The Problem with Diner en Blanc

I remember last year when I first heard about Diner en Blanc (or if you prefer, Dîner en Blanc), it sounded interesting. A pop-up picnic where everyone wore white. This year’s Cincinnati event was described on their Facebook event page as “This très chic picnic, imported from Paris, is equal parts mystery tour, pop-up feast and je ne sais quoi.”

Then we learned more about it. For the cost of $35 a person, you got the “privilege” of eating your own food and drink (that you brought with you) plus you had to bring your own table and chairs (only white and certain sizes, of course). And you had to bring all of this on a bus and then haul it to the secret location. Okay…

But it raises money for a great charity, right? So it’s worth it, right? Guess again. The FAQ on the Diner en Blanc website lists the following information:

Is the Dîner en Blanc associated with a humanitarian or social cause?
What makes the Dîner en Blanc so popular is that it’s a “distinct” evening. There are no sponsors, no political or ideological agendas. Le Dîner en Blanc is simply a friendly gathering whose sole purpose is to experience a magical evening, in good company, in an environment which is both unusual and extraordinary.

It’s that last part that got me: “in an environment which is both unusual and extraordinary.” Last year’s Diner en Blanc surprise location was Lytle Park, right outside the Anna Louise Inn. This year, it was in Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine. It’s a wonderful park, but it’s also a stone’s throw away from people struggling to survive and barely able to afford food. Someone I know who attended Diner en Blanc later said, “What bothers me… is that I didn’t leave feeling like, ‘Wow! What a great event!’ I left feeling like, ‘Wow. I feel really dirty and shallow.'”

I made the decision not to attend mainly because it sounded like it was going to be a royal pain in the butt. But, looking back, I decided I needed to do something about how I felt. So today, I made a donation to the Drop Inn Center in the amount of $35. And in the Dedication section of the online form, I wrote this:

“Instead of going to Diner en Blanc, I’d rather see the money make a difference in Cincinnati.”

By that one simple act, I am experiencing a magical evening knowing that I am making a difference in Cincinnati. I would love it if you joined me.

[By the way, while researching this blog post, I discovered that there’s also Dîner en Blanc – Haïti. Wow…]