BiancaThe Glamorous Life
Two weeks ago, somewhere between Tucson, Arizona, and the California border, I freaked the fuck out. I was on the I-10 West in my '93 Volkswagen Cabriolet, which was crammed full of my worldly possessions, when my decision to quit my job as a fashion publicist in New York to take a job as a TV publicist in L.A. suddenly struck me as absolutely insane. I was leaving behind a secure, if annoying, job, my three best friends in the world, and a series of connections from maitre d's to makeup artists who'd made it easy to be fabulous on a relatively low budget. Now I was headed to what was practically a foreign country where I didn't know anyone and nobody knew me, and I was starting to wonder if I'd made a Poor Decision; something up there with marrying Bobby Brown or backing Gigli
Yes, when I first decided to do it, it made perfect sense. I'm twenty-eight years old and my career in fashion had definitely hit a wall of sorts, that wall being my sanity. Everyone in my senior class at Harvard was green with envy because we were all convinced that I was going to be lunching with Karl and Donatella before jetting off to Paris on the Concorde for the spring shows. Please. Babysitting neurotic second-tier designers and delivering unmarked packages to glassy-eyed models is not exactly the best use of an Ivy League education. So, when I met the American Television Network's (yes, ATN, but they're working on becoming a real network instead of a haven for Comicview
rejects) senior vice president of publicity at an after-party for the VH-1/Vogue Fashion Awards, I used my considerable powers of persuasion to convince him to offer me a job as a junior publicist. (Minds out of the gutter, please; I'm talking about the gift of gab, which I've got in spades.)
In any case, after narrowly avoiding crashing the Cabriolet into a cactus, I pulled myself together and made it here in one piece. And now that I'm here, I'm feeling great about my decision, because it was definitely the right thing to do, and almost everything is better out here. I have my own business cards that say "Bianca King, Junior Publicist" (in New York I had to use my boss's card and write my name on the back--tres ghettoir, non
?) and I'm actually getting paid a decent wage (not Dolce & Gabbana good, but definitely Banana Republic good). I'm making more than what I made in New York both on paper and in cost of living, which will hopefully make up for my temporary lack of hook-ups. The job is very fast-paced, but it's exciting and I feel that what I'm doing is actually important. I'm in charge of coordinating details like talent travel, tracking stories about ATN in the press, and even writing those episode descriptions you read in TV Guide
--it's like being published every week! Plus, the hours aren't crazy, so I'll still have time to work on my screenplay (everyone in L.A. has a screenplay--it's the law). Mine's about dating in the year 2040 when women have to BUY their men at a special store. Writing is very therapeutic for me, so why not get paid for working out my issues? As for L.A. itself, I am so home! Being a Southern girl, I never really felt at home in New York in the middle of all the noise, the rudeness, the public transportation, and, frankly, the urine. I'm really more of a riding-in-my-convertible-on-my-way-to-the-mall-on-a-sunny-afternoon-with-no-urine-involved kind of girl, so this is the perfect place for me. Also, the cost of housing in Manhattan? Absurd. There, what I'm now paying for a spacious one bedroom with hardwood floors, a patio, and enough closet space to make Imelda happy would get you your very own cardboard box under the 59th Street Bridge. With two roommates. Also, in NYC, there's no such thing as a gated apartment complex with a pool and a gym; the only thing standing between you and the insane addict rapists is an underpaid, unarmed doorman. So I don't miss New York one bit.
Except for one thing. Well, three things. Three people, rather. I miss Carolyn, Roxanne, and Taylor terribly--I've known them for almost ten years now, we're practically sisters, and I'm not sure what I'm going to do without them. Sure, they're still just a phone call away, but it's not the same. No more hungover Sunday brunches, no more emergency group shopping sessions, no more Urban Prankstering (Girls Behaving Badly
, you are the rankest of the rank amateurs). I'm supposed to go out with whom? I'm getting to know a couple of women out here, but it's clear they aren't going to be adequate replacements. Rachel's sort of sassy, but I can already see her jealousy issues, and Selma's sweet but utterly sass-free. Neither one of those is a good thing when you're hanging out, trying to meet men.
