Why Are You a Citiot?
Bring out the traffic control officers, open up Tory Burch, Hermès, and Coach – we’re only a few days away from Memorial Day weekend in East Hampton. Per tradition, the high school marching band will parade down Main Street, honoring our troops and trumpeting the arrival of the Citiots. Its instrumentalists’ parents will finish trimming the last bush and sweeping the final crystal vase in the south-of-the-highway mansions, awakening from hibernation.
But why, you the owner of one of these exclusive Hamptons properties, why are you a Citiot? After all, you own a home here, you pay taxes here, you eat and shop here. So why do you always hear locals call you a Citiot? Sure, some of your fellow Manhattanites’ BMWs have been publicized on the Hamptons Idiot Spotter Facebook page for a somewhat atrocious parking job, but you haven’t. You’ve been a perfectly respectable citizen.
Every morning, you wake up at the crack of dawn, go for a run on the beach with your dog, maybe drop your kids off at camp, and get your full workout at SoulCycle. You then cruse down Main Street in your Porsche SUV and get your organic groceries at Citerella Gourmet Market. After lunch, it’s shopping time. Calypso St. Barth, Elie Tahari, and Ralph Lauren bags in hand, you go home after a successful de-stresser. After that however, it’s meetings to schedule and people to call for your short trip back into The City during the week. At 6, an evening at a white party on Further Lane to raise money for arts programs in disadvantaged schools. Your night finishes with an elegant dinner at The 1770 House, and maybe even a dance at that new bar in Montauk.
This is why you are a Citiot. You come out to East Hampton for “The Hamptons experience”, not for East Hampton. When Labor Day comes around, and you pack up your stuff to go back to Manhattan, all of “The Hamptons” goes with you. The stores on Main Street close until the following summer, there are no soirées, and non-stop-party Montauk turns into a ghost town. You do not come for its people, you do not come for its rich history and biodiversity, you do not come for East Hampton. Instead, you create and come for the mirage of The Hamptons.
When you leave however, there exists a whole other side to this mirage, a more grim reality. When you leave, the town shuts down.
Those fourteen-year-old kids who served you hot dogs on the beach and the eighteen-year-old who either gave you a parking ticket or saved you from drowning in the ocean all go back to high school. A high school where the suicide rate has gone down, but where the use of drugs is higher than ever. A high school with incredible staff and facilities, but where too many students are on free or reduced lunch.
Your landscaper? He’s a dad. Not just any dad, he’s my friend’s dad. She’s the one who sold you your copy of “Hard Choices” at BookHampton that Hillary Clinton herself autographed just after. Her younger sister sold you your new swimsuit, and their mother, cleans your house. They are all thriving and happy. But when you leave, so do their jobs.
The period from Memorial Day to Labor Day is “the season”. The rest is just seasonal poverty. As is reflected by the data gathered over the last seven years, the number of families served by the East Hampton Food Pantry doubles during the off season. There is a perfect oscillating trend, as families become less dependent in the summer, and more dependent in the winter.
Now, Citiot, don’t feel bad. There’s no blame here. I’m just stating facts. You’re not in town year round, so of course there’s no way you could be aware of the situation. But that’s where the problem lies. You love getting that Hamptons experience, but what about East Hampton? Do you love our town? Do you love our people? East Hampton in the winter is as much if not more picturesque than it is in the saummer. There’s a part of a trail walk through the “Walking Dunes” that looks like a giant sand half pipe. When the snow falls and freezes over a bit, you can go for a thrill ride, sliding down full speed ahead. At the bottom, you brush off the snow and rise slowly in awe at the strokes of red, orange, yellow, purple, blue, and black that paint the afternoon sky.
Sliding down a dune may not be your idea of a winter weekend, but Guild Hall is always open. Dance troupes, jazz bands, and comedians perform there routinely, with new exhibitions every few weeks. In the off season, crowds are so small you won’t need to wait a week to get a reservation at Bobby Van’s or Page; you can even get your favorite table. And sure Sam Edelman and Coach are closed, but Elie Tahari and Ralph Lauren stay open.
I’m not saying you should move in fulltime; in fact there’s no reason to, that would take away from the charm and excitement that is The Hamptons. All I am saying is that you come out to an amazing community every summer, with so much to offer. And, even if it’s just part time, you are a resident, are you not? So why not get to know your town more personally? The high schools put on professional level concerts. Skip Broadway for once and support the local arts program. The local food pantry, Maureen’s Haven homeless outreach, and The Retreat save lives every day. Organize a charity gala in their name and get to see the fruits of your efforts in front of your very eyes.
You may be a Citiot now, but look around, take care of your community, and you won’t have to be.