By the admission of the concierge or maître d’ of almost any 5-star hotel the standard of apparel is now virtually unrestricted. We’ve seen a couple in the main dining room of the Carlyle in matching designer sweat pants and top (and another – Robert Downey, Jr. in fact – wearing a baseball cap at table); people in blue jeans in the main dining room of the Jekyll Island Club; shorts everywhere at the Plaza including the Palm Court. The truth is, if the hotels want the business, they’ll take what they get. Besides I know of no one who travels with black tie. By design the intention of travellers is to wear strictly what is comfortable and easy to launder on the run. Similarly if a place imposes a dress code it is more likely to be avoided (though possibly the deference persists on upscale charter cruises which cater to an older crowd).
There was a time when you could accurately assess a place by the appearance of its clientele but that segregation has long ago evaporated. Certain demarcations linger however. The deciding factors of venue are now only price, economy and authenticity. It is still possible to buy your way out. St. Barts for example safely assures a level of separation. Certain travellers – often the ones with the real money – judiciously detest spending it frivolously and therefore opt for “all inclusive” packages (especially attractive to those who “enjoy their wine”). And then there are those who have a disdain for fluff and prefer instead essential quality only; viz., rustic accommodations, sunshine, blue water and homemade food, the more rustic the better.
Having said all that, there is nonetheless a marked divergence between those who even contemplate a resort of any description and those who consider a hunt camp or lakeside cottage preferable. Even when the Ralph Lauren clothes are from outlets, there is a huge difference between that clothing and camouflage pants.
These topical disparities hint at much deeper elements within the various actors. One needs to be alert to the refinements which betray further insight. An obvious indicator is the use of table utensils. How one holds a knife and fork speaks volumes! The etiquette of buttering a roll is a real zinger! And of course the manner of drinking soup tells it all! Table manners in general do the same work, including the rapport which prevails between the guest and the wait-staff (watch for the level of eye-contact, always a story). Language is the inevitable separator even though the hallmark sign-posts of grammar no longer prevail. If all that fails, the ultimate betrayal is the familiarity (or lack of it) with what’s on the menu.
A growing development in the travel industry is the thankful elimination of children from the setting. By necessity this rather truncates the participation of many young married couples (an equally welcome deprivation if they are lathered in babies). Other places cater to couples only (gay or straight). In many parts of the United States there are destinations which are notoriously Republican and white (and usually old which naturally suits me at my vintage).
Of course no one spends their entire life travelling. On the home front the predictable boundaries of resorts are condensed on a smaller and more intimate scale. It is not uncommon that the abstract experience of travel merely reflects the detailed level of homelife. This is especially true for those who divide their time between two countries, an experience which dilutes the hysterical blips of short and special vacations (and therefore imparts a realistic patina to an otherwise often bizarre scenario).
The popular liberal affection for world peace and uniformity is both a deceit and a joke. It is a deceit because it cannot hide the impenetrable barriers which exist between people; and it is a joke because it is so utterly ingenuous. The eternal differences are more palatable if distinguished instead upon the seemingly trite basis of commonality. Naturally the overlap of daily habits between people is the foundation of their association. To extend the limits of the Venn diagram is dangerous work. As spirited a humanitarian as one may be, there is frequently no logical relationship between different sets. Simply put, boundaries exist.
If (as one supposes) life is to become less complicated and onerous with time, it is ineluctable that the palpable differences between people will become exponentially more critical. It is just too wearing to transcend those boundaries. The mere thought of accommodation is defeating. I have developed a wary disregard for people on the other side of the fence. I haven’t for example any blissful view of disparities. The history of usurpers is hardly flattering. On the other hand I seek to estrange myself from unnecessary interaction nor do I blindly condone existing institutions and customs which perpetuate what I might never have endorsed. I will however abandon the model of change to the politicians who at least have the dignity of personal advantage riding upon their public promotions howsoever ill-conceived or pragmatic.