Saturday, November 22, 2008

This Time It's Personal

"My father needs money, my mother needs money, my sister's as thin as a reed -- but me, I'm sitting pretty; I've got all the money I need."

Snotty Suburb residents are divided between the two places the Emcee of Cabaret described, it seems. Some pockets are deep enough that the market drop means only moving a couple of accounts around for protection; other pockets have fingers picking at the lint along the seam at the bottom, hoping for a thread-tail to pull to keep the pants from dropping to ankle-depth.

The Republicans Whose House Has A Name Given It By Them (soooooo new money) have to sell because, Mr. Republican confessed to a neighbor, they simply can't afford it.
Shocking! And to add to their loss, their family dog who they ignored and only allowed in the garage to sleep on the coldest of nights was run over, squishing blood on the road, deaddeaddead. In full view of a yard full of children, the youngest just turned three years old, all of whom saw the entire scene. All because the Republicans Whose House Has A Name Given It By Them couldn't be bothered to protect the dog by keeping it on a leash. (See "Feral Children" post for how this attitude translates to Snotty Suburb child-rearing practices.)

So they've listed their house at bargain-basement pricing which is even more shameful since it indicates to everyone just how close to the margin they'd been living. These days, Mrs. Republican and the children can only be seen backing out of the driveway on school run mornings; the station wagon windows rolled up, the garage door closing on the packing boxes inside. And pretty soon the children's school will change, since no one goes to Snotty Suburb Public School unless residency is fully verifiable by the Town Clerk. Who knows. Trust me.

Incredibly Beautiful But Damaged Goods young man stopped to say hello to me the other day. He looked better than I'd seen him looking in a couple of years -- relaxed, not stoned (maybe half-baked, but not the deep disconnected stupidity of his darker days) and his hair was clean, pulled back in a ponytail held by a leather thong.

"You're looking great," I told him. He and I share a tacit understanding about boundaries. When his days are dark (it's obvious by his posture) we keep our exchanges to a quick nod and smile (mine.) On so-so days, we say hello and keep going. The last couple of times I've seen him, he's looked on the upside of so-so; bordering on happy. I chalk it up to the young lady he's had with him consistently for the last few months.

He told me he was moving back home from his nearby apartment. And that the family was selling the second home with ski-in access. Oh, and probably the Snotty Suburb house as well.

Knowing how much the parents lean on their status as identity -- part of the reason the kid is Damaged Goods -- my shock registered on my face obviously enough for Incredibly Beautiful But Damaged Goods to hastily supply an explanation.

"It's the financial stuff -- the markets and all," he said.
"I'm sorry to hear that," I told him. "That's a tough thing to do."
Tough thing to do. Four words to capsulize offloading a combined several million dollars worth of real estate where the kid and his sibling grew up.
All gone.
"Yeah, well," and he shrugged. His mouth twisted in a half-smile, ironic but not cruel and showing his dimple. He didn't say anything else, just stared for a second or two and shrugged again.
I put out my hand to shake. "Take care, man," I said.
His handshake was utterly correct. "You, too."
I watched him as he left -- cotillion dance-class trained, god-like good looks, his family's fortune tumbling downhill. The damage inflicted by his parents in their grinding of his gentle nature to force conformity to the social position he was born into protected him from caring about the loss of it.

He clearly didn't give a shit about the future lack of Snotty Suburb residency, the spectre of being dropped from invitation lists, the open snubbing at the Don't Ask For Membership You Have To Inherit It Tennis Club. The pain it caused his family bothered him because of the sweetness of his character.
As for his own pain, it was born of those institutions.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

And So We Become What We Are Surrounded By. . .

There's a house on the market up the street from us. It's one of the small, grand homes -- the listing realtor probably used "showcase" somewhere in the description; that or "showstopper." So, yeah, it's a nice crib. 

In Snotty Suburb, realtor signs must be, by Suburb Statute, smaller than anywhere else in the region. (I'm not kidding about this.) The diminished, discrete little "For Sale" stands in the middle of the manicured front yard -- but thank God it's a "for sale" and not like the (shudder) "For Lease" sign posted up the way. 

