24 May 2010

How to Tell The A List from The A Train.

"You NEVER say "private jet"!" My friend C. rolled her huge green eyes.

I was being a smartass, almost never a very good plan.

"Never? Even if someone asks what P-R-I-V-A-T-E J-E-T spells?" I asked. Sometimes I like to wind her up by being a Stroppy Cow. -But not very often.

She blew out Gauloise smoke impatiently. I remembered,privately,that she was born in the Chinese Year of Dragon,so smoke from her nostrils was both Chinesely appropriate AND a warning sign. I also decided not to mention to her, that I'd thought this.

"No! You say, at most, something about "landing at Teterboro." Or...let me see...I heard someone do this AMAZING thing,where she complained that her ride home from France was SO turbulent that next time she was flying commercial." She swiveled her chair back to the computer to catch up on emails. Problem solved.

I LOVE this stuff. I love mastery in ANY subject,and my friend has mastery in a few: but one of the things she's kind of genius at is How To Act And Talk Like An A-Lister, or as my russian pal Anya always put it, a "TopTop". -(When asked about this coinage, Anya blthely explained that when she first came here from Moscow,she'd heard people say "He's a top,top [designer, curator, fill in blank here]" and thought that was the actual word for those people.)

My friend C is not very patient, does not suffer those she deems fools gladly-or at all--but DAMN, that girl knows her stuff. So I listen. And learn. The thing is? It works.

I am not a natural A Lister. I am a talker; also? A blurter. And  I can't lie now that I've figured out I truly suck at it (my "tells include: breaking out in hives, blushing vermilion, and having my voice go up so many octaves I sound like a BeeGee); and my idea of a social grace is that: I didn't hit you. I dream of being the woman about whom people whisper, "She's fluent in French,Mandarin,Portugues and Swahili,", but the fact is, when I do speak French in France, French people laugh and laugh. And then answer me in English. (They do this rather kindly. I think, for them, it was like watching a duck try and explain particle physics:not very good, but I did get points for "effort".) In Cannes last week I'm pretty sure I told a nice woman,in French, that she was a species of eggplant. I meant it as a compliment,is the awful thing.

Some other non-A-list qualities have included talking too much; name dropping (out of exuberance and disbelief, but, hey,it's still pretty lame); the ability to trip over dust motes as I'm trying to glide elegantly across a room and instead wind up doing do a faceplant in the hummus dip; and an insane insistence on doing my makeup in the cab without a mirror,guaranteeing I arrive looking like a five year  old girl who REALLY wants to be Diana Vreeland.

Two years ago, I saw the handsomest and most amazing man (ever) (truly!) (hot, brilliant, funny, honest, loyal, kind, faithful, utterly trustworthy and a beautiful, noble soul)- across a crowded room, and fell ass-over-teakettle in love with him. Because miracles actually DO occur, he reciprocated the feeling. and we wound up talking till 2, and then calling each other and talking on the phone till dawn. And now, God willin' and the creek don't rise, we're engaged.  There's "lucky" and there's : "luckier than any woman has ever been", also known as: "being engaged to John Buffalo Mailer". Honestly, it's like winning the spiritual lottery ...only much, MUCH better. -Anyway:
Because my fella's mom is a charismatic Southern born beauty, and his genius Dad had friends from every walk of life (boxing promoters, A list movie stars, former Army buddies), my guy is that rarest of creatures, a natural gentleman. He is the same guy all the time, whether at a glittery Peggy Siegal hoedown or in our kitchen, having beer with our neighbors and helping me fry chicken. So he's taught me a lot of social graces (don't spit on the floor, don't ask "what do YOU do" but instead "how do you spend your time?", don't hit no one almost ever) , but his politeness is not just politesse: he genuinely likes people and is really interested in them. Which,as it turns out, seems to be the Big Secret. Because, after I informed the nice lady in France that she was a garden vegetable, I ALSO asked if she had photos of her kids, and I really meant it because I really like people's photos of their families. So she warmed up, and we wound up having a really nice time, and she forgave me for suggesting she should probably be breaded and covered with marinara sauce and cheese, and it all wound up great.

I love my friend C--the one from the opening paragraph--and, awestruck, admire her social acumen, all of which I've listened to and all of which has worked. And, although her manner of teaching is a little more abrupt than my fiance's, it actually springs from the same sweet wellspring: empathy, love and interest. Because manners, au fond (that's French! And I'm an eggplant!) --are about the OTHER PERSON. Not making them feel small cuz you're bragging without meaning to; not making them feel like you're faking your smile; but stepping back and respectfully listening. Because everybody has a story that can stop your heart. You just have to give them a little time, and if you can, a little bubble of safety to shine in. If you can reflect back to them even a little of the beauty they're sharing with you, it's pretty much the definition of a win-win situation.
I like those. "win-win" GOOD.

My friend, despite her occasional abruptness, taught me a HUGE amount about civility. She also lent/gave (that's "lending" without asking for it back ever) a Gucci dress for me to wear in Cannes, and a Prada bag because "look, it's time you had a big girl purse." She thought about my wellbeing and acted on it,without making me feel "less than": instead, I felt seen and protected.

And darlings?

THAT'S A-list.

Miss Peri Lyons

Next installment: Cannes, or, I WOULD have "social proof", except the waiter stole my camera.