Friday, February 19th, 2010

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.

53 Comments / Post A Comment

Pop Socket (#187)

This all would have been a non-issue if Quinn understood how to use birth control effectively.

The Washington Post, as edited by Rickey Henderson.

HiredGoons (#603)

Imagine being Povich Chung?

HiredGoons (#603)

Also: Garfield Without Garfield is AMAZING.

sunnyciegos (#551)

I read the first paragraph of this on the metro this morning (yes I subscribe to ye olde print edition). Washington Post did ran its investigative piece on the Robert Wone murder online only, and gave this embarrassment inches … it boggles the mind.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Thank you. I am never going to say "run it in the hardcopy edition" again. I am going to say "give it inches."

I can relate. My identical cousins once scheduled abortions on the same weekend. Huge Brouhaha!

The worst part was when the clinic screwed up they got each others' abortion!



TroutSavant (#1,990)

LOLZ! I spit Sauvignon Blanc all over my keyboard!

mickeyitaliano (#2,202)

You guys could be the new Wedding Crashers. Now that's a post!

They'll all laugh about this once these 4 crazy kids all get divorced and start loathing their exes.

Sally Quinn's article is a masterpiece of backhanded apologia. I am taking notes.

jolie (#16)

So I'm to understand that this poor Greta will not have her grandfather nor her aunts at her wedding? (And Christ parsing that family tree took brainpower that I don't really have on hand at this time of day on a Friday.)

You guys, I'm concerned about who's going throw the bridesmaids' luncheon.

HiredGoons (#603)

You were not the only one who was not up to that particular task of Dendrology.

ehcotton (#358)

Could you guys make like a little Gabriel García Márquez chart so I can tell who the ffff is who in this story? Or is that just pushing it too far…?

jolie (#16)

I know, right? Also I love (lovelovelove) how Sally initially identifies Greta's mom as ABC's Martha Raddatz – so there is no question among Martha's colleagues as to who this story is about – but then proceeds to refer to her as "Greta's mother" throughout, reducing her to nothing more than a womb. Delicious. Alex Balk could learn a thing or two from her!

Antonia Capet (#2,372)

And also that she would identify her husband's ex-wife by her work affiliation: "ABC's Martha…" Like, even in a snit, SALLY QUINN MUST SHOW SHE HAS CONNECTIONS.

Bittersweet (#765)

And yet, she forebore to name "our church" which I guess shows some restraint? Or maybe she just realized that by naming it she'd lose the 3% of readers who were still sympathetic…

jolie (#16)

Oh and since Choire just hollered at me: Heavens yes, WASPs use the last-name-as-first-name convention all the time. Quite traditional. Completely based on narcissism, and also I think on a desire to have one's name properly identify one in the pecking order. (I have a particularly pretentious friend who uses his middle name – Phipps, if you must know – as a nickname, solely to remind us all that he is, indeed, a Phipps.)

Antonia Capet (#2,372)

It is a tradition of the moneyed classes, particularly in the Northeast and especially the South, to give the oldest son the wife's last name as his first name. It grew out of the time when old families would combine, and though OBVIOUSLY the children had to take the father's name, they wanted a way to preserve the wife's storied family line. So in the South there are a lot of moneyed boys named Quinn, Hunter, etc.

Bart (#1,177)

Alas, you're wrong. His first name is Josiah, but no one calls him that. But good guess.

mcbeachy (#548)

Does this explain Mitt Romney?

My dinner companions were ruminating on his name the other day.

Bart (#1,177)

"Mitt was named "Willard" after hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott, his father's best friend.[5] Mitt, his middle name, was the nickname of his father's cousin Milton Romney, who played quarterback for the Chicago Bears from 1925 to 1929"

Baboleen (#1,430)

And here I thought I was sad because my boss ripped me a new one yesterday.

I had no idea who the fuck these people were before just now and now, honestly, I hate them and have a little bit of residual hate left over for you and Tom, Choire. I forgive you two, but will never forgive the Washington Post. (also, if anyone hasn't checked the Quinns' wikipedia page… wow… speaking of narcissism)

They restored Grey Gardens. What else are these people known for?

Apparently Sally's Dad did a lot of stuff maybe in the war and then her son is known for having a disease and making a web site? I mean, that's good and all, but aughhh I don't even know what I'm mad at anymore. I'm going to make some tea.

That came out sounding wrong, I don't mean it is good he has a disease. Flustered, I am.

Oona (#2,994)

Thank you for this explication! The logical inconsistencies in her story had been hurting my brain all day.

gregorg (#30)

uh, it's a bit more convoluted, even than it seems:

Greta's mother is Ben Bradlee, JR'S wife, i.e., Sally's step-daughter-in-law, not the Bradlee SR's previous wife. Whether they're still married or not, who knows? The "Greta's aunts" who got the calendar-check are presumably Bradlee JR's sisters? So Sally checked with everyone and their cousins EXCEPT Bradlee Jr and his wife/babymama to set their new date.

But then what's this about? "Greta is a caring and generous young woman, and so is her fiance, and we love her very much."

