Co-Misery

by Lynne Rosenberg
Print Email

fancyladies.jpgI spend a great deal of my life working functions that exceptionally wealthy people go to. My official jobs have ranged from handing out escort cards to rangling opera singers, to making emergency Staples runs, to standing and looking pretty. I’m especially good at that last one.

But my unofficial job is where I really excel: soothing the savage rich lady.

Actually, I’m pretty great with rich old men as well, but soothing the savage rich man sounds like the subject for a whole other blog, by a writer who isn’t me, and you need to buy a subscription to read it.

If any of you are considering entering into the exciting field of nonprofit fundraising, you need to learn one thing: rich ladies like it when you like their blouse. Ok, or their jewelry or their hair or their bag, but blouse is a funnier word, and relates specifically to one unfortunate such occurrence I experienced recently.

Before I continue, I should note, as far as the item I like is concerned, whatever I choose to comment on is always something I do like. Sometimes I have to dig for what that is (“Oh! That third button from the top is just so...interesting!”) but I always find something. A girl's gotta have some integrity.

aline.jpgUntil a girl totally loses that integrity, thusly: So it’s the end of the night and I’m working on standing and looking pretty, and bidding farewell (that’s another one of my official jobs: bidding farewell) and one of the ladies strolls up, a few glasses of Prosecco in, having had “just such an exquisite time!” and I pull out the ever faithful, “Oh, I just love that top!”

(I call it a “top”, see, instead of a blouse. It makes them feel young and hip. Like me.)

And, as usual, her face lights up and she says, “Oh this?! I just love how it drapes! Covers up all the sins, you know!” To which I reply, “Ha! Of course – why do you think I’m wearing this dress!? Love an A-line!”

First off, gross. Who the hell says that? A-line? I didn’t even realize I knew what an A-line was. Secondly, this is a lie. I didn’t wear the dress because it “hides” things, I wore it because it was clean and didn’t need to be ironed like the rest of my Target-sponsored wardrobe. If anything, looking in the bathroom mirror earlier in the evening, I wished it were tighter and covered a little less – I mean, the Italian baritone guest of honor was, after all, smokin’ hot.

So I throw this lie in the air and we laugh together and for a half second she likes me and I bob my head up from the sea of “faceless worker” and grab a breath of “real person” in her atmosphere. Once she gets in her car service and heads back to Sutton Place or the Upper East Side or Turtle Bay or wherever, I’ll submerge back into vagary, but for the moment I’m treading water.

body-shape.jpgBut at what cost? I thought a lot about that moment in the cab ride home that night. I have been taught over time – consciously and subconsciously – that commiserating about disliking my body is one of the quickest ways to connect with another woman. Sharing least favorite body parts, mutual struggles with “problem areas” – whatever that means – any way to prove I dislike myself as much as you carries social currency.

It’s insidious, though. The more we bond over a distaste for these gorgeous little carriers we inhabit – agreeing implicitly that flesh is, in fact, a sin – the more deeply we forge the ruts of self-destruction.

But what are we supposed to do? The thought of connecting with someone over how much I love myself sounds positively ridiculous. I remember years ago a cast member in a show I was doing checking out her own ass in the mirror and commenting on how sexy it was. It made me incredibly uncomfortable. That’s just not what you do, right?

I think we’re still haunted by the ghosts of Puritanism, unable to decipher the line between self-love and egotism. How do we evolve to a point where connections are forged not through co-misery, but through co-celebration? I’m seriously tortured by this, because even just typing a word like co-celebration makes me want to vomit sparkles and fairies, I’ve been so trained to hear that as new-age, woo-woo and disingenuous.

All I know is I don’t want to connect with people over hating myself anymore, and I want all the rich ladies to stop hating themselves, too.

Comments   

#12 Abigail 2011-07-06 01:29
Nice Lynne...Once in college a bunch of us girls were in the bathroom at a party talking about all the parts of ourselves that we hated. I blew up at them and said I was disgusted with their talk...that we were all so beautiful in different ways and I wished I had a camera right now for I would take pictures of all of us naked in our unique beauty. After a moment of stunned silence, my friend Cat piped up that she had a video camera and we then commenced in making the kind of video that most college boys dream of...but true confident happy women actually get to enjoy making.
#11 Heather Yvonne 2011-07-02 00:39
Lynne- this is so true. Reading this makes me realize that I do this even with my oldest closest girlfriends- its not just a tool for small talk! We use it to connect with women and its toxic. I have noticed that with my particular group of girlfriends, we are comfortable celebrating ourselves when it comes to academic and professional achievements but never our physical appearance.
#10 Lulu 2011-07-01 23:38
The image of vomiting sparkles and fairies is hilarious and resonates deeply. Good for you in finding the humor in the self hatred and it's time to change the woo-woo and disengenuous and woo hoo!!! Let's celebrate the dionyssian princesses.
#9 vimspot 2011-06-30 07:39
Great piece Lynne! Guys have the advantage of sports as a neutral, non-destructive fluff conversation opener... Do you feel like complimenting women's clothing (minus the self-deprecatio n) is similar or inherently problematic? Ultimately, real connections are made when you find out what someone else is passionate about that you have greater than or equal to a mild interest in, but in my experience, getting there requires some fluff.
#8 Rachel 2011-06-30 04:16
I am thinking of one of my daughter's friends who, during a middle-school interview, was asked to tell the (male) teacher about herself - and she looked at him & shrugged - and later said to my daughter, "I wouldn't answer that question, he was asking me to brag about myself." Mixed messages for girls, the root of this.
#7 Rachel 2011-06-30 04:15
I think there's another piece of this that somehow - has to do with gender - be it nurture or nature - boys/men seem much more comfortable with competition, and thus one-upmanship - while girls/women tend toward wanting connection - and thus one-downmanship .
#6 Lynne 2011-06-29 01:30
Thanks, guys!
#5 Kelly S. 2011-06-29 01:25
Another great piece, Lynne!
#4 cassandra vallery 2011-06-28 14:39
you're my hero! love this-love you and everything about you.
#3 Laure 2011-06-28 06:38
Great essay! Made me laugh and think. Especially about the impact commiserating has on our daughters, nieces, on young girls in general.
I especially hate vomiting thistle fairies, but I'm going to try co-celebrating more often :0)

Comments have been closed for this piece.

 

restaurant news

Hel's Kitchen: I Itz at Mugaritz
Europe
by Bruce Cormicle

mugaritz.jpgThe 3-star Michelin restaurant Mugaritz (rated 3rd in the Top Fifty Restaurants of the World) is high up in hills of Errenteria, Spain twenty minutes outside of San Sebastian. It is...

Read more...
A Trip to New York and a Culinary Discovery
New York
by David Latt

lattny1.jpgGoing to New York is always a treat.  Like everyone else, I love walking around the city.  A leisurely stroll through Central Park when the flowering trees are in bloom is one of life's great...

Read more...
Little Beast Comes to Eagle Rock
Los Angeles
by Lisa Dinsmore

littlebeastmenuI really needed a night out. Life has been conspiring against us lately, but it could be worse. Tired of being homebound and cooking three meals a day, I was desperate for a a little culinary...

Read more...
Meat at The Butcher Shop - Boston
Boston
by Kitty Kaufman

butcher 3The Butcher Shop is a South End mecca for meat. It's part of Barbara Lynch's restaurant group that takes in B&G Oysters which is right across the street. This is a wine bar and a full-service...

Read more...