In her most recent blog post, Public Editor Margaret Sullivan addressed the torrent of reader outrage over the piece. It was in supremely bad taste, complained the complainers, to mention the death of a child in the same column as a feel-good New Age Society wedding. Sullivan correctly noted it also seems to be in especially bad taste to celebrate the self-indulgence of the rich at the same time almost a million federal workers have been furloughed from their jobs.
But bad taste, tastefully presented, is the whole point of the "Vows" stories in particular and the Style section in general. I am convinced that these pieces are deliberately designed to piss off normal people as they purport to celebrate the shallow lives of the entitled rich. The only people apparently not in on the joke are the entitled rich, whose addiction to their own inclusion as stars of the never-ending atrocity exhibition prevents them from any real insight into their own selves. They're victims of their own toxic affinity fraud.
Lois Smith Brady, the writer of the latest target of hoi polloi wrath, actually produced a masterwork of satire with her calm evisceration of the "soul mates" of the Hamptons. She immediately lets us know what we're in for with the sharp thrust of her lead:
People describe Erika Halweil, a longtime yoga teacher in the Hamptons, as someone who has a lot of backbone in every way. She has great posture. She rarely gets upset over things like parking tickets or bad-hair days. (Naturally pretty, she probably doesn’t have many.) She is sometimes stern but never shy.Erica's brother oxymoronically gushes about how at ease she is with her own exuberance. (The privileged rich can be relaxed and hyper at the same time, unlike the rest of us.) Growing up privileged, she and her family would forage for elderberries in Central Park when they weren't surf-casting on Long Island or watching old Laurel and Hardy movies.
The new bridegroom, one Corey De Rosa, was not quite so privileged, coming from an "Everybody Loves Raymond" type family. He only got rich catering to the rich as a Yoga instructor. He was a late bloomer, it seems, a party animal who had a hard time "transitioning" from decadence to that sweet spot of total relaxation, which for him is a special room painted all red and black that he calls his Womb.
But here's the paragraph that really got Times readers so ticked off:
On Aug. 17, 2008, Ms. Halweil was driving on Montauk Highway when a 5-year-old girl rode a red toy wagon down a steep driveway and shot out onto the road in front of Ms. Halweil’s car. When she recounts the accident (the child died and Ms. Halweil was not charged) you can really see her calm, philosophical and open demeanor. In an almost plaintive voice, she said: “It was clear sky, clear road. I saw a flash of red coming toward my car.” She swerved but still hit the wagon. “I got out of the car and this really beautiful little girl with pale skin and blue eyes was laying in the road. Her eyes were glazed over. I knew the spirit had left her body.”She found salvation in Yoga and the love of her life, Womb Man. He fell head over heels because in the wake of the accident -- which the article touchingly calls a "bump in the road" -- he found her amazingly "beautiful and radiating." And ever so much "light and fun." Plus, she reminded him of Mommy.
Eventually, De Rosa and Halweil dumped their respective significant others and shacked up. When they finally made it legal -- only after Halweil gave birth to De Rosa's child with the aid of a concoction of Vodka, castor oil, baking soda and pineapple juice -- she dressed in a wedding gown she described as "pigeon-blood red."
Naturally, the happy couple humble-brags about how unpretentious they are. They are really "stripped down." And the sex is really, really good.
I had always made it a point to avoid the Style section like the plague. So thanks are due to Margaret Sullivan to alerting me to its rich satire. There are plenty of gems hidden amongst the fluff. Flannery O'Connor is alive and well in the Hamptons. And it is Absolutely Fabulous, sweetie-dahling.