And, oh, God, the L.A. men. Well, that's another thing that's not good. I don't know if I'm getting older or the men are getting dumber or what, but it's ALL WRONG. I've been here for two whole weeks
and I don't have ONE sparkly bauble to show for it, I had to pay for my own dinner at Katana last night, and I haven't even made any boys cry yet! It's definitely time for a new game plan, so I'm going to entertain the advances of all the men who approach me, given that they are attractive. This is a big step for me, but clearly I need a sponsor. I only go first class, and somebody (other than me) needs to bankroll all of it; from the wardrobe expenses to the fact that the Cabriolet simply will not do (I have an appointment at Beverly Hills BMW tomorrow--in L.A. you don't actually have to have any money to purchase a luxury automobile, thank God, but you do have to have an appointment).
In any case, I'm finally abandoning my long-standing rule of only dating men who wear a tie to work. It's just that I absolutely cannot date another Hi-my-name-is-Bradley-and-every-Saturday-morning-I-play-golf-with-every-other-uptight-Hugo-Boss-wearing-ex-Jack-and-Jill-loser-you've-ever-dated-and-would-you-like-to-ride-in-my-Porsche-Boxster-before-a-round-of-unimaginative-sex-during-which-you-will-not-even-come-close-to-having-an-orgasm, especially because those are the ones who see my light skin and light eyes and feel compelled to ask me what I'm "mixed with," which is a no-no. In New York, and especially back home in Houston, it was like dating the same guy over and over again. So, no more playing "Who do you know that I know?" before I will agree to a date. Now my M.O. is whoever's cute. And employed. With no police record. With a car. And doesn't live with his mother. And doesn't punctuate all of his sentences with "Na-I-mean?" So, any cute, literate, gainfully employed man who has his own car, has never been in prison, and resides at least ten miles from his mother is fair game. (I can't change overnight, okay.)
As these grandiose and partially true statements fall effortlessly from my lips, I feel at peace. Did I mention that it's seventy degrees here? In January! I'm home!
"And how did you feel about that?" Dr. Guisewite says after I have finished telling her that last Thursday I set a new world record for being stood up--four ditches in three weeks--and got so drunk that I woke up in my bathtub wearing nothing but a Yankees cap and a pair of vomit-soaked stiletto heels.
"Seriously? Like I'd just won 'American Idol' and the Rose Bowl and been elected prom queen and gotten the key to the city, all at the same time," I say tartly. "I felt grand. Of course I was pissed about the shoes; they were Jimmy Choos and they were new."
"You're using sarcasm as deflector shield," Dr. Guisewite says gently. "This isn't about the shoes. It's about what triggered this drinking episode, being stood up, which caused you a lot of pain, didn't it?" I glare at her. I am in a really bad mood this evening. She sighs and changes tack.
"Let's go back to why you haven't gone out with your friends for the past three weekends," she says. It is my turn to sigh.
"Because they're all gorgeous tiny little size sixes or smaller and I am really tired of being the big fat troll among the pixies--"
"Carolyn, again, you are not fat," Dr. Guisewite interrupts. "You are nearly six feet tall and you vacillate between a fourteen and a sixteen. That isn't fat, not by any stretch of the imagination."
"When men see me standing next to my friends," I continue, ignoring her, "they wonder what's wrong with me that I don't look like that, and that's only on the rare occasions when they aren't too blinded by my friends' beauty to notice me at all. They're running around the party in super-tight low-rise jeans and sexy halter tops and I'm plodding behind them in whatever smock halfway fit, looking like I'm trying not to look for hors d'oeuvres. The short story is, I love hanging out with them, but I hate going out with them because it's just a major self-esteem bulldozing every time. It's got nothing to do with them personally, because they're very supportive and always tell me I look beautiful and there's nothing wrong with me, but--"
"But it doesn't matter if they say it, or if I say it, or if anyone says it, because you don't believe it, so you can't believe that anyone believes it," says Dr. Guisewite. At last count, she has said this 4,581 times over the past six years.
"I just really wish I looked like them," I say softly.
"I still want to talk about why exactly you believe that you are unattractive."
