This week saw me doing something I don't do well and enduring it twice: hosting parties. The first one was a book launch at home for a close friend of the last 30 years. My friend is Laurie Burrows Grad, a prolific cookbook author and now explainer of widowdom: https://www.amazon.com/Jokes-Over-You-Come-Back/dp/1981137866/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528413372&sr=8-1&keywords=laurie+burrows+grad.
The second event was a memorial for my dear friend, the pioneering literary journalist Lillian Ross, who died last September at age 99. (https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/sep/21/lillian-ross-obituary)
Entertaining at home means extreme decluttering -- Kondoing the condo as it were, and throwing out the unread newspaper sections I had been holding onto for a bit. But that's not all. I sorted all my receipts into folders according to which card I used. I tossed out two large garbage bags' worth of stuff that I had no use for, I gave away clothes to a several friends whose styles and sizes overlap with mine. And then I found an old-fashioned accordion file containing the original copyedited manuscript of The Official Preppy Handbook.
Let me talk about that.
1) My handwriting hasn't changed since 1980. It's funny to see some notes from then that I could have written now; 1980 was a LONG TIME AGO. What is even more fascinating is that the voice of the Preppy Handbook was total authority. Yet I was a child of 21. My confidence ("We never wear...." "We always say...") of then.... 1980.... has eroded. For one thing, my wily exhibits (TM) have negotiated all certainty out of me. For another, I think more before I speak or write, which can be a hindrance to those fine imperatives.
2) Almost not a day goes by without someone telling me how much The Preppy Handbook meant to them. I almost don't take that in properly any longer. Yesterday at Lillian Ross' memorial, two talented writers separately pulled me aside and mentioned that when they first read it (one was in middle school; the other was in second grade) it had clarified their thinking and given them purpose. This is always flattering to hear. I am very pleased and honored by everyone's positive memories and feelings about it. But as the book was published almost 38 years ago, it sometimes it feels as if they are talking about me in the past tense. I still write. I still have (a hefty portion of) a brain.
3) It is clear that this book is my headline -- no matter what else I do or accomplish, excepting marrying into the Kardashians or possibly co-writing Melania's eventual tell-all. I expect my obituary headline to begin with the words "Preppy Girl". Again, I'm not complaining; The Official Preppy Handbook is but one part of me. When I was on my tour for True Prep (2010) I was asked repeatedly what I did in those 30 pointless years in between books. I always answered in earnest-- 20 other books, marriage, three children, divorce, screenplays, tv shows, radio work, non-profit volunteer work, etc. and in the process I usually watched my interlocuter fight sleep. If I answered, "I was in a coma," or "I was in rehab," "witness protection program" I'd see a real spark of interest. Life is not always dramatic or exciting or even understandable. Often we just accumulate gestures and actions and routines and fold our sweaters, and straighten the picture frames on our side tables and refill our water glasses, and read before bed.
4.) In 1980, most of the world had no idea what a preppy was. I had to explain the concept all the time. In America. On the West Coast I sometimes panicked, as they didn't see a lot of wide-wale corduroy pants with lobsters embroidered on them. How was I ever going to make myself understood? I was frequently asked, "Where did you find people who look like that in those kinds of clothes?" Oh, you mean my family and friends wearing their own stuff? By 2010, almost no one asked me to define preppiness. They had figured it out by then, owned multiple pairs of Top-Siders, khakis, and polo shirts. And the look had traveled. It was the default way to dress all over the world. Wow. The embroidered cords still are most prevalent on the east coast, however.
5) You know who's a preppy? One of the best. Robert S. Mueller, III, St. Paul's School '62.
Here the alumnus is back on campus in 2004, eating on trays with students, while Director of the FBI.
I will be away and offline over the next ten days on vacation, so this will have to be it for us until Friday, June 22.
Until then, I'll be wearing natural fibers.