Friday, January 11, 2013

In which I leave the house, blinking and confused

I went to the fancy Girls premiere party in Manhattan on Wednesday night. My husband works at Entertainment Weekly, so he was invited. I rarely attend media events anymore, but I did in my old life as a magazine editor. In fact, though I live a mere 12 miles west of Manhattan, I hardly ever go into the city.  I am so entrenched in my routine as concierge to two children and three ill-behaved cats, that it's logistically difficult. An evening in Manhattan has come to seem as impossible as a weekend in Paris.

But we, as a couple, have resolved to be more adventurous, and, also, 15 of my Facebook friends encouraged me to go to the party. After a day of indecision, I located a willing yet trustworthy babysitter (not so easy) and got on the train. The screening was at NYU, just a few blocks away from my loved old apartment at One University Place, where I lived for ten years and once thought I would never leave. At dinner a block away, I wondered, what if we hadn't moved? What would our lives have been like? How would our kids have been different?

A tented red carpet was set up in front of the building where three episodes would be shown. Posing in front of the Girls wall were celebrities such as Rosanna Arquette, who will play someone's mother this season, and "celebrities" such as Chrisian Siriano. The wall reminded me of the time at a ym party, where I was editor-in-chief, when paparazzi yelled at me to get off the red carpet at my own event. I can't remember what b-list tv stars they wanted a shot of, but I obeyed, feeling idiotic. Or did that happen at ELLEgirl? It's all a blur.

Anyway, there were a LOT of famous people there. People don't believe me when I say I don't care about seeing stars, but it's absolutely true. I am immune to the excitement. There are very few that would get my attention. Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, the Obamas: that about covers it.

Dalton and I were not seated together. I was sitting next to a guy from The New York Post, so that kind of put a damper on the date-night aspect of the proceedings. The Post writer asked me if I am "a member of the media." To which I answered: "I used to be," though I  am, in theory, a freelance writer. He then informed me that he calls The Good Wife "The Good Wig," because Alicia wear a wig; I guess I am the last to know.

Lena Dunham spoke briefly, and she was very charming in her black strapless jumpsuit and real hair. I had already watched the episodes that they showed, but I liked seeing them again. I am enjoying this season more than last season. I think it is funnier, and while I was a little disturbed by some of last season's content, I am used to it now. I've stopped watching it as a parent terrified about the world her daughter will grow up and live in. So while I definitely watch Downton first, I enjoy Girls. And I admire Lena Dunham's matter-of-fact comfort in her own body, which is the kind of body that most women have. It gives the rest of us reason to believe that we are just fine as is.

Furthermore, I have recovered from the $3.5 million book deal. When I heard about it on NPR while washing dishes, I felt like such a loser that I had to go and sit on the couch. If I ever finish my two not-nearly completed books (highly unlikely), I will not be getting a $3.5 million advance. My husband spotted me brooding and asked, "What's wrong?" I told him. "Is that all?" he said. "You look like a relative has died."

 By the time the screening was over, we had only an hour left before we would have to get home for the sitter, a high school student. We boarded one of the buses HBO was running to the party at Capitale. I felt like a kid at a Bar Mitzvah being ferried from the shul to the catering hall. Capitale is in an old bank on the corner of Bowery and Grand. The building has hugely high vaulted ceilings. I remember another club in a similar building a couple of decades back--the Kingfisher, maybe?

Dalton went to college with Jenni Konner, the executive producer, and she spotted him as we walked away from the bar with our drinks. She was very nice. It turns out that she was a Sassy fan, a compliment I tend to receive with mixed emotions. I feel conspicuous and invisible at the same time.

Before we had to head out, I saw an old friend who was super friendly for two minutes, then vanished once I told him that I am a stay-at-home mom in Montclair (though I am, theoretically, let's not forget, a freelance writer). I didn't really blame him for bailing, because the place was crawling with influential people.

