First, writing-related things that are happening to me:
And I’m on Mamamia, the big Australian site. You guys might have already read this piece, since it was on the blog first. It’s about how annoying it is when people tell women to just get confident.
Why do good things always happen all at the same time? I’m not just saying that because it’s a thing people say. My life works like that all the time. It annoys me. It makes savoring hard, and I’m already bad at savoring.
But here’s what I’m really talking about today:
Fancy, fancy New York City.
A friend of mine got invited to Esquire Magazine’s 78th birthday party in the Esquire Penthouse, which happens to be here in my neighborhood, in an apartment called “the clocktower” that I know about because my mom sent me an article about how it’s the most expensive apartment in Brooklyn. $25 million. Wow. Seriously? Who knew I was so close to something so rare and precious?
The apartment is literally a clocktower, with multiple floors and four massive working clock faces. It looks like this:
(except dark and sexy and bigger than this picture I found on the internet lets on. source)
It is not really Esquire Magazine’s penthouse– they’re just renting it. But “just” is probably the wrong word. God knows how much it costs to rent. In any case, my friend asked me to go as her plus one and of course I went, because I really wanted to see this place. But of course I was scared of everyone else who was going, because I was pretty sure they were going to be really fancy people.
My only other experience with a real NYC Party For The Literary Elite involved a small herd of models who walked in hours late and then stood along one wall (of a different and significantly smaller penthouse apartment), as though they were responsibly fulfilling their end of a bargain. I was wearing distinctly the wrong shoes. I wasn’t sure, after that, whether the shoes I’d been wearing were even close to cool.
Because I am a New Yorker now, and people who aren’t from this city are sometimes impressed with me or disdainful of me for that simple fact, I feel occasionally like I should live up to it. I’m not sure what “it” is. I am pretty sure it involves going to parties in clocktowers where you can stand on a glass-walled deck at the top of the world and see all of Manhattan sparkling below you, just across the dark, shining sweep of the river.
I wore a dress from H&M with a snakeskin pattern on it. I like it because it has long sleeves which cover my chubby upper arms (I’m being totally honest right now), but the plunging neckline is awkward, and I’m not comfortable showing my bra, especially since it’s never sexy enough, so I pinned it with a butterfly pin that was my great grandmother’s.
“Baba,” I thought, “What would you have thought of a party like this?”
She spoke seven languages because that was what it was like where she lived, and she is called beautiful now, after her death, which I think is mostly based on how awesome she was, which I like a lot. She had a big nose.
Anyway, suddenly, there I was at the Esquire Penthouse Party, and my friend and I were eating lots of those tiny hot dogs and tiny crispy cones full of tuna tartar, and other concoctions by the famous chef who was catering the event. I was drinking some sort of apple cider-themed drink with a lot of vodka in it, and walking up flight after flight of floating stairs in my short stilettos, wobbling a little, passing confident-looking women in black and white and red, with big, dramatic jewelry and silky hair, heading for the top of the world. Along the way, we ran into rooms with long, low lounging beds, covered in shaggy furs and velvet pillows. The lights were low and on the main floor, fire bloomed in tall, glass canisters, like performance art.
The executive editor ( that might not be his exact title) of the magazine told the gathered crowd later that the apartment was decorated to resemble the bachelor pad of a “very successful” bachelor. I wasn’t sure about the enormous sparkling balls hanging from the fantastically high ceiling, but everything else was just about exactly how you might imagine that. Dark, rich stuff and sharp, glass contemporary stuff. Animal skin chairs and those clear ghost chairs. Large, subtle rugs.
I felt like I had entered a fantasy of elite New York City life.
And I had.
I was so intimidated at first that I didn’t even glance at the other people. They registered in blurs of black and white and red and chunky jewelry. I said “excuse me” and squeezed through them for another tiny hot dog. But later, when the finalists from the “short short story” competition we were apparently also celebrating that night got up, introduced by Colum McCann, who I now know all about (he was wearing the same outfit as in the picture on the Wikipedia page), and, obviously terrified, attempted to read aloud their pieces, I began to realize that I might not be the only one feeling completely out of place. One of the finalists was from Alabama, I think, and he looked a little stunned, his eyes slightly glazed. I looked down from our towering height at the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges like sparkling chains of Christmas lights, strung over the silent water between cities, and I wondered if he thought this was what New York was always like.
I wonder if this is what I think New York is always like, even though I almost never get to see it like this.
And then I looked around the room and noticed that a lot of the young women were wearing flats, and their outfits weren’t sultry or even very daring. There were some older people, bunched together. There were some dorky young guys who were playing up their dorkiness because it’s OK as long as you’re a good journalist or maybe look like one. There were a few incredibly glamorous people, but mostly there were people like me, looking like they didn’t quite belong in the Esquire Penthouse, generously applauding for the nervous writers.
I had what felt in the moment like a profound thought. Maybe we’re all pretending a little. Because of this city and everything everyone expects from it and from us because we’re in it.
I felt a little more comfortable, in the clocktower, and on the way down I made a joke to the guy manning the elevator, with the curly earpiece. Something about how I’d take my twenty-five million dollars elsewhere, because the space was too cramped. He didn’t think it was amusing.
* * *
Unroast: Today I love the way I look in my snakeskin patterned dress and my butterfly pin.
P.S. Can stilettos be short? It’s just the thinness of the heel that makes them stilettos, right? Not anything to do with the height?