This lunch, between a couple of men who didn't seem terribly keen on each other just a few weeks ago, brings up a host of modern-day etiquette questions. Here, we do our best to answer them.
What should Romney and Obama talk about? Conversations about the election, clearly, should be avoided, unless Obama confesses to Romney that he really, really thought he might lose. Well, even that should be avoided for fear of "sarcastic" or "rubbing it in" interpretations. Fair topics include recent movies—Twilight! Skyfall! Silver Linings Playbook! (actually, delete Skyfall. Too political)—what ridiculous gifts the kids are demanding for the holidays this year, how to JetSki, favorite foods, least favorite foods, how they feel about The Hunger Games (Team Peeta or Team Gale?), whether GIF should really be the word of the year,
what they've been up to since the election, who has the best takeout in D.C., is D.C. really hip (and can it ever be?), favorite colors, favorite numbers, favorite gaffes, favorite magazines, wars on women, who gives the best hugs?, Thanksgiving, favorite albums, Amercia, Michelle's pushups, Ann's horse, the Olympics, Dancing With the Stars, volunteerism, what it's like to fly on Air Force One, what it's like to be president, Modern Family, can print be saved?, sports. If things start to go awry with any of these subjects, one or the other of the lunchers should clear his throat and ask for more water, and then introduce a new, less charged topic—like, Joe Biden.
Should Romney bring a gift? Yes. Gifts are customary when dining at someone's house; Obama is offering hospitality and therefore Romney should show his appreciation with a small token—a commemorative coin, or that giant flag pin that trumped Obama's that he wore at all the debates, or a pet rock, or perhaps a beautiful seashell he found on his last beach vacay, or one of those bottles of colored sand. Failing that, perhaps something they can enjoy together. Subtly decorated apolitical cupcakes? A Mad Libs?
How should they behave? They should eat, with full-fledged appetites, and napkins in their laps, dabbing their lips politely between bites. No one wants to sit in front of a person who's picking at their food like a bird, but no one likes an open-mouthed chewer in front of him, either—that can really put a person off! Obama should open things up, but then let Romney talk, and talk, and talk, and he should listen. Then he should say, as he did, in his first news conference after the election, “[You] presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with. And so it’d be interesting to talk to [you] about something like that.” But he should not say actually. Romney should not tell Obama that he thinks he lost because of Obama promising gifts to people. Neither should bring up past grudges or offenses; one of them should definitely say, "let's let bygones be bygones," and the other should nod, and maybe there will be tears or just a bit of misty glassiness in the eyes that neither acknowledges but they both just know what it means. Obama should not challenge Romney to a game of basketball, but if he does, he should let him win but never tell him that he did.