The new chic

Posted at 03/13/2014 9:37 PM | Updated as of 03/13/2014 9:37 PM

A friend of mine, whom one can confidently call a socialite—she annually flies off to Paris to do absolutely nothing when she gets there—“It is a sabbatical after all,” she once explained, though from what is never clear—to repeat, a socialite friend of mine got a call as she was about to step into the shower from another socialite who asked her if she was invited to the social event of the season. This event shall remain unspecified, as there might only be one and certainly no more than two every year in these sorry parts.

    Her friend started naming those who were invited to the event and described what a grand affair it would be. She might even have been suggesting—if we didn’t know better from what escalated into a quarrel—that only the crème de la crème (however that is spelled) were invited.

    My friend, naked with a foot in the shower according to her, said: “I am not invited; not only that, but I am about to take a shower.” And with that she said goodbye.

    No sooner did she step out of the shower than her phone rang and it was her friend again, who went on to name the other people invited.

    “I already told you,” said my friend, “I am not invited”, as she patted herself dry.

    Still her friend went on with the guest list, making special mention of the guests of honor.

    “Wait,” my friend interrupted, “what about you, are you invited?”     Her friend said, “No, of course not.” Indeed she would be out of town with other friends, similarly not invited, and then went on to give the names of yet others invited to the grand affair.

    My friend hung up.

    Now two friends have quarreled, perhaps irreparably, on each one’s insistence that, not only was each not invited to the social event of the season—and in these parts we have at best only two, the scorching and flooding seasons, both hot and humid—but almost suggesting that each would be the last person to invite herself to such an event. Like Groucho Marx saying huffily, “I will never accept an invitation to join a club that will take me as a member.”

    Now both women are socialites; to be sure, my friend rather more than the other. And to tell you the truth, both would be comfortable in any social event of any season, not just here but anywhere else. Yet there they were, arguing to the point of hostility, that neither was invited to what one kept describing to the other as the most dazzling social event of the season if not the year.

    Unknown to both, they had, by their quarrel, redefined “chic” and raised the bar on class. They did it quite casually at first and then intensely to the point of nastiness; with both hotly insisting to the other that she was not invited; that she would never be invited; indeed she wouldn’t dream of inviting herself to such an event. Which is a bit like putting down the event or sharing the happy discovery that the animals in the zoo throw a party now and then but very late in the night after the keepers have gone home.

    This contest in self-depreciation and self-deprecation has a reverse side; which is reverse snobbery. It is adopting a modesty verging on arrogance. The same group of friends once argued that, really, glossy magazines must stop putting the same rich people like themselves on the covers. Surely there must be others who deserved to be there. At this remark, one of them asked innocently, “Why, are there rich people we don’t know?”

    I want to tell my friend that she can get back at her erstwhile friend by, somehow, getting her invited to the event at which neither, it seems, would be caught dead. That would put her in her proper place—in the party to which she was not invited.

    Meanwhile, in two airports in the common world, people are crying their eyes out and screaming their throats raw over the loss of friends and relatives as the search continues for the missing passenger jet that carried them.

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