"Dr. Guisewite, my dress size has doubled--doubled
, mind you--since my college graduation. At the rate I'm going they'll have to readjust gravity to accommodate me by the time I'm forty. I don't know how you expect me to feel," I snap.
"Do you consider dress size the only measure of your attractiveness?"
"The rest of the country does, so it doesn't really matter what I think, does it?"
"It matters to me. And it should matter to you."
"What I think is that I'm pretty gross."
"Carolyn, as I've mentioned before, the average American woman wears a size twelve."
"We just discussed the fact that I am not
a size twelve," I say, and clam up, refusing to add that I wish I were because I can afford designer clothes, but very few designers consider women larger than a size twelve worthy of their effort and attention. Instead, I stockpile designer shoes; I do not have fat feet.
"Aside from your negative body image, are you able to recognize that you have many very attractive qualities?"
"I guess," I say sullenly.
"And you do recognize that others find you attractive? Such as Gil Merriweather?"
I have to smile in spite of myself. That would be the infamous Gil "He Got Skills" Merriweather, product of Yale and the Kennedy School of Government, currently Deloitte Touche's go-to young blood in the area of environmental consulting. Gil, who spent all of Monday night talking to me despite the Coping With Being Thin and Pretty support group clustered at the other end of the bar, then asked for my number at the end of the night. And then, crazier and crazier, Gil, who actually called just yesterday.
"I guess. I mean, I don't know. We're supposed to be going out on Friday," I say, stifling the urge to cross my fingers. Dr. Guisewite nods.
"Do you have any expectations for this date, Carolyn?"
Right. I expect Gil to open the door and I expect his eyes to light up when he sees how incredible I look. I expect to be coy and witty and erudite and bewitching and maddeningly aloof and desirable all at once, and I expect Gil to fall in love with me over the course of the evening and then beg me to let him take me to bed, where I expect no less than four mind-blowing orgasms. I expect a fabulous and intimate summer in the Hamptons, followed by an emerald-cut grade D solitaire, an announcement in the Times
, numerous fittings at Vera Wang, a wedding at Westminster Abbey performed by the pope, reception entertainment by Beyonce and Aerosmith, and transportation on Air Force One to a honeymoon on a private island named after me.
"Oh, you know. Nothing too insane. I'd just like to have a nice time, see where it goes, take it easy, not rush things." I shrug.
The good doctor nods and makes a note on her pad, and I suspect that she is not fooled, but she moves on to another topic anyway. I sometimes feel bad for her; having me as her last appointment on Wednesday evenings is probably a bit exhausting sometimes.
Dr. Guisewite is saying something about the effect of my rotten self-image on my social interactions when I tune back in. I nod, although I have no idea what she said. She looks at the clock.
"I'll see you next week," she says. I hand her a check for $175 and let myself out.
Today is the light-year anniversary of my nervous breakdown. I lean against the wall of the elevator and actually permit myself to think about those very bad times, which is something I almost never do. I was an extremely high-strung child, particularly from an academic viewpoint. In part, this is because academe has always been taken very seriously in my family: My parents met at Harvard while my mother was getting her Ph.D. in history and my father was completing his master's degree in architecture at the GSD; my father's father had a Ph.D. in Classics from Yale, my mother's father got his M.D. from Penn, and on it goes. So there was always external pressure to do extremely well in school, but it paled in comparison to the amount of pressure I put on myself; from the third grade on, any grade below an A- drove me to ecstasies of self-flagellation. As one might imagine, the problem intensified when I reached Harvard, a place considered by many to be home to the best of the best; I, Carolyn Ware Phillips, was hell-bent on being the best of the best of the best.
Right up until the breakdown, my concentration was Economics, and I hated every single second of it. I had chosen it because it was hard-core, and I was not interested in being the best of the best of the best in some pussy concentration like English, and English was obviously a pussy concentration because I loved it, loved it just as much as I hated Econ and was really good at it, whereas I was really struggling with econ.
Excerpted from FAB by Kieran Batts Morrow, Tiffany Anderson, Adrienne Carter, Tracy Richelle High. Copyright © 2005 by Kieran Batts Morrow. Excerpted by permission of Broadway Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.