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Co-Misery

by Lynne Rosenberg
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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.

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