NOUVEAU ANOREXIA by Stacey Cook
I was recently at a birthday party for a new friend. She’s an editor and her husband work’s in dental sales.
I walked into their recently renovated flat, high ceilings, original wood beams, exposed sand colored brick arches, sophisticated furnishings and rugs, expensive appliances and art to match.
The journalist, who I had bonded with at a festival the weekend prior is a delight. Being an interior designer myself I was giddy to see the rest of the flat with a personal tour.
Upstairs on the expansive roof deck the view was spectacular. Lovely dining table with umbrella, sitting area with comfy sofas and chairs, a covered area with a wet bar, sink and barbeque. Modern white box planters lined the edges, native plants and cacti stood tall and embracing.
As I went on and on about how lovely the space was, the journalist asks, “Would you like the tour?”
“Of course, yes please,” I exclaim.
We venture downstairs. I can spot every detail and am over the moon in her choices and style throughout the house. “Is this too much, me telling you all the particulars?” I gasp, “Are you kidding? I love the particulars, hardware and wallpaper are like aphrodisiacs for me!”
She continues on, “We have his and hers bathrooms, his stuff is ugly, mine is pretty and I don’t want to have to look at his ugly things,” she says in her high-pitched Irish accent. “Oh, I understand, what is that Katherine Hepburn quote, ‘the key to a good marriage is separate houses,” I chimed. “Oh yes I love that one,” and we both laughed.
“And this light is a Tom Dixon, I hadn’t had a flat to hang it in until now.”
“Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous,” I reply.
I had brought with me a nice bottle of cava, others did as well, we were only a small gathering, but it was a joint effort. Lou made margaritas and in a bucket with ice were some cold beers and white wine the hosts had provided.
As I perused the array of snacks, I was a bit in awe. This is it? I thought to myself. Some cheese curls, spicy potato chips, bread sticks and delicious tzatziki spread that looked homemade.
“This tzatziki is divine,” “Oh it’s from the Greek stall at the Farmers Market.”
“Oh, I adore him! He’s such a love isn’t he, and his food is so fresh and tasty!”
“Yes, especially the feta, but not the one from the package,” she says.
My mind drifted. He has a dozen of amazing delicacies and this is the only one you’re serving? You clearly have taste; I suppose just not for your guests. My mind drifted again, wow this is all they’re serving. No charcuterie, no jamon, no queso, not even a carrot stick in sight.
I harked back to a Christmas party I had once in LA. I had flowers and holy and a little Christmas tree with lights on my desk. I had mulled wine and red wine, white wine, beer, nice scotch and gin, mixers and linen napkins. Bacon wrapped dates and mini quiches. I bought beautiful meats and cheeses and olives with marinated onions, garlic and peppers. We feasted on potato croquets and turkey zucchini meatballs accompanied by focaccia with tiny tomatoes and oregano.
When you have a party, I don’t care what for occasion, you must feed your guests.
Had she read the brilliant article in the New York Times titled, Let Them Eat Kale! About the great Los Angeles socialite who lamented about how no one eats anymore, how everyone has some sort of dietary something or other and they all look ghastly thin and their skin as dry as driftwood? She raged on, my go to for my signature parties was always meatloaf and mashed potatoes. It was a hit, and my guests ate every last bite of it, but I always had more. Today, you can’t get the fattest politician in the room to even have a nibble.
I was beginning to think this was one of those parties. We were going to run out of everything.
As the dusk moved into night this was becoming clear. Drinks were flowing and bottles disappearing, and no one touched the beer. Then suddenly a spark of something. I overhear the dental salesman say to one of the other guests, “Do they deliver?” This seemed promising.
“I don’t think they do, I’ll go with you”, the other guest said.
“Going to grab some pizzas, be back in a bit,” he said to his wife.
Pizza. I love pizza. Pizza is always a great idea. Thank god we all won’t be leaving early to go get something to eat I quietly thought.
