What is a socialite?

Posted at 02/12/2014 11:31 AM

Headline: “Socialite says love for family drove her to become state witness.”

Ruby Tuason is a nice woman; so for that matter is Ma’am Janet as the Palace fondly refers to her. She knows her way around the Palace it seems but both are bag ladies.

So what makes one a socialite and the other a host of bad names?

And assuming you are a socialite and did what not-a-socialite would do, which is bag for senators, and thereby became a principal by indispensable cooperation in the crime of stealing, what would be the difference? What would qualify the first as a socialite and the other not? That the first doesn’t really have to do it while the second is compelled; that the first can be remorseful after she is caught but the second will only deny it because she isn’t offered the same immunity? Only a social climber could spot the difference.

Ruby Tuason needed to earn a living; so did Ma’am Janet whose children won’t have to; so, for that matter, do I because doing a two-minute segment after the 10 o’clock news isn’t a job. Why I also do work for a container company.

I know very rich women who work. They would wonder if they were called socialites; which suggests unemployment albeit in the lap of luxury or have people wondering if their businesses had taken a bad turn so they had to close shop and live on diminishing savings, albeit splendidly, but sooner or later it will all be gone.

My rich women friends would rather be known as being increasingly wealthy workers with no end in sight than as socialites. Only those who have neither social cachet nor money think of becoming socialites, which, by the way, no one can become; one just is.

But what is a socialite--a mild socialist like Coke lite? It cannot mean anything more in Philippine society. A socialite is someone whose dad was a US Senator; so was her granddad, and is or was married to a US Senator with a similar background if not the same one because she married her second cousin, as Lenny Bruce joked about the social elite who were given names like “Adlai” and didn’t blink in the face of global extinction because they didn’t mind losing what they owned, even if it was most of the wealth in the United States, so long as they remained to the last what they were from the start: of the American social elite. So they didn’t blink in the Cuban missile crisis unlike the poor born Russian premier who had only recently acquired a pair of shoes and was self-conscious enough about wearing them to think of taking one off and using it as a gavel. Once he had stepped into his shoes, Adlai Stevenson forgot all about them.

A socialite either is or she is not. If she is not, she can only be a rich woman. Gloria Vanderbilt is a socialite; her inherited fortune is integral to American history--a fortune made and lost, lost and made again; it doesn’t matter, you belong to the same kind of people as yourself. After that you can be anything else--but never a bag lady; anymore than a gentleman can be a bag man because both genders of the species never talk about what they take for granted, that there will always be money; if theirs runs out, someone will be gladly to lend to them if they will let him pretend he also belongs.

Sure they might join the CIA and make clandestine drops of cash in a Moscow park but they are not kickbacks but money for foreign secrets and there is a great deal of personal danger involved.

Until the neighborhood went with the recruitment of baby boomers, the State Department was a hive of socialites. My parents knew one, and I remember her. She quite rightly started at the bottom of the diplomatic corps even if Daddy had oil wells in Oklahoma. She threw lavish parties in Manila (well above her pay grade to afford) where the Cambodian king was flown in to play his saxophone. So let’s not bandy the word “socialite” because it doesn’t apply in this country.