Postcard from New York
Sunday 20 September 1998
A little bit of self-indulgence is fine for a few days, but this mustn't be allowed to continue. Picture two trajectories for my life: in one, I am entering what we might call "early middle age" with a great body, perfect teeth and the tanned, healthy good looks of a man in a Polo Ralph Lauren ad, with a golden retriever or two sitting beside me in my E-type Jag. In the other, I'm a pale, paunchy poof with no hair and rotten teeth, no dogs, no Jag, no chance.
But the biggest resolution I'm breaking right now is that I'm indulging in Englishness - delicious, gorgeous, fabulous moments of Englishness. When I moved here in January, I decided the only proper course was to immerse myself in American culture without a single glance back towards Old Blighty.
I read the New York Times and the New Yorker, I watched the TV, I even read a life of George Washington. I avoided everything English - anything that could make me homesick. Who knows, maybe in those first few weeks just a few seconds of the World Service, say, or a glance at Loaded, could have had me crying into my pillow. Not likely, perhaps, but not worth the risk.
But six months into my stay here, I feel safe enough to read Hello! magazine, and I'm loving it. What a wonderful magazine it is - over the years its vacuousness has taken on an almost heroic quality. Where else will I get a weekly fix of Peter Phillips looking as cute as Action Man or his lovely, bubbly Zara with her winning pierced tongue? Where else can I check out Andrew Parker Bowles at a polo match, and delight in some footballer's taste in girlfriends?
And while the Clinton presidency dissolves into a series of ridiculous dirty stories, and the American nation - gay men excluded - is shocked that after three sexual encounters with Bill she reintroduced herself, just in case he didn't remember who she was; while this goes on, my cable TV service is on the blink and it's sheer bliss to be missing it.
Instead there's Hello! Or Harold Acton's recollections of Nancy Mitford, three Georgette Heyer stories of Regency bucks, Auberon Waugh's biography, the Sun and Lytton Strachey. Best of all, I have a darling English friend over and we spent three hours last night sitting outside a restaurant on Christopher Street, drinking red and bitching about the failed drag queens walking past.
If the English excel at anything, it's drinking and bitching. It's dawning on me that maybe these kind of skills make me what I am, that a few imperfections might, in business terms, almost be my Unique Selling Point. Perhaps it's what America expects of me. In which case I don't intend to disappoint.
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