Friday, September 22, 2006

Upper East vs. Lower East

I’m an east village inhabitant, bordering on the LES; I have leggings and ironic shirts and for a time had a semi-hipster-mullet with bangs. That last one I’m not proud of, but you get the idea. My closet is stuffed with plastic heels and bird-printed bags. I'm a lame, overused cliche.

So allow me to continue using them...

Glamour seems different below 14th street. It’s skinny, big necklaces, off clothes and PBRs. It’s smoking weed on the street and tattoos and Japanese gangs on skateboards. Ugly-beautiful. It’s American Apparel. Pretty girls with bruises. Uncomfortably sexy, doe-eyed advertisements that you see and you just know…the teen on that Houston billboard has been missing for three years and counting…

It’s not bad, not necessarily good, it just is. It’s a personality thing maybe. I like it there. It suits me more than the other neighborhoods. Midtown is where I work. Downtown is home.

But for all its bars and gorgeous transvestites and hustling homeless, my neighborhood has been categorized as lacking the sophistication and the polish of uptown.

So when I had the opportunity to experience the epitome of it all, where the ladies who lunch go to ‘relax’, I did.

Last night I fronted as an Upper East Side deb, with golden straw for hair and a too-taut neck. *

The first obstacle is not to giggle at the doorman as I teeter in heels and fall into the elevator.

The second is, after, disrobing in a gleaming, marbled bathroom, to work up the courage to ask the stern Russian woman handing me slippers if I take off my bra (this is, after all, a Thai massage, which is fully clothed in pajamas, and also in the fabled Cornelia, the rarified air, high and clean, momentarily allowing bleached patrons to imagine themselves in a sweeping retreat on stilts, not Manhattan).

Ms. Borscht says no. I leave it on. Still giggling.

In the Relaxation Library: leather club chairs, rich drapes, and skewered berries in geometric patterns. Champagne flutes, forgiving light, cashmere blankets, and long like apocathary cylinders containing spiced teas warmed by the flame of candles.

The third obstacle is pouring the tea into a small highball glass without trembling hands, as there seems to be no spout to speak of.

A pleasant Thai woman is upon me as I take my first, burning sip. It’s time to go. My crested pajamas are too long and they drag on the floor. We walk up a winding staircase, past a cocktail party in the spa, and onto the cool breeze of a teak roof deck.

I’m led into a gossamer tent, told to lie down on a pillowed mat flanked by orchids and aromatherapy accoutrements and she begins.

She’s unusually strong I think. Not that I know, but I can’t stop thinking that. She kneads vigorously and stretches my body deeply and for a time we are in the strangest rocking-horse position, like a reverse airplane, that game my brother and I used to play with Dad when we were small and he held our arms and his feet lifted us in the air.

It’s amazing, mind-blowing, by far the richest experience I’ve had this month. Seventy-five minutes and it’s over.

I walked out of there floating, giddy, and weird. This is what the privileged women of upper New York do on a Thursday night, I think. Then they go home and sink into plush bedding. They sip Campari and soda and let their cats nibble salmon…

Me? I went to Taco Bell, and then I watched Grey’s Anatomy on a pixilated television.

This morning I feel like a punching bag. My girl was strong. So much so that I’m sore, and tender. Last night is a million miles away and I’m back to zero. On today, because it is a good day, I may never be more than a ‘pretty’ girl with bruises, if that…kind of just how I like it.

*I won’t apologize for the fact that I might be slightly looking forward to the day when my soul is fifty, but the sum of my thousand dollar cremed face and lipoed elbow parts is twenty-five.


Cheetarah1980 said...

I've never had a massage before. At least not a professional one. You make it sound divine. And oh how I remember playing airplane with Daddy!

I was in the Village last weekend, and every 20 something woman that walks by, I look at her and wonder if she's you.

Miss Scarlett said...

I would laugh so much!

And Taco Smell and Grey's Anatomy sounds so awesome!

Amy T said...

I stumbled across your blog through Gawker (mad props by the way for making that site) and found myself rooting through the archives b/c I think you & I are a lot alike. I'm 24 too...trying to find my way through this city. It's not easy in such a big pond to find a group of fish to call your own. I used to live in the e. village and recently moved to the UES (through no choice but of cheaper rent for bigger space; i have a dog) and I find myself missing the hipster and the fun.

Keep up the awesome writing. I will be back.

Anonymous said...

Aw, honey - you have so much to learn.

K said...

Come on, it was supposed to be self-aware and funny...

Anonymous said...

It was. I thought it was really well-written.

Where is this spa? How did you get to go? This is so cool.

Elle said...


I wrote an entry in a similar vein, but about the disconnect in Los Angeles (where I'm from) between the rich and the poor.

I think Manhattan's my next destination after college. Wonder if it'll feel just like home in a very unhomely way.

mamak said...

*The first obstacle is not to giggle at the doorman as I teeter in heels and fall into the elevator*
I am not a twentysomething anymore, but this would still be me if I tried to wonder over to the ritzy side of town ..
Great post K!

Broady said...

Damn, seventy-five minutes is a *long* massage. I'm surprised you could walk out of there on your own accord!

At any rate, it sounds simply blissful. It's too bad that such experiences are usually reserved for the uptown crowd.

D.T. said...

Ok, not to be all judgemental or anything, but yeah, that whole "semi-hipster-mullet with bangs" made me cringe too. Ew. But just knowing that fashion is as diverse in the city as its inhabitants, makes me smile. And maybe just a little jealous that you get to live in such a great city. But then again, every Sunday I get to watch Grey's on a 60-inch...LOL!

Serena said...

Though the massage sounds heavenly, give me pretty and bruised any day. Lovely post.

emma said...

Insightful post, beautifully written. Makes me want to take the next train to New York. I love it there, especially the poor trashy areas. So much energy.