A few days ago I bumped into an old friend I hadn’t seen in a very long while: a very pretty woman who, if memory serves me well, used to have a few wrinkles. Now, they have been replaced by a smooth and rosy complexion. I have to admit: she looked great.
A couple of years ago, once I got home after a fundraising lunch, I looked in the goodie bag that had been left under my chair, and found a pair of attractive bottles of shampoo and conditioner. I had read about these products online, in passing – clearly a well orchestrated media campaign, if even I took notice.
I caught myself staring at a naked picture of Kim Kardashian. Ok, maybe hard to avoid but, even worse, I got tangled into reading celebrities’ and commoners’ tweets in response to the picture (that old fox of Bette Midler was the funniest: “Kim Kardashian tweeted a nude selfie today. If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen, she’s gonna have to swallow the camera).
The thought occurred to me yesterday that I don’t spend enough time around young people, at least not that segment of youth between 20 and 30. Not that I can think of any reasons why I should: an effort to stay relevant? The thought occurred as I found myself catering the wedding of a young couple, at a beautiful house by the ocean in Malibu, in an unusual sweltering heat, the sort of heat that hits Southern California only a handful of days a year, when the breeze goes into hiding and, if you are trapped in a chef’s coat, standing under a palm tree, preparing appetizers, you risk going mad from dehydration and sunstroke.
Some of the advantages of living in Los Angeles: nearly perfect weather; a vibrant culture; access to a variety of fresh produce all year round ; being able to be steeped in nature if one so chooses; the beach; great restaurants; a laid back live and let live attitude.
Some of the disadvantages of living in Los Angeles: traffic with a capital T; a size that requires detailed planning for every outing; no winter; not being able to see your friends as often as one would like (see size); celebrities.
I spent my fair share of Summers in the sun, with varying degrees of sun protection, all pretty low as my darker skin tans easily and I was fooled into believing that I would never burn (which I did once or twice). I loved looking dark as a cocoa bean by the end of the Summer. For a long while I felt that a dark tan would cover a multitude of sins and just looked healthier.
Then winter would come, I would turn pasty again and, come late Spring, tanning season would open again, with weekends spent at the seaside (or lying in the park once or twice in London, on those rare full Summer days).
I was lying in the sun on an unusually hot Sunday morning, the first bikini of the season on my pasty white skin, reading a 20,000 words essay by Karl Ove Knausgaard (a soliloquy of minute and personal details and mindless observations that, surprisingly, kept me glued to the page in the same way one can’t look away from roadkill) when I noticed I stank. I had forgotten to put on deodorant after showering earlier in the day.
Over the weekend camparigirl sent me an article from her beloved New Yorker about Joan Rivers. When Joan died, we marked her passing, as one should for any woman who forged her way through a male dominated profession – and noted that we both had some ambivalence in our feelings towards La Rivers. Claudia felt that Joan’s meaness “grated” and I just didn’t find her funny any more. The humour had become crass rather than sharp and incisive and her weird vendettas agains various famous people (Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna) played out awkwardly on Fashion Police.
As news of her death spread through the media we got to see different sides to her – loyal, kind, generous and incredibly supportive of other comic’s professional aspirations. If she liked you – she would help as much as she could. If she didn’t, she didn’t waste any time burying you. She wasn’t afraid to say what she thought. And take the pummelling she would get as a result. Looking out for herself caused her to be banned from Late Night TV – when Johnny Carson blackballed her after he heard she’d accepted a job at another network. A ban that two subsequent Late Nite hosts (Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien) upheld. And which Jimmy Fallon broke only six months before she died. Talk about a vicious boy’s club.