Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gray Lady Gothic

That's the name of a whole new literary genre bursting forth from the Style pages of the New York Times. One feature, called "Vows", takes the real love stories of real rich people and makes them available for the delectation of the ravening masses in the hinterland. One such entry celebrated the spiritual journey and sexual awakening of a woman after she serendipitously and fatally struck a child with her car. 

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.


Pearl said...

There are sections in the NYTimes which are of interest to people with lots of money, or time. For example the Dining and Wine section where I
occasionally look for cooking hints, describes restaurants that cater to the well heeled, or recipes and ingredient discussions that only appeal to people with time, energy and $$$ to use in their kitchens (or by the hired help). Wedding celebrations usually have lengthy details of the romantic history involving the equally well heeled or those of celebrity status.
Fashion and style shows the latest outlandish runway fashions which no
average woman or man would wear and there are first page articles of many
wealthy socialites whose wills being contested appear on the front page.

I guess this is to keep a balance of the occasional decent articles about
average people's problems to attract readers. It is a perfect peek into the mindset and lives of the money and power people which is frankly, revolting.

Karen Garcia said...


These little Style-section vignette are just a small scene in the side show of the American political theater of the grotesque. Kinda like the binge and purge vomitoria of Rome before the fall.

stev-oe said...

This is good - I have been missing my daily delivery of the Grey Lady in the blue bag since moving to VT. I can pick up a hard copy anywhere around town - but refuse to pay three bucks for the daily and six for the Sunday. That being said. when I was paying for daily delivery, one of my favorite, absolute favorite things to do was check out the pages and pages of weddings. I would fall out of my chair laughing and would sometimes read by yelling to my wife in another room. Listen to this, blah, blah, blah, or oh my god you wont't believe who this grooms great uncle twice removed is related to...blah, blah, blah. The whole spectacle is revolting, but I do like the Fashion Week in New York Commentary and of course Bill Cunningham's videos. And I am saddened when I realize that my son's girlfriend, works at Christie's in New York, and just returned from a whirlwind trip to Detroit to value the 15th century Italian art owned by the DIA to assist in the bankruptcy proceeding. I could see their wedding in VOWS, which kind of makes me sad. Not that I do not think she is a wonderful person - it just seems de rigueur - you know what I mean.

annenigma said...

Although this is not society news, it is very good news: 'California Governor Signs Law Defying Cooperation With NDAA Indefinite Detention'

Will said...

You can add the lovely city of Albany to the list of NDAA-defying communities. (As usual, the linked video contains adult language. Please cup your hands over any nearby child's ears before proceeding. Thank you.)

annenigma said...


Fight the bucocracy!

Nan Socolow said...

GRAY LADY GOTHIC" - too true, too vomitrocious, Karen - shock and outrage is what I felt when I read the Vows piece by Lois Smith Brady about yogini from the Hamptons - the child-killer and how killing the little girl in the red wagon made a happy, satisfied woman of her. Our American society is so sick, so whacked out, so horrific as exemplified in that NYTimes Vows piece, that I fear for the future of the Republic. Forget about "Manifest Destiny:, give the flyover country to the French, the west to the Mexicans, the north to the Inuits and the entire east coast to the British. America is on the skids and hope no longer springs eternal! Alas!