Though I gave some money to stop it, I'm afraid California outlawed those flavors of marriages in 2008.

bronwen (#3,591)

I was so confused by the pointed references to "Greta's mother," so I wikipediaed this shit. Martha Raddatz is no longer married to Ben Bradlee, Jr., and has since remarried. So now there's the Sally Quinn vs. Ben Bradlee Jr. vs. Martha Raddatz angle to consider.

Bart (#1,177)

Greta's marrying some black guy.

sigerson (#179)

It's a sign of Sally's staggering sense of superiority and self-importance that she thinks ANYONE outside her family cares about this drama. Jeez, this reads like a bad Nora Ephrom movie or like the sequel to "It's Complicated".

brigbog (#3,592)

What a load of crap! The bottom line, if you can believe Sally Quinn, is that Ben Bradlee Sr. voluntarily decided not to attend his own granddaughter's wedding, even before there was a date conflict. Even in the most disharmonious of families, that kind of absence just doesn't occur. He could have easily attended, steering clear of his ex or Raddatz or whoever he wanted to avoid, and still given his best wishes to his granddaughter in person.

sigerson (#179)

p.s. – I love how you skipped over the Paterson story to talk about this nonsense. Are you suggesting that that story is meaningless and unimportant, even as compared to the Quinn tempest-in-a-teapot?

Tuna Surprise (#573)

Let me see if I understand this:

The third wife of a 88 year old man wants us to believe that he voluntarily agreed not to attend his eldest granddaughter's wedding (presumably because of a feud that has nothing to do with this fine gentlewoman); therefore it's okay that she(!) scheduled the wedding of her son to a pregnant, divorcee on the same date.

All because it's really important that this lovely couple gets married in a church.

sigerson (#179)

Yes, except is so that this lovely couple can get married in THE NATIONAL CATHEDRAL

@sigerson: Exactly. It was that detail that made me say "wait, now I actively resent considering caring about these people in the first place."

brigbog (#3,592)

When Sally talks about "Greta's aunt" giving the okay for Quinn's new wedding date, she is presumably talking about Ben Jr.'s sister. The aunt mentioned no conflict, which can only mean that she had not been invited to her niece's wedding. Another implausibility! In one fell swoop, Sally Quinn has managed to raise questions among thousands of readers about the dynamics of her extended family and stepfamily, pivoting off an issue that no one outside the clan had cared about until this morning.

mandor (#1,014)

This would be the same Quinn Bradlee who memorably wrote about not realizing he would lose his v-card when he went to a brothel in the Carribean. And then Mama Sal demanded the prostitute take an HIV test once she found out.

Kate Travers (#3,597)

"Greta is a caring and generous young woman, and so is her fiance, and we love her very much." Sally Quinn subconsciously supports gay marriage.

And remember the articles from the 90s? Sally had it in for Hillary Clinton from the get-go. Very "who is this person from outside my circle that suddenly has more power than me?".

Kinsey Holley (#3,600)

Here's one of those '90s articles – I don't see a date on it but it was in the beginning of the Clinton-Lewinsky thing.

I stumbled across it b/c, while I've never read anything by Quinn, I've read a lot about her, and I remembered a review that called one of her books "cliterature." I couldn't remember who wrote the review — turns out it was Christopher Buckley — but I remembered that it sent Quinn into a rage and she quit speaking to Tina Brown because of it.

I still don't intend to ever read anything she writes, but I got a huge kick out of this post.

Oh, and Mrs. Frankweiler – I just made my daughter read The Mixed Up Files, and she loved it.

Bittersweet (#765)

Mrs. Frankweiler! Time to get the Konigsberg books for my daughter. Thanks for the reminder.

Bart (#1,177)

His full name is Josiah Quinn Crowninshield Bradlee, which is pretty pretentious, but then, who isn't?

And his coming-of-age story is pretty hilarious.

Adrian (#3,606)

HTML tags! They're bleeding! My eyes!

prufrocksspoons (#3,573)

Style note: YOU'RE MISSING AN END-TAG!The whole page from about halfway through the otherwise entertaining post feels shouty. I put one in for ya but it probably won't work.

gregorg (#30)

So was Ben Bradlee Jr's mother Bradlee's first wife Jean, or his second wife, Tony Pinchot, whose sister Mary Pinchot Meyer had an affair with JFK–and who was not invited to the wedding because she was assassinated while walking along the C&O Canal in Georgetown?

There's enough going on here to start considering the national security implications of this whole incident.

gregorg (#30)

and by incident, I mean the weddings, obv

musicmope (#428)


rula (#3,558)

Wahington is the most boring town in the world. Wonks and dolts and power hustlers sans the amusing quirks and style of the ones in New York and L.A. And Connecticut does the whole WASP thing so much better.

Sara Padilla (#3,547)

I wonder if Greta gets any consolation from the fact that after this column, all the world understands what a dreadful person her stepmother is.

lisalisa (#3,779)

Great job parsing through Sally's yucky column. Wikiepedia states that Greta's father is "estranged" from Sally's husband. One question–Sally writes about "Greta's aunt, her cousins" but I can't figure out if it's Ben Jr.'s sister or half-sister from his father's 2nd marriage. Poor Greta, she probably just wants her elderly grandfather there, and now these adults are as usual acting very immaturely……

Post a Comment