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October 28, 2015

SoBo’s Take On Park Avenue’s Elite

Text by Sitanshi Talati-Parikh

What do the elite of Mumbai have in common with those of Manhattan? See if you can spot your neighbourhood sophisticate here….

I expected Wednesday Martin’s book, Primates of Park Avenue, to be a witty tongue-in-cheek treatise on Manhattan’s elite. Her anthropological take on the women in Park Avenue is funny but also deadly serious. Written as a memoir, it serves to shock and unsettle you at once, because you see sneaky comparisons in your own hometown. Your exclusive neighbourhood vixen is less than a distant relative of this evolved species. We pick our favourite moments and find them accurately managing to describe pockets of SoBos’ top-drawer society. From $95,000 a year to acquire the Upper East Side (UES) ‘look’ to shots to numb your feet so you could do a whole night in ‘killer’ heels…some things that will leave you speechless.

Sections: 1. Children | 2. Schools | 3. Fitting In | 4. Looking Good | 5. Marriage 

CHILDREN

1 Children Are Meant To Do Nothing
PARK AVE
“Our children are expected to do next to nothing…they are taken care of and tended to. […] Kids are work, and our lives are arranged around their needs, rather than the reverse. You can feel it every time you make your child’s bed or tidy up in the kitchen after making her a special, kid-friendly meal. Or pay someone else to.”

HERE Indian children are efficient delegators of work to the help.

2 The Child Gives Birth To The Mother
PARK AVE
“UES mothers entered the names of other mothers in their contacts under the names of their children…. We were our children, utterly merged together. […] As my friend author Amy Fusselman wrote, ‘It was as if I had no life or identity before them, as if my children had given birth to me.’”

HERE We often recognise people by their children. Hello so-and-so’s mom!

3 Intensive Mothering
PARK AVE 
“The cult of ‘intensive mothering’, peculiar to the West and specific to the wealthy, was certainly a plague upon the mommies I studied. […] Constant emotional availability, constantly monitoring your kids’ psychological states, endlessly providing activities, and ‘fostering’ your children’s ‘intellectual development’ are all expected of women of means, [Sociologist, Sharon] Hays observes, and failing to nurture them comprehensively, or just letting them be, borders on neglect. […] In this paradigm, motherhood is an anxious, 24/7, depleting, high-stakes duty. […] If your child failed—to score 99.9 percent…it was less a teachable moment, it seemed, and more evidence of your own failure as a parent.”

HERE And mothers define their success by the ‘success’ of their offspring. Which is often equivalent to the number of classes and after-school activities their children are involved in – starting as early as six months.

3 I Need The Nanny!
PARK AVE 
“Nannies and housekeepers and mannies and cleaners and house managers are a privileged mommy’s most important allies. And frequently…they can be her greatest adversaries. And a major source of anxiety. […] The truth is that, while mommies have most of the money, nannies do have power…. […] The chemistry with a nanny, with whom a relationship can be every bit as complex as a marriage, is a wild card, and one of if not the most important determining factor in an UES mommy’s anxiety levels and quality of life.”

HERE The story about the women who prefer to keep the nanny happier than their husbands — and the one who came up with an effective praise for her nanny every day to ensure she knew how much she was valued. Monetarily and in kind. And there is a back-up nanny. Always. One who is paid for redundancy. There is a premium on the ones that are English-speaking, with a passport, and preferably well-travelled; as a holiday is always better when you don’t need to mind the child.

4 Birthdays That Take You Places
PARK AVE 
“When they were invited to something I considered over-the-top—a Yankees game in seats in the first row behind home plate, a party at someone’s Hamptons home complete with pony rides and tightrope walkers—I made sure they understood how lucky they were. I do not want my children to think that all of life was one fantastic first-class experience after another. I did not want to set their expectations high, or deprive them of the ability to find pleasure in simple places and simple things.”

HERE That story where they had flown a Russian circus down for their kid’s birthday, or the one where they flew the kids to Singapore for a birthday. Did you hear about the return gifts? Measly iPads!

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