At the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, there was an obnoxious ad for a storage company.  "The suburbs have bigger closets," it said. "Perfect for you to hide your dreams in." I was kind of obsessed with the placement. What was the point? Would it be good for business to insult a customer base you have already lost?

The ad also reminded me of a conversation I had with my therapist as we were buying our house 11 years ago. I was fretting that my life would be conventional, now that I was leaving the city. "That's a fantasy," she said in a sharper voice than she had ever used with me. Your location does not determine who you are.

And so I snapped out of it. I left. But I will tell you this: It wasn't because of the closets. My apartment on University Place had three awesome, big closets, much better than the dinky ones in our 1897 house. 


  1. I'd like to think I was one of the influential people the place was crawling with, but mostly I was just crawling. Enjoyed reading this!

  2. I saw Patti Smith at the movies once!
    I saw you in a restaurant once, and was excited.

    1. I saw Patti Smith twice. One time, I was at a juice bar on Houston Street. She was eating lentil soup. She asked me: "Are lentils a vegetable or a legume?" I said: "I think they are both."

      The girl working at the juice bar then said: "Are you Christina Kelly from Sassy?" At which point I wanted to say, "YES! BUT THAT'S PATTI SMITH, SITTING RIGHT THERE AT THE COUNTER."

  3. I saw Patti Smith once. At a bris. She intently watched the kid strapped to the board and the mohel doing his job, while I sat in a stairwell with the baby's mom, holding her hand as she cried.

    Did you read The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden? Former NYT reporter, Pulitzer nominee, quit work to be with her kids. Guy at a big-macher DC party said to her, "Didn't you used to be Ann Crittenden?"

    It is really hard. I'm in the city and think I'm an idiot because I'm making so much less money than I did a few years ago and the math is so scary, and I would like to think my best writing years are ahead of me but gaaaah. Uh, I forget what point I was trying to make. I think just not being dewy and youthful is hard, if you don't have Patti Smith's career to show for it -- wherever you live, whether or not you have kids.

    You are one of the best writers I know. That is all.

    1. Thank you Marjorie. I will check out the Crittenden book.

  4. You make such great points and observations with every post which always hit a contemplative nerve for me. I truly love your writing.

    I am still in publishing but have moved to the West Coast. Partial exile and living in the burbs is an interesting perspective to view my former life from as well.

  5. I also feel jealous of other people's success, sometimes. But it doesn't help to compare ourselves to other people.

    Love your writing.

  6. Oh, my, Christina! We do have similar backgrounds! I spent the first 9 years of my career at 'TEEN and then wrote a sex column for Seventeen through most of the 80's. I found it disconcerting at times when I would be doing t.v. shows during book tours later on and there would be a very adult producer or host who would say "Oh, I used to read your articles in 'TEEN when I was in junior high!" And I would feel positively geriatric! And I have two books in process for which I will not receive a 3.5 million advance either and fight fits of depression/insecurity and the like. You are not at all alone!!

  7. This was such a great, honest piece. I look forward to your books!

  8. I sometimes feel like a big loser when I think about accomplishments like the creating and writing for the original Sassy magazine. Truly. I know you wrote that you have mixed emotions about it, but... at the time, it opened up a world for me in a very literal way that, if I'm allowed to say so for myself, changed me for the better. While you were feeling like a loser who didn't get a book deal, you were on someone else's list of Permanent Influencers Always To Be Admired. For what it's worth.

    It's all so relative that it makes it very hard to navigate. I enjoyed reading this.

  9. Thank you, Christina. First entry of your blog that I've read and I'm hooked. Can't wait to read more of your work!

  10. Very interesting post. I've never been "anyone", so it's hard to relate to the celebrity v. non-celebrity life. But I have changed from working for someone in an office to working from home for myself. It can be a difficult change, especially when you throw the getting older thing in the mix. Our society has rather sad standards about who is worth attention.
    Incidentally, I'm not celebrity impressed, either. I lived in the O.C. for 5 years. Never saw a celebrity, but I doubt that I would have noticed if I had!
    I look forward to your next post, whenever that may be.

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