Milt Abel is a stand-up comedian traveling the world, and places closer.

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On the Island Princess 4-27-08

By Milt Abel | May 21, 2008

| May 21, 2008

Informality

This morning up at the breakfast buffet, while having my apple slices and peanut butter, a woman passenger, carrying an ominously tilting plate of food, shuffled across the large, open area opposite of my table wearing a moo-moo (it may have been her nightgown) and slippers. I don’t know what concerns she had about presenting herself in public before she left her cabin, but whatever they were, they were abandoned. I felt as if a maître ‘d had, in supper club fashion, ordered a table and chair to be set for me in the hallway of her home, so I could see the show of her first trip to the bathroom from her bedroom.

This woman was not infirmed. I could root for her to just be out and about, getting around on her own, recovering and doing the best she could in a depleted state. But this gal was definitely on her game; she had an intent gaze as she shuffled, looking about for an open table, a rarity on sea days in the buffet during the busy hours. She looked capable of staking a claim to a table by slipping off a slipper and tossing it, across the room if necessary, to leave a personal possession in its vicinity thereby marking the table as ‘taken.’ No, she was capable of spending a few moments tidying up, but this morning you wonder if she didn’t look into a mirror, saw that her hair wasn’t mussed and said, “perfect!” and slipped out the door. I don’t suspect this passenger was so casual in her appearance the first few days of the cruise, but we’re now at day six, and pretentions, like sandstone against raging surf, have eroded away.

This informality was unheard of on cruise ships a decade or so ago. My first week of work on a cruise ship was seventeen years ago when my wife and I took a working cruise (it was what we could afford) for our honeymoon. The second night of the cruise I was earnestly pulled aside by the cruise director and told, “No blue jeans after 6 pm.” I was at a loss why he would tell me this, but I took a moment and looked down and saw I was wearing Levis, looked at my watch and saw that it was after 6 pm, and I suddenly understood why he had pulled me aside and whispered in that admonishing tone; I wasn’t acceptably dressed.

That was a long time ago. Now I see people on formal night sitting in the front row of the showroom in Bermuda shorts, sandals, and a tee shirt; so far I haven’t run across a sleeveless tank-top tee shirt on formal night, but as assuredly as taxes, it’s coming.

I’m not as likely to go out and about the ship on formal nights as I am on nights that casual dress is suggested. I usually just bring one complete suit for my stage work, and then a sports coat and slacks. Even on formal nights I will wear the sports coat and slacks and no tie, as long I stay low, certainly I won’t go to the dining room without a jacket and tie. I’m reluctant to wear my performance suit on nights off because I keep that hermitically sealed in argon gas (I was told it would make it ‘funny’) and pulling it out involves some equipment and time, and after all, it’s my night off. Although I’ll often work a few different nights I have just the one suit onboard. I’ll make it look like I’m wearing a completely different outfit on subsequent performances by changing ties. Grand illusion.

Gentlemen don’t have the variety of choices for formal night the ladies do. It’s either a tuxedo or suit, I’ve seen women look elegant in a half jacket and slacks ensemble, and of course the evening gown have far more structural variations than men’s jackets; sleeveless or sleeved, strapless, billowy skirt or form-fitting, backless; the list goes on. I tried wearing a backless tuxedo one evening and found myself not only avoided, but also chided to the point of borrowing a shawl. I like the backless evening gown but not every woman can wear one; some shouldn’t no matter how encouraged. All it’s going to take is one woman with some hair on her back, say in the order of a Robin Williams or a Judi Dench, and the plunging backline will be out of style.

Was a moo-moo ever in style? It’s not hard to deride my breakfast parade this morning but I suppose I should be thankful. With her lowering the bar I don’t feel so bad about the curlers that really aren’t hiding under my scarf.

Topics: comedy, cruise ship, travel | No Comments »

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