The Jitney will take you from 86th and Lexington to Southampton for the cost of $30 one way or $53 round trip. The tagline for the bus is “Ride the Legend.” It’s probably the most pristine bus you will ever take in New York. If you see any trash on the floor, it’s likely to be an accidentally dropped tube of L’Occitane hand cream. You can also easily take the train or drive out with friends, but I like the Jitney. I like the complimentary muffins. I like the people: matching blonde mother and daughter combos with matching powdered packages of Crystal Light to dissolve into their Evians, a Polo’d and pajama-panted college couple with LSAT books, a Dad in Oakley Frogskins who’ll tell you he bought them because he saw Danny Devito wearing them and thought he looked really cool. I like the ride for the time it affords me to fantasize about my weekend; what it will be and what it won’t be.
My first summer in New York, the assistants I interned for at a magazine would jock the coolest swimsuits from the fashion closet and check out early on summer Fridays to head to “The Hamps.” I imagined it as a place where they were all vying for the attention of men in whale belts, crip walking through the sand dunes to Usher’s “Yeah!” I knew it wasn’t my scene. It never would be. “People judge you out there if you don’t have the right towel. You can’t sit on the beach if it’s not Hermès,” a city friend said, adding, “And a turkey sandwich costs like $14.” It sounded horrible, yet fascinating.
That summer I enjoyed exploring the empty city on weekends anyway. It’s not that I avoided going to the Hamptons as much as nothing ever really called me to visit. But, since then, friends and work have brought me out a number of times, and so I was able to indulge in my curiosity of the place.
The Hamptons might be the most lovely place to feel dissociated. Upon my initial arrival, I had underestimated its natural beauty. The epic gardens and sunsets are something worth getting away for. But I don’t feel like I’m actually having conversations with people when I’m there. I’m fine with my friends, people I know from the city and already have a rapport with. But if it’s someone new, I just fade in and out. At house parties, I simply tune in at key proper nouns and hooks: “And then I woke up in a prison cell, in my Hugo Boss suit, and had no idea how I got there,” or “You know, I just got out of a relationship with a well-endowed anorexic,” or “That reminds me of the time Osama bin Laden’s son challenged me to a game of squash.” I’ll watch a pair of blonde Labradors snatch a wheel of brie from the table on the patio. Even dog smiles out there look WASPy.
One idyllic afternoon particularly stood out to me. I was sailing on a boat for a small gathering. The Travie McCoy ft. Bruno Mars song came on, the one that goes “I want to be a billionaire so freakin’ bad.” The next line is about how he wants to be on the cover of a magazine, and I looked at the man on the boat with the same last name of the magazine’s title. I wanted to see if, by his body language or facial expression, I could understand what it could be like to hear your name referenced in pop culture. But he was blank.
His friend, whom one of the characters in The Rules of Attraction is based on, changed the radio to a different song before it could finish. I wasn’t sure if it was because he didn’t like the song or because of the reference. I don’t like the song, and I really hate the word “freakin’” but I felt sad to be in such a blissful setting, hearing this song desire an association to it. I felt relaxed but also like I wasn’t supposed to be there.
Later, I listened to a group of girls try to outdo each other with drug stories from Bonnaroo. A week after they were written up as the next “It Girls.” If I ever wondered how those lists happened before, I realized then it’s by being an attractive young girl in your twenties and talking loudly about your drug use with your friends.
On the way back from the visit, a middle aged gay man took an interest in talking to me while we waited for the bus. I think he had just had his heart broken.
“What ever happened to decent people?” he asked me, as if I knew the answer. He continued on a tirade. He explained how men dated cater-waiters because they could sneak them into parties to meet C-list celebrities. Why they went for these waiters instead of him, a disease-free man who owned his own West Village apartment – he couldn’t get it. He complained about the uneducated women all the straight men married: “They go for the three B’s: bitchy, bulimic and blonde – just like their mothers.”
For some reason, strangers often open up to me. I don’t really have advice – I just try to make them feel like they’re in the right. The night before, I consoled a woman in the ladies room at Surf Lodge who’d been hurt by a group of guys calling her a “cougar.” The romantic torture doesn’t stop out there.
I think if people feel undervalued or can’t see any future, it’s hard to be a caring person to anyone else, even if they have a lot of surface charm. The Hamptons are very pretty, but I have never expected it to be decent.