The annual Playground Partners Luncheon took place at the Boathouse in Central Park recently. It was a snowy day, but that did not reduce turnout at this popular event. Like grooming behaviors among female papio cynocephalus (savannah baboons), attending events is an affiliative, pro-social behavior that promotes group and dyadic cohesion. We're weren't picking bugs off each other, but we may as well have been. In attending these events, talking to one another and eating and drinking together, asking about outfits and kids and work, we are essentially reassuring, connecting with and touching one another.
We are also affirming our tribal affiliations, and shoring up the rites and rituals that define our tribe. Members of the tribe I study get involved with certain causes, many of them extremely worthy, and then invite friends to attend events. You may buy a ticket, or be asked to be a guest at someone's table, or buy a table yourself. There are breakfast, luncheon and dinner events. The evening ones often have an auction, which raises even more money for the cause. The luncheons harken back to the days when the women who attended these types of things didn't work. The luncheon tradition prevails today, even though many women who go have jobs.
Playground Parnters is a "junior committee," the little sister, if you will, of the Central Park Conservancy, whose spring event is a comme il faut luncheon of ladies in hats. Often NYC charities have a "junior committee" to bring a younger generation into the fold of charitable work. The sex segregation at these events is comprehensive. I believe there was one man in attendance. Coalition building and establishing and affirming social rank and hierarchy happen in many ways at a luncheon or event like this one. Who you talk to, where you sit, whether you are a guest of someone who bought a table, or bought a table yourself are all factors that help establish your rank. Reciprocal altruism is in full effect in the tribe I study--"I'll go/give to your charity thing if you go/give to my charity thing!" This is one of the ways we build relationships in Manhattan. It is also a way to give to a cause, while showing that you can give to a cause.
I enjoyed seeing the rituals and uniforms that prevailed at this winter event. There were great big tote bags at the coat check, so that women could check their great big boots and put on something dressier. It was winter outside, but summer inside. Ah, the benefits of living in a state of ecological release. The weather doesn't matter!