Upstairs is a softly lit Italian restaurant, it smells of tomato sauce and money, downstairs is an open air bar, it smells of lime and mens’ colognes and money. In the middle of dinner, in one of the restaurants we send our rich tourist guests to where even the cheapest glass of wine costs more than the bottles of wine I buy myself after work some nights, I realize just how much I don’t care for this anymore. The people I’m with are friendly and bright and empty and talking about Miley Cyrus days after even the smartest people on the internet ran out of things to say about her. I wish I hadn’t come out.
For days before I had felt effervescent and pretty but one of the men tells me that I look amazing tonight so I can decide what we eat, that in that dress I can always make decisions. It sounds complimentary, but it spoils my enjoyment of my own prettiness because now it feels like something to be used—quickly before it expires—and that’s what it is in these places. There are clean linen handtowels in the bathroom and all the women fix their hair in the mirror and we smile at each other and this very specific, attainable, unremarkable prettiness is the commodity we are trading here, are there even any illusions about that? So I leave to meet other people who make me laugh, who spin me around the floor in the bar, but I still wake up this morning with a sour feeling to my brain.
I have thought that I’ve been enjoying the occasional “glamour” of dressing up and eating in expensive restaurants and drinking things I’d only heard of. I have had a vague idea that I was getting a taste of some imagined New York, some mutant amalgam of Zelda Fitzgerald and Sex and the City and a Tiffany’s ad. I thought it was a frothy whirl of high heels and champagne, shiny black cars and shiny black shoes, watches that were $6500 on sale, handmade suits, caviar, hands placed on knees and lower backs, perfect smiles, red lipstick, darkened hotel bars, promises, flirting, oysters on ice, guestlists, cigars, espresso. But that’s not really what it is, or rather that whirl isn’t really any fun. There’s no beauty in any of this prettiness.
I’ve thought these were places I should go while I’m in New York, things I should do while I had the chance. But I don’t want to. I’d rather pay for things and have less fancy things. I’d rather stay in Brooklyn. I don’t like wearing heels. I loathe every minute I wear heels. I don’t like me very much in these places, and I don’t trust the people who like me in these places. These places are all the same place, an expensive drunk pointless place in the middle of Manhattan with melt-in-your-mouth hors d’oeuvres and an elaborate system of favors, and nobody who understands it is anybody I want to hang out with, honestly.