I always say that my dream job would be either a well-respected traveling concert pianist. But that’s a dream job for a reason: I can play the piano perfectly well, but I am no prodigy.
Rather, I’ve recently decided I would rather have a career wherein I am described as “famously reclusive.” For example, “The famously reclusive writer Kara Nesvig made a rare appearance at (some gala name).”
There are tons of famously reclusive celebrities, like David Lynch and Rick Rubin and even Lauryn Hill. It’s the third thing that comes up when you Google “Famously reclusive,” which I just did. Garbo and Salinger are perhaps the most famous recluses of all; Garbo just got tired of being famous in the early ‘40s and moved to New York, where she made great efforts to be seen publicly as little as possible. That’s like the most glamorous thing I’ve ever heard. She made herself a legend.
My favorite recluse du jour is Eve Babitz, who was this super-cool bright young thing of ‘60s and ‘70s California. There’s a famous picture of her playing chess naked against Marcel Duchamp. I mean, really? Is this real life? She was a writer primarily, but also an artist who made album covers for people like Linda Rondstadt. And she had torrid affairs with Harrison Ford and Steve Martin, among others. But then Eve was badly burned in a fire and became really reclusive after that; she still does interviews every once in awhile and I read them all because I frequently Google her, but she hasn’t been seen in the circles she used to frequent. Sadly, most of her work is out of print, too.
I have not been badly burned; in fact, I am quite pretty and charming in social gatherings. I enjoy being out and about once I’m there, but I always get the itch to leave about an hour or two in, no matter how fun the event. When I was younger, I wanted to be out socializing every night. Things have changed. I tapped into my introverted side hard. My friends probably roll their eyes at me begging off of block parties and birthday bar crawls, but the truth is I just have no interest in leaving my home 75% of the time, and especially at night.
I don’t consider this anxiety. Don’t be trying to diagnose me, please. I’m not at all anxious about attending events; sometimes I really enjoy getting ready to go out, dolling up and getting excited. I do like people and enjoy their company, but I enjoy it more on my own terms. It’s just that wherever I end up, I always want to be somewhere else. And that somewhere else is usually my home.
I filled my house up with pretty things, so why wouldn’t I want to be around them? My books, my perfumes, my clothes: if I’m not careful, these will be my only friends. I think it would be awfully romantic and glamorous to be one of those reclusive socialites, though; I don’t mean living in squalor like “Grey Gardens,” but rather like Huguette Clark, this heiress I’ve been fascinated by all summer. When she died at 104, she left a $300 million fortune and several homes, most of which had not been touched in decades. Huguette spent her last 20 years in a hospital, not because she was sick but because she felt protected there, even though her homes were full of priceless treasures and works of art. She gave away mass amounts of her fortune to her nurse, the hospital and dollmakers in France, writing checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars with complete abandon. If you’re down with recluses like me, read “Empty Mansions,” about Huguette, her father and her fortune. It’s insane. Doris Duke is another reclusive heiress; it delights me that there are several stories like this I can sink my teeth into.
I always thought I wanted to be a socialite … it just seems that I might end up less Paris Hilton or Amanda Hearst and more Huguette Clark. I, like Garbo, just want to be alone.