quinn is very upset that people have said that two sets of Bradlee offspring are having dueling weddings. She is so upset that she has gone to great lengths to explain the real situation.

Choire: Which is… that there are dueling weddings, I’m pretty sure?

Tom: The real situation, according to Sally Quinn, is that two branches of the Bradlee family hate each other so much–and one hates Sally Quinn so much in particular–that they have scheduled their weddings directly against each other, and the family is fully divided between the two occasions.

Choire: That’s pretty much what I read!

Tom: That is what she describes!

Choire: Also that Ben Bradlee keeps the calendar, but not ably. (What is also fascinating however is that her husband, Ben Bradlee, goes unnamed throughout!)

Tom: Well, let’s get to that in a moment.

Tom: Here’s the background on the two weddings, as rendered by Sally Quinn: “Over Christmas, Greta’s mother and I came to an understanding that, because of existing tensions, it would be best for all if none of us attended Greta’s wedding.”

Choire: An understanding, you say.

Tom: She doesn’t specify how many people “none of us” embraces.

Tom: But Greta is the daughter of Ben Bradlee Jr., her husband’s son. [CORRECTION: Due to the fantastic inability of the Bradlee clan to make any sense from the outside, it is only through diligent reporting that we have discovered that Greta’s mother is not Bradlee’s ex-wife, as we assumed; Greta is, apparently, Bradlee’s granddaughter, descended from a previous wife (his first, we believe, but we will consult the literature further).]

Choire: (Who IS named!)

Tom: So the “us” seems to include the entire family unit created by Ben Bradlee Sr. after he got out of his previous marriage.

Choire: I… think so?

Tom: The perfection of the marriage of Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee is one of the central themes of the writing of Sally Quinn. It is odd that such a wonderful thing as this marriage would have created so much apparent emotional damage and resentment in its wake, lasting down through the years.

Tom: It is almost as if other people had different feelings about the marriage than Sally Quinn does.

Choire: It is known however that there are some deep-seated feelings within the family, that has created a rupture, related or not related to that marriage.

Tom: Now, you mentioned the calendar-keeping business.

Choire: I did. Personally, I would expect better household record-keeping from the former social secretary to a leader of the Algerian independence fighters.

Tom: Although it’s not completely apparent from this installment, the official or ostensible purpose of Sally Quinn’s Post column is to allow her to share her expertise about the handling of social functions.

Tom: This is her specialty.

Tom: Parties and special events and how to run them.

Tom: Yet she hands off the save-the-date card for this wedding to her husband, puts the date entirely out of her mind, and then blames him for forgetting it.

Choire: Do you find that implausible?

Tom: I do! It does not seem plausible to me.

Tom: It would seem to require an active act of forgetting and rejection on her part.

Choire: It is possible and also not likely.

Choire: And I say that as someone who is excessively, aggressively disorganized regarding dates.

Tom: Yes, I have a bad time keeping track of dates, too. But I do tend to remember at least the season of the year involved when someone tells me of an upcoming wedding.

Tom: It also occurs to me that people don’t send out Save the Date cards to people whom they are not planning to invite to their weddings.

Choire: That would follow.

Tom: So this understanding that was reached between Sally Quinn and “Greta’s mother”–why, Greta’s mother, that would be Ben Bradlee’s previous wife–this understanding amounted to the rescinding of an invitation.

Choire: A date had been saved!

Choire: Then a date was no longer to be saved.

Tom: “Happily, we did not have a single overlapping guest,” Quinn writes. That is true, but it was not always true.

Tom: Except Quinn also writes there, “We had already decided not to go to the California nuptials.” But “we” would seem to mean her and Ben Bradlee, which contradicts the earlier account of her non-attendance being settled by a discussion between her and Bradlee’s ex-wife.

Tom: She didn’t decide; she was disinvited.

Choire: And, correspondingly, or not, also clearly did not extend invitations the other way (by agreement?) in planning the wedding of her son. (Not a single overlapping guest!)

Tom: And then–because they were “thrilled to learn” that their daughter-in-law-to-be was pregnant–she moved up the wedding date to conflict with the California wedding.

Choire: Thrilled! Which I actually think is a nice way of discussing that. They should be thrilled. And forthright.

Tom: But Sally Quinn was restricted in her choice of wedding dates because of the liturgical calendar, she says.

Choire: Lent!

Tom: Plus the trouble of lining up the caterer and the band. But, you know, the courthouse doesn’t close for Lent. And the church would be perfectly happy to sanctify and solemnize existing secular vows at a later date.

Choire: But that is not a proper wedding for these people. (Although the yoga instructor bride might feel differently?)

Choire: In the end I think this Quinn column actually just makes me feel bad for everyone involved, and by everyone, and involved, I even mean myself! Now I’m involved, and I’m sad about it.

Tom: Isn’t that what science says the narcissists do to us?

Choire: It’s sometimes hard to tell a newspaper columnist from a narcissist but there is a difference and in this case this is not particularly newspaper columnizing? My main objection being that the story presented makes no sense, because I suspect that Sally Quinn has no idea that anyone is reading this who is not a Matrix-double of herself.

Tom: It is based on the premise that there is nothing embarrassing about being Sally Quinn.

Tom: I am not sure that anyone on the planet besides Sally Quinn feels that way.

Choire: Well, and now we know that only somewhere between 1/5th and 1/3rd of the Bradlee family at large agree with that opinion as well.

Tom: Or they don’t want to spring for cross-country airfare.

Choire: Sure. Weddings are annoying AND expensive!

Tom: Oh, my goodness. Only now did I bother finishing reading the original gossip item to which Sally Quinn had so helpfully pointed me. The church which she was having such trouble lining up seems to be the National Cathedral.

Choire: Oh yes, the little neighborhood church around the corner!

Tom: On behalf of all of us Episcopalians, I say Henry VIII would be proud.