Summer Afternoon...The Two Most Beautiful Words in the English Language
Up exceedingly early for a weekend morning, I was sick of being stuck in my middle class social life and my middle class neighborhood and my middle class apartment, with not a single swimming pool in sight. Sure, my friends are nice enough, but they aren’t really getting me anywhere.
And so Lucy, my batty (middle class) Scottish pal, and I decided to hop the 10:30 AM Hampton Jitney for a social climbing adventure. This was it, our big chance: All summer long, I’d been telling Lucy that she can get anything she wants in America and so far, what had I gotten her? I introduced her to the novelty of American Apparel and Sparks alcoholic beverages -- some American friend I am.
I already know how the readership of the Village Voice lives, but now I wanted to see how New York Magazine readers go about their daily lives. I wanted to use ‘summer’ as a verb, damnit, and I was sick of waiting around for an invitation to do so.
We had no real road map of the Hamptons, save for the e-mailed advice of a highbrow friend of a friend:
"In terms of stores, South is Bergdorf, East is Barney's and West is Macy's."
Establishing Your Social Ladder
At the very least, we intended to perch our ladder in the local ice cream parlor and hope for the best, i.e. a pair of dashing trust fund boys who would be so taken by our charms, that they would give us a tour of their swimming pool and maybe let us tag along to a mansion party or two, and a polo match, if we could squeeze it into our busy social schedule.
The Hampton Jitney is a very comfortable way of traveling to your social climbing destination because included in the $50 round trip, is a complimentary muffin and cup of orange juice, as well as the added entertainment of listening to crabby New Yorkers quarrel with one another about whether the bus is too cold or too hot.
Lucy and I made good use of our time by constructing a story with which to woo people at the top of the ladder. From then on out, Lucy would be Lucille, the daughter of a Scottish baron, and I would be Rose, her New York publicist, scouting out locations for her next film. Together, we would be the “It” girls of the Hamptons, at least for that Saturday.
Two hours later, when we were dropped off in the East Hamptons, my illusions were shattered.
What I wanted: A bustling beach side town swarming with overdone Fellini-esque starlets, who accessorize their bathing suits with strings of pearls, and striking young lads whose shirts are adorned with miniature alligators and pocket squares.
What we got: A quiet pool side town teeming with families, shabby tourists, Starbucks, designer stores, and a dire lack of public transportation.
I thought champagne and string quartets would be flowing in the streets, but nothing was flowing in the streets. And the traffic actually stops for you.
According to my informant, we were supposed to be at Barneys, but I felt more of an Anne Taylor vibe. I once heard that it is frowned upon to wear red high heels on Tuesdays in the Hamptons and that women are referred to only as ‘darling’ and ‘honey’. Yet instead of hearing the clicking of high heels, we heard the ubiquitous sound of feet smacking against rubber, flip-flop.
Nonetheless, we headed off to the beach. About fifteen minutes into our walk, I remembered that this, among other reasons, is why I love living in New York. I had forgotten what it is like to be stranded in an American town, on a hot day, without a car.
Time was wasting; we had to get to the beach soon in order to scope out the social territory.
So we did what any self-respecting Hamptonite would not do: we stuck out our thumbs and waited. And we waited…and we waited…and we waited…after about a dozen cars had passed us, an SUV slowed down and a sunny retiree, named Fred, gave us a lift to the beach on his way to pick his wife up from a “private yoga.”
Let it be noted here that the entire stretch of Hamptons beach, however many miles that adds up to, is completely public. Meaning, we could have pitched a tent on the beach in front of Anderson Cooper's house if we felt like it. All of the beautiful people were in their private swimming pools, safely tucked away within their beautiful homes.
Unfazed by the fact that there were people armed against the waves with surfboards, Lucy and I proceeded to take a dip in the Atlantic. This "dip" turned out to be a terrifying test of human versus nature, when we were quickly carried into the undertow of the Hamptons Sea. Lucy, being Scottish, and thus made of iron, escaped first, but I must admit that I feared for my life as I saw, in between gulps of salt water, surfers shooting me angry looks for getting in the way of their sets.
The most important component of social climbing, so I hear, is timing. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, but first you have to gain access into that place. Our only hope at this point was to find some stray Hamptonites, who had ventured into the public, and leech onto them for all it’s worth.
The problem, though, is that the East Hamptons is not the East Village. It is a town made for either the very young or the very old. Or, OK, fine, not the very old, but the very comfortable, and by young, I mean, younger than myself. Just as there is no middle class in the Hamptons, there is also no median of age.
Back in town, we surveyed our situation. It was almost nightfall and we had not a single invitation to a mansion party.
So we struck up a conversation with a group of kids outside a sandwich shop. These kids, though, these kids were cliquey. They were also boring. How could you not want to make friends with the daughter of a Scottish baron?
After dropping as many hints as possible, Lucy and I finally gave up on scoring an invite to their mansion. Besides, how can we possibly be expected to befriend people who don’t even know where the closest liquor store is?
Talking to these idle kids for twenty minutes left me feeling drowsy and so I headed inside for an iced coffee. When I came back outside, Lucy promptly introduced to Barry and Anto, in town for the summer, from Ireland, working as golf caddies.
Barry and Anto are at the very base of the social climbing ladder. Because they are circumscribed in their caddy shack, social climbing limits are imposed and they do not even have the chance to be at the right place at the right time.
And so we resigned ourselves to the very bottom rung of the ladder, which turned out to be the best decision we made all day. This was a much shorter ladder to climb and thus it took much less effort. Barry and Anto were thrilled to be spending the afternoon with the daughter of a Scottish baron and her famous New York location scout.
Not only were Barry and Anto able to take us directly to the liquor store, but they were also able to show us the perfect picnic spot, in which to watch the gardeners play soccer, as well as a swimming pool we were able to sneak into, in the backyard of a mansion fit for Jay Gatsby.
To conclude, one cannot expect to be dropped off in the Hamptons by a bus and wind up at Stephen Spielberg’s mansion by the end of the afternoon. You need good timing and, even more so, good luck. It would be wise to accomplish your social climbing in the winter, when the weather permits you to have patience with humdrum conversation, because during the summer the heat makes you lethargic, and climbing, of any type, really does take a lot of energy.
So it is better to climb down the ladder, to recline on the very bottom rung, with a rum & coke in one hand, and a cigarette in the other, than to bother scaling your way to the top, or even the middle, where the people are so exhausted from their own climbing excursion, that they do not have enough energy remaining to fully enjoy the view.
And so we hopped back on the Hampton Jitney, to New York, and two hours later, to bed.