Thursday, September 15, 2005
THE RICH ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU AND ME...
I'm sure Fitzgerald had more profound things to say, but that's the one that really hit me. Growing up in a mill town, I didn't know a helluva lot about the rich so I counted on people like F. Scott to fill me in. Come to think of it, I'm still counting on them.
Anyway, his helpful quote came to mind the other day when I worked a wedding that was extremely Gatsbyesque. The groom looked almost exactly like the guy in the picture, right down to the cool beige suit, complete with even cooler matching tennis shoes. As for his bride, she wore a chic sheath dress, her straight hair parted on the side as if it were an ordinary day. Rumor had it she hadn't even seen the wedding site before the event. Trusted employees had selected it for her. Hmmm...So the super rich play it super blase while dining on lobster and filet mignon beside the moonlit Atlantic. So that was why I've never had any money. I not only hate the color beige, I'm way too excitable. But I could learn. Honestly I could.
But it wasn't the bride or groom who tipped me off to the fact that this wedding was different from the usual upper middle class to nouveau riche affair held in the breathtaking spot where I work. It was the cupcakes. A phalanx of bakers arrived to arrange them on tiered platters in the morning, equipped with frostings in various flavors in color coordinated tubs and fresh coconut for flaking.
Collage by Beth Beckel
"But why not frost them back at the bakery?" I asked, after furtively dipping my finger in the fudge frosting when backs were turned. Mmmm...the delectable taste of high quality fudge made my waitress smile even friendlier than usual.
"Freshly frosted is simply better," the baker replied haughtily.
I thought of asking why, but didn't want to further betray my ignorance. Instead, I waited till he turned away and tested the lemon frosting. It was almost as good as the chocolate.
"Do you think I could get a drink?" the baker said, dropping the snob act, as a glob of coconut frosting hit the deck. "I'm under a lot of pressure here."
I wondered exactly how much pressure frosting cupcakes could be, but decided to press my advantage. "Sure," I said, "as long as you make sure I get a couple of those chocolate ones later."
"I'll take a Heineken," he said. I served up his icy cold beer and my to-go box on the same tray. Call it a case of mutual exploitation.
Anyway, this is what I learned about how the rich are different in the course of the wedding:
1. They were way too cool for the ritualistic traditions like bridal party introductions, first or last dances, or weepy parent waltzes, though they did manage one languid toast. And while I sometimes think I'm too cool for those rituals myself (for entirely different reasons) I found that without them, it seemed more like a tedious dinner party than a wedding. By the end of the night I was practically begging the elegant jazz ensemble to crank out Brick House and get things started.
But what really put this couple off was the clicking of glasses, demanding that they kiss. After a very forced smooch on his new bride's cheek, the groom promptly ordained that there would be no more of that. Then, as if to make certain, he left the table and avoided his wife for the rest of the evening.
2. While other people drink a variety of cocktails at a wedding, the super rich stick to wine exclusively during dinner, after which they switch to cognac type stuff in snifters. Ver-ry interesting. I'm sure Scott, as he preferred to be called, would be proud of my observations.
3. Despite all the advantages that plastic surgery can offer, the look and manner of old money doesn't age well. It may seem quite charming in young men like our bridegroom (who reminded me of some movie actor whose name eludes me)but what is lanky and cavalier in youth seems brittle and aloof as the decades pass.
"Take that away," the father of the groom, who wore a beige ensemble similar to his son's commanded, sccornfully gesturing at a plate of crustacean shells. He then returned to his conversation about an upcoming trip to Southeast Asia.
In the end, I failed Fitzgerald yet again by finding the mega-rich more baffling than godlike. By the end of the evening, I almost pitied the lonely bride in her well cut gown as she wandered through the tent alone, fending off the evening breeze by wrapping herself in her husband's beige jacket.
Was this lack of sentiment characteristic of the moneyed class, or merely of this particular couple? Was it even a lack of sentiment at all, or merely the reflection of two highly private and independent natures? Beats me.
So while I can't categorically say whether the rich are different than you and me, I am sure of one thing: they definitely have better cupcakes.