Fewer events strike the chill of fear into the inner souls (where the dollar signs sit) of Snotty Suburbanites than the prospect of Renters. Renters, with their connotations of recent divorcees and their children, the cast-off wives of the wealthy, desperate to maintain the connections formed in the Snotty School District. Eventually, of course, the divorcees either pack it in and go back to whereever they came from if newly arrived, or wait out the settlement and then buy their own Snotty Suburb property. The culling process is so cruel, isn't it?

Or, worse yet, Renters who Aren't From Here but would like to be; those who can't afford the entry ticket to Snotty Suburb but think (oh, foolish posers) they can fake it. Faking it might work to impress their own friends, but no one in the Snotty Suburb is fooled at all. Ever. 

Back to that little "for sale" sign, which in this lousy economy still dangles -- the other day, driving past the place, I saw a family standing out front with the realtor. Not the current family; these folks were looking at the property. Their little girl was twirling in circles on the lawn while Dad watched and Mom stood with her arms folded, watching as I drove past. I'm pretty sure the thought balloon over her head would read, "OMG, I've overdressed!" (dead right -- that khaki twill skirt down to mid-calf and the little blouse and espadrilles? too North Shore -- Snotty Suburb is W-A-Y past that) 

Dad's thought balloon: "Driving that? They must be long-time residents -- secure enough NOT TO CARE," followed his own realization that the pink starched oxford-cloth button down is as subtly wrong as Mom's twill getup. Loafers without socks? Getouttahere!

Don't know if they'll buy the place or not. Time will tell. Meanwhile, their little girl twirled on the lawn, oblivious. Bless her heart. 

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Driving Ambition

Cars. SUV's. Pickup trucks. Everywhere. All types. Here in the Snotty Suburb I see them all -- from vintage to flashy-new blingmobiles. The kind of car you drive reveals ever so much about you; that's true everywhere but I like to think we can take it to a new and more neurotic level of scrutiny, so here goes. . .
People who drive the monster-sized white Lexus SUV with the gold trim are trying too hard -- and we all know it. So there.
Minivans usually belong to visitors.
Volvos are practically a given. A geriatric Volvo station wagon is perfectly acceptable; a shiny new Volvo SUV was almost certainly acquired via lease by someone struggling to keep up with the cost of Snotty Suburb-ness.
BMW's and Mercedes station wagons are usually found in two colors -- black and white.For some reason, silver is the favored color for the BMW/MB  SUV's. There is the occasional madcap red sportster, but not too often and best if it's a vintage model.
Toyotas and Hondas are fine; Camrys and Accords are usually found parked in the driveways of those newly arrived to Snotty Suburb and will be replaced once the staggering cost of the first home remodel has been absorbed. Bet on it.
The Range Rover is the only one to drive. A Land Rover is just too pathetic. And we all know it.
A Hummer? Never, ever, ever. Not even. Just keep going because you're better suited for the lot-line, new-construction, huge-tract-home suburbs up the road a piece.  And that goes double for you in the Escalade. 
The Honda Pilot is for the nanny. The beat-up Toyota/Honda/Nissan compact is for the housekeeper. The aged Toyota Land Cruiser, on the other hand, belongs to the people who have so much money they don't have to care what you think about what they drive. Likewise the ancient Jeep Cherokee and the restored 1966 Ford Mustang.
The new Jeep Cherokee with the leather upholstery and the booming, crazy-loud sound system belongs to the teenager down the street. 
If I think of more, I'll add to the list. Feel free to comment. 

Saturday, March 1, 2008


I went into the local coffee-chain store the other morning and saw two of them. Anas. Anorexics. My age, or maybe a little younger.

They scare me.

The two I saw wore yoga-style clingy black capri pants and zip-up sweatshirts. Their shrunken behinds and stick legs were anchored to the floor by sneakers that look gigantic below their spindly little ankles. They moved carefully, clearly afraid if they get knocked down they'll shatter. So, maybe it's not that they scare me -- I probably scare them. The sweatshirts they wore were remarkable because it was 72 degrees and sunny -- one of those rare February days when Summer steals a day from Winter. The rest of the caffeine-addicts in line wore short sleeves; some even wore shorts and flip-flops.

Not the Anas, though -- by the way they cradled their hot paper cups of coffee with their fingers laced tight around them, I could see they were cold.
And hairy.

Their faces were fuzzy, and, from seeing other Anas who wore short sleeves, I know their arms were hairy as well.

I saw one of those "Behind the Scene" segments on an entertainment news show a couple of years back; it showed the filming of a Chanel Number 5 ad, starring Nicole Kidman. She was front-lit and the camera caught her being fussed over by a wardrobe person. She was wearing an open-backed dress and stood poised, ready to run across a rooftop or some damn thing. Anyway, my thought was, "Wow! I can see every single bone of her spinal chord!"

As though reading my thoughts, the editor for the segment immediately changed shots after that, replaced it with one of her looking radiant, gorgeous, and slim, as opposed to fleshless.

I later saw a trailer for the Stepford Wives movie. The screen in the movie theatre was filled with an extreme close-up of her face, twenty feet tall, and I saw it -- she was hairy. And it made me sad. Here she is, an Academy Award-winning actress, beautiful and at the top of her game -- with the Anas hairy thing going on. HD format must be a bitch for the makeup people.

Skinny I understand. I'm skinny. Both naturally so, and also because I decided to drop about thirty pounds so that I wouldn't turn into an old person whose joints ached from the extra weight.

So yeah, skinny I get. So skinny that you get hairy and skeletal, that's just sick.

And it is -- sick. I've read enough PSA's to know this is an aggression and hostility in women turned on themselves; control issues, body-image framed by the media -- I get that, I really do.

Still. Isn't there a moment when Anas look down at their arms and wonder when they started looking hirsute? And don't they wonder why their makeup gets caught in all that fur on their jawlines?

Anas have a quality of desperation in their countenance. It's there, if you can get past the hollowed-out eye sockets, the papery-looking complexion, the pronounced lines framing their mouths -- is it the fear someone will make them eat? Or that their husbands will leave them for another younger, prettier (not hard to imagine; whatever prettiness Anas once had is a shallow facade in their bony faces) or, most damnable of all, a skinnier woman?

As if that were at all possible.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Last week while driving home after dropping off on a morning school run, I passed Ethereal Beauty Movie Star driving in the other direction. She was swabbing lip balm on, really swacking it across her mouth the way you do when you need it desperately. And yeah, even with her hair down, no makeup on and squinting through the windshield of her SUV into the morning sun, she looked beautiful. Radiant.
Like you'd expect her to. . .
Snotty Suburb is home to quite a few celebrities. Some, like Ethereal Beauty, are film stars. There are a couple of local authors who've logged serious time on the NYT bestseller lists. There are musicians -- rockers, mostly, who live here, too. You see them around town. You might mention it to your spouse, or, if it was one of the rockers, you might tell your older kids. What you never, ever, ever do is act like you're watching them.
Never ever.
It's just not done. Because if you do, you mark yourself as not being quite Snotty Suburb-worthy.
There are big names in the music business who live here. I've seen all of them out and about, at one time or another, sometimes with their kids. All of them are edgy rockers, a couple with reputations for excess. And their kids? In the case of one of the musicians, one whose international reputation is really hardcore, I saw him having lunch with his daughter.
She was dressed in an old-fashioned private-school uniform and sat primly waiting for her dad to bring her a sandwich from the deli counter. She looked like an angel. Another rocker-daughter is a stunningly beautiful blonde who, when I used to see her frequently, favored white and pink flowered tops and pink sneakers. No black tee shirts, no spiky hairdos -- the kids are obviously utterly protected innocents.
And, as the kids grow up, they do NOT think their parents are any cooler than your own kids thing YOU are cool. You are a parent. You are NOT cool, no matter what. Proof of this came to me when a friend's daughter played on a sports team with a celeb's kid -- the kid rolled her eyes with perfect pre-teen disgust when she talked about her dad's tour the previous summer. She wasn't doing it for effect, either. She really meant it. Just like when your kids get grossed out when you try to dance in the kitchen, or sing along with the car stereo.

So, when I heard a parent make a joke in front of her kid, urging her kid to invite a celeb-kid over and "hope that the dad comes to my house for pickup," I tartly said, "Yeah, I'm sure that kid has never heard THAT before." The parent stopped for a second, not sure if I was kidding. I wasn't.

Let that be a lesson.