Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

The Clueless? The Rich? The Difference?

I went to my doctor this morning for my annual physical. In the waiting room I found an odd magazine called "Veranda", which seems to be a parody of Home and Design magazines for the rich elite and pretentious, an attempt to out-Martha Martha. But as I've noted before, the line between the real thing and the parody becomes more indistinguishable by the day. I mean, check their website. Could this be for real? Can you determine a zeitgeist in this collection of most-viewed articles?

# Edamame Bruschetta
# The Great House at Greystone Estate
# Big Cocktail Rings
# The Art of the Aztecs
# A Flashback to the Great House

I will entertain no smirks about "Big Cocktail Rings", thank you very much. And no, I did not make that one up and throw it in to see if you were paying attention. I'm not that clever. Really. I am relieved, however, to find that I have to go to only one source to read about edamame bruchetta, big cocktails rings, and the great house at the Greystone estate. The convenience is indescribable.

What drew me to the magazine -- and ultimately caused me to take out my pen and notebook, to be sure I got the quotations correct -- was an article by one Carolyne Roehm on how to make your guest rooms nice for your guests. The article began with a charming little anecdote about the wonderful overnight visit Ms. Roehm once had with the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, and how comfortable they had made their guests feel. How did they do this? By having the butler discreetly ask after dinner what the guest wanted for breakfast. By having a fire going in the fireplace, and a big four-poster comfy bed. By having a chambermaid sneak in quietly in the morning with breakfast on a tray to restart the fire and pull back the drapes. As Ms. Roehm noted, "As a working woman I never indulged in breakfast in bed, so that was a fabulous treat." As a working woman indeed. I suspect that Ms. Roehm was simply playing Mad Libs with that sentence, and she could just as easily have written something like, "As a post-operative transsexual I never indulged in breakfast in bed..." or "As the second engineer on the Sioux Line Railroad...".

Regardless of her quirky prose, isn