As the night went black, the men returned with pizzas. The husband was literally eating an entire box himself as he walked up the stairs, with a half a slice of pizza in his mouth, he says, “Here, let’s put them down here.” I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, we’re all starving and too tipsy, he’s just doing what any half-starved, liquored up gentleman would do.
The neighbor who tagged along says to the party, “Steven bought the pizzas,” and before he could finish the remaining guests in unison, “Ah thank you so much Stephan, thanks so much, what a gem, really thanks.”
I spied the pizzas. Margarita, margarita, cherry tomatoes, oh this one has pesto and cherry tomatoes. This one is really good the group said. I looked over to Steven to see what kind of pizza he was eating, oh it’s pepperoni. Pepperoni is my favorite, it’s a lot of people’s favorite. And he seems to be having it all to himself, so much so, he hasn’t even put down the box from feeding his face.
I see, I see I thought. The meat pizza is for you, and us simple peasant folk get the cheese and sauce. How rude I thought. How inconsiderate and how selfish. And to be honest, not a very good look.
As I was surveying the disappearing pizza on the table, my new friend says to me, “Oh Stacey look behind you, there are a couple more boxes.” I turn to get up and bring the two pizzas over to the table, we open them up and there are nice big pieces of ham, basil, and truffle oil. “Ham and truffle, delicious!”
But why weren’t these put on the table to begin with I think to myself. Surely you remembered you ordered them, they clearly are the more special of the pizzas you bought, why wouldn’t you have put them down first? Oh, that’s right, you were too busy devouring the only pepperoni pizza in the room.
I go to take a slice of the ham and truffle, “Can I have a slice of that one?” Steven says after inhaling the pepperoni, “It has truffle oil,” he says again, as if he was the one who personally made it.
Annoyed at this point, I say “I wonder if truffle oil is like diamonds, there’s an abundance of it, but it’s the marketing and selling of it that makes it special and expensive?” My friend Lucy turns to me, “I wonder, it’s an interesting point you make there.” I’m not going to lie; my train of thought went to this place merely to make a point in front of Steven because of the entitlement floating in the air. But it truly was a real inquiry. I continued on, “When I was staying in the south of France, a farmer with no teeth lived near-by. He was the care-taker of the little house we had rented and almost every day he came by with wild mushrooms, mostly chanterelles I remember and truffles.” At this point Steven had left the conversation, uninterested, not to my surprise. Well yes, I was in France, in Provence to be exact, where lavender is ubiquitous and perhaps truffles are easily found. However true it may not be, it was still worth of wonder.
In what seemed like minutes, we had eaten almost all the pizza. The guests started tidying up, doing all the work of the hosts, as if to repay our deepest respects for providing such a lovely space with not enough alcohol and pizzas with no toppings.
The music got louder as did we when Steven comes over with a joint. I hadn’t smoked pot in a while, I do love my pot, and remembered Stepan saying he grows his own plants. Excited to partake, I took a puff. “Whoa, this has a lot of tobacco in it,” I slightly cough in between my words. Taking another puff, I realize this joint is like the pizza, it’s only got one topping and it’s not pot.
I came home around two in the morning and started telling my friend who is staying with me about the evening. The little voice inside my head, rich people are stingy, over and over again. He says to me, “Maybe they just don’t know how to host a party. It’s an art.” Yes, this is very clear, I say.
“Jamie told me he had attended another party of theirs, Steven’s birthday party, he barbequed special meats, they didn’t run out of cava, and he rolled joints with no tobacco,” I told him.
“Why did we get joints with no joint, and pizza with no pizza? Ok, maybe her birthday party was a last-minute decision, but there was still time to order pizzas with more than one topping and roll a joint with pot you grow yourself for fuck sake” I aghast.
What a shame I thought, too many expectations? Either way, I drank several glasses of water to get the bad taste out of my mouth this party had left with me.
Personally, I don’t have a lot of friends with a lot of money. I have some money, not a lot, I do have taste and I’d like to think, most of the time, I also have class. But maybe I just know how to throw a party. It remains to be an ongoing conversation.
When I worked as an interior designer in L.A. I was privy to a lot of people with a lot of money. I learned in the industry, there’s money, then there’s money, then there’s money, then there’s money. And even then, there’s still more money.
In the seven years I worked in this industry I can count on one hand with fingers left over, how many of our clients were nice. Sure, they were working with very high-profile, expensive designers and purchasing very expensive furnishings and art. They knew they were overpaying for the name of the designer as well as the names of the sofas. But it was obvious, there was no price when it came to what they wanted, for everything else, there’s always a price.
Most of them hated letting go of their money. Absolutely hated it. What are those age-old sayings, “The people who are cheap are the ones who still have their money,” “The ones who have the least, give the most.” This is definitely a possibility of why I don’t have as much. I would have sprung on the charcuterie board and ordered pizzas with toppings galore.
My father lost his business in the Great Recession of 2008. He lost nearly everything. It was incredibly sad, and it turned our world upside down. He was in the lumber manufacturing business and had lost both businesses too close together, from the pine beetle, which hadn’t come up through the soil for two-hundred years. The ground was warmer, there was nothing anyone could do. Forests and families all over the world were being destroyed by tiny insects. I am truly in awe of nature’s cupboard, all the absolute ingredients we need to survive sitting right next to all the ingredients that can kill you in an instant.
My father’s business wasn’t tearing down the Amazon, it was a medium size operation, which he inherited from his father, he grew it and he loved what he did. So much so he kept it up and running for far too long, not taking a salary for six years and saying to me, “As a business owner you do anything and everything to keep things going, those people have jobs and families to feed, but in the end, I couldn’t do it.”
In the end, it may have been poor decisions coupled with denial wrapped up in faith.
My dad is overly generous, almost to a fault. There’s a lot of therapy to be had to unravel why this is. Regardless, it’s been a testament in class, with a pinch of stupidity.
After my dad lost his business, he called his sister to tell her what had happened, that he lost the business, and he would have to sell all of his real estate in order not to go bankrupt. If you file for bankruptcy, they take it all he said. She and her husband have money and her first response to him was “Sorry Finley, we can’t help you.” He responded in the quiet of his own mind, “I didn’t ask.”
She blamed him for everything that happened to him, shamed him for living a life of luxury when she and her husband saved and saved and saved. Yet they also had nice things, lived in a nice house, had nice jewelry and clothes, vacations and whatnot. But they weren’t as nice of clothes or as nice of vacations and they certainly wouldn’t go to a restaurant and spend gobs of money on a fancy dinner. But her brother did. My father did, he liked to go out to eat and was generous.
Yet they benefited from this generosity. All the meals, all the vacations, all the times he picked up the bill. Which was every time. The vacations they took in his beautiful condo, the greatest location in Vail, Colorado. He even let their friends stay as if it was theirs to give out. They had their health insurance with his company for 30 years, the amount of money they saved, is well, priceless. Clearly, none of this ever factored into her heart when she told her only brother, who she claims to love, no we can’t help you.
They have money. They have no class. Yet they can throw a good party where the food is rich, and the drink is on a continuous pour. And the conversation continues.
I remember reading a story in Vanity Fair, back when I still read Vanity Fair. It was about the infamous Astor family in New York City. She was a major philanthropist, incredibly generous and her philanthropy, taking from the article, was her purpose and greatest love in her life. The drama begins, her atrocious son, who was already a billionaire in his own right, devised a plan to coerce her into changing her will, her will in which she left the majority of her fortune to her beloved philanthropies. And in her final months, he locked her in her room, didn’t let anyone see her, comfort her or love her, not even her doctor was allowed in. All in the name of filling his already overflowing coffer of money with even more money. A family dynasty of gifts and charity ended in reprehensible horror.
Life is quite the spectacle.
It can start with pizza toppings, morph into indulgence and loss, and end in torturing your own mother.