The sorrow of the single socialites


Two bored rich girls are sitting on crimson cushions under moonlight on a beach in Southampton on Long Island.

Two bored rich girls are sitting on crimson cushions under moonlight on a beach in Southampton on Long Island. The lobster dinner served on the long, low table has been delectable and white-shirted waiters of outstanding beauty discreetly approach from behind to refill the girls' wine glasses.

"It's hopeless," sighs one, dressed in a cotton smock that looks more Mykonos than the Hamptons. "My God, I thought that in my building at least there would be someone. But they are either all shits or married or, worse, they're gay. I mean, for Christ's sake, what are we meant to do?"

Her prettier friend is all sympathy. "There are no men in Manhattan, period. Apparently they are all in Brooklyn these days. Brooklyn! I tried to go out in Brooklyn a few weeks ago but I rang up Daddy's pool for a car and there weren't any left. So that was messed up." A plate of strawberries and cherries arrive and they pick at them mournfully. The man next to them is astonished but hides it.

He might suggest they try flashing a thigh to the waiters, surely out of work models imported from the city. It is possible they might be gay, but surely not all of them. But it is better that he keeps silent, because he is not meant not be there in the first place. Even his presence in the Hamptons is a bit of a mistake. If he is honest, he is an anti-Hamptons guy, more at home camping in the Catskills than parading here.

The Hamptons is that scattering of over-manicured and overpriced towns and villages at the far end of Long Island that has been the playground of the well-heeled and seriously spoiled of Manhattan for decades. And all the famous people know that at least an appearance here in the summer season is obligatory. Affleck, Diddy, Spielberg. Actors, models, rock stars, wannabes. They all come.

Apparently what they do here is attend parties like this one. Or go to charity galas so they can feign an interest in the cause du jour. The really pretentious spend their weekends at polo matches as if polo was a sport more important to them than baseball. In the morning they drink mimosas and turn to the gossip columns in the local glossy magazines to find photographs of themselves looking vaguely tipsy.

Then there are people like this interloper. He is grateful for the loan for one weekend of a house near the beach. There is no denying that there is a certain beauty about the place. The topography is as flat as the Mykonos blouse, but there is a sense of bucolic calm, so long as you keep clear of the Hummer-clogged main roads. And though modest the house is nice, sitting on the edge of a farm that used to cultivate potatoes. Today it grows privet for the hedges that surround the mansions to keep people like the interloper from looking in.

Tonight, he really pulls it off. He wanders onto the beach at dusk, made curious by the jam of Ferraris and Porsches he sees parking there. And there is the party, full of Ralph-Lauren-uniformed swells. What is he to lose by gate-crashing?

In spite of himself, he is momentarily impressed by the guests he spies. Chris Heinz, the stepson of the Democrat running for the White House, Matt Lauer, the heart-throb co-anchor of the Today Show on NBC, Chris O'Donnell and Isaac Mizrahi.

Come 11 o'clock he sees the party is thinning. What kind of deal is this, when a reggae band is playing live and dancing on the sand seems like an inviting idea? But the well-heeled aren't in the mood. And the girls are too busy sulking to have a good time. And there is the slightly tricky potty situation. He can wander in the dunes for a wee, but the ladies here can hardly lift their skirts in the surf.

It occurs to him that before leaving he ought to find out, at least, who the host has been. "Not a clue," says one man, a broad smile breaking across his over-tanned face.

Turns out it was a birthday party for someone by the name of Linda Wells. The interloper is grateful to Ms Wells, whose job is editor-in-chief of a beauty magazine called Allure. Her little fiesta gave him an inside, vicarious glimpse of the snooty scene that is the Hamptons, populated by the hyper-privileged of New York. Privileged in weekend pleasures, that is, but, apparently, not so privileged in sex.

When doctors give you a headache

The presidential candidates are making promises about this country's healthcare system. But even the name is a joke. It's more a "let's take care of the doctors and the pharmaceutical industry" system.

This is what happens when you go to your doctor here and complain of a headache and fever, as my partner did three weeks ago. "Hmm," they say, "sounds like sinusitis." They give you a prescription for antibiotics that cost $100 and then charge you $150 for the 10 minutes you have been in their office. Oh, and I almost forgot, the doctor also draws some blood to send off to a laboratory for tests. Tests for what?

Tests to see how much money the laboratory can rob from you. We just got the bill. Three bills actually, for $84, $366 and $80.

From what I can tell, 12 different types of tests were performed. The acronyms give no clue as to what they were for. And, for that money, would the doctor's office at least give you a call and tell you the results? Like to tell you that you are healthy. Or that you are not. Of course they wouldn't.

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