The Hamptons, being 50 and Hillary Clinton
‘The Hamptons’ has been an important part of mine and my family’s life, for the past 7 years, even more so, now that my husband has helped to create a thriving restaurant here. [The one with the tank parked outside] Those who are from these ‘parts’ clearly take this phrase in their stride, but I, and at this point, I should expose myself as one of those pesky Brits, still find myself marveling at my good fortune to get to know somewhere that offers up such natural beauty throughout the seasons blended with good taste and sophistication. If Christy Turlington were a place, she’d be ‘The Hamptons’. There is no equivalent in the UK. We are sun-starved Brits and we don’t do sophisticated places by ‘the sea’ as we call the ocean. In the UK, despite the fact that we are an island surrounded by water, it’s all risqué post cards, terrible food, which largely consist of fried fish and chips, Victoriana piers with ‘amusement arcades’, road upon road of bed and breakfast places to stay, kiss-me quick hats and shivering beach experiences. Not Christy at all, more Rebel Wilson. OK, I’m exaggerating a tinsy bit, but really, lets establish this, without a doubt, there is no place like the Hamptons in the UK or the world, its unique.
I’ve been here for all the major holidays and seasons, each one has its beauty. I love the smell of wood smoke and leaves in the air in the fall. I have two photographs taken one day apart in spring this year, one showing a fully covered snowy garden with obligatory deer, the other, a bright blue sunny snow-vanished scene. The first time I was here in the summer, I was in crisis. I was about to celebrate my 50th birthday. No amount of fireflies at night, that wonderful tropical feeling and the Friday night bonfires on main beach could take away my dread. I was in serious denial, and I certainly didn’t want any big party. My best friend came over from London to bring me quickly into the acceptance phase. She advised me to have a nice hair-cut and color and to visit somebody for a little ‘non- invasive’ face help. She said it was time I took the plunge, and it was all about how I feel about how I look, not how I think others are seeing me. She’s a bit of a maven on these matters, so I did as I was told. The hair came first, I located the hairdresser in the bowels of the Rockerfeller center, I was very hopeful. I’ve been told that I have quite nice hair, it’s thick and blonde. A lovely lady who didn’t speak very much English [alarm bells] set to work. I asked her not to make it too short, because, amongst other things, it makes my face look fat.
Horrors! She quickly chopped too much off into a kind of box shape. She asked me if I liked it, I could feel a rising panic, I didn’t know how to describe what was needed to put it right, so I blurted out that it needed to look more youthful, softer, less middle aged…there, I said the dreaded M word. She did her best, I walked out rather dazed and found myself on Madison feeling depressed and regretful. I didn’t notice a man sidle up to me as we waited to cross, but I heard his words. ’You look a lot like Hillary’. I looked around for someone, not me! The haircut had clearly taken its toll. It wasn’t just about how I felt, after all. I should explain, Hillary is a handsome woman, and they are sprucing her up very nicely for the big job at the moment, but she’s at least 12 years older than me. Memories came flooding back to a beach in Italy when a young man, in a pair of very tight powder blue speedos, had tried to talk to me by breaking the ice with exactly the same phrase in a heavy Italian accent. I was jolted back to reality. ‘Round the eyes, that’s it’ he said, not giving up on his quarry. I ignored him again. It seemed to me that the lights were taking an interminable amount of time to change. I snapped. I said, ‘Have you ever considered that it might not be the most flattering thing that you could say to a woman’. Ha! I thought, take that!
‘Take it lady’ he said and with that he disappeared across the road. I was crushed. After a strong coffee, I went like a lamb to the slaughter, for my next shot at looking younger, the dermatologist beckoned. I sat in the chair, confused at the possibilities to tighten, erase and ‘enhance’ my face. The only thing it wasn’t going to enhance was my bank account. When he asked what I wanted, I blurted out ‘not to look like Hillary’. I even told him the story. He didn’t comment. He too? We settled on some Botox and filler. I was petrified as he started work, and I swear that his hand was shaking. I came away and within hours I had 2 huge purple bruises either side of my face that no amount of camouflage would hide. I went home, ruefully regretting my upper-east side foray. As the make-up wore off, my son asked me what I’d done…I said the phone had hit me in the face. Even at 7, he knew that explanation was at best rather odd. Three days later, one eyebrow was visibly higher, giving me a quizzical air, and my eyelid dragged in a strange manner. You might think that this was the worst. It wasn’t. That came a week later. I hailed a taxi, the driver said ‘I thought you were Hillary Clinton for a moment, has anyone ever told you? I ignored his question and muttered something about how I don’t think she’d be getting in cabs without a swarm of secret service around her! I realized that I was beginning to collude with ‘them’
I was battered and bruised, and I fled NYC with its Hillary spotters to the gorgeous Hamptons to ‘endure’ my birthday. Within a day of stepping off the Jitney, I had experienced a deep, peaceful sleep [why is it that I sleep so well here?] and miraculously, those bruises were vanishing, and my hair had settled into something not quite so bad if I paid attention to drying it. My hair likes the water in the Hamptons, a not inconsequential consideration when a woman is choosing somewhere to live. Besides, my BFF always said that the difference between a bad and a good hair cut is 2 weeks. My mood was becoming more upbeat, the memory of my Hilllary incidents were receding and I started to recall that occasionally, over the years, people had told me that I looked like Meg Ryan, pre her enhancements, or Greta Scacchi [with her clothes on of course] or Olivia Newton John, who incidentally is also older than me, but somehow…no, let’s not go there, Mrs Pre-President, anyway…I was not going to be defined by the Hillary description. As Nora Ephron advised, I was going to be the heroine of my 50th birthday, not the victim. The Hamptons had restored my balance and perspective, it has that ability to make me feel that all’s well with the world.
The dreaded day dawned. Surprisingly, it felt fine. I was healthy and happy, surrounded by the people I loved and who loved me most in the world. We had planned a picnic on the beach, it was a very misty, foggy summer day, when we got onto Georgica beach you couldn’t see in front of you, the mist rolled off the sea, creating a surreal atmosphere. There were hardly any other people there. My husband was in charge of food, a professional chef, who rarely cooks at home, so this was a special treat. We filled our glasses with pink champagne and ate the gorgeous lobster rolls, [they were in toasted brioche with just the right amount of mayo…clean tasting, that’s how I like my lobster roll] and we toasted my big day. There I sat, chatting to my best friend in the world, drinking my champagne, eating, watching my son [a much adored, late, beautiful child] and husband play soccer in a swirling humid mist, in matching shorts, honestly, they were a present, I’m not owning up to putting them in them, but, they looked so good on that beach! and I felt so happy and blessed at 50. Thank you ‘Hamptons’, you created a lovely memory and made me truly appreciate my blessings. My friend leaned over, kissed my cheek, wished me happy birthday and said…’ darling, you look great, Hillary apart, you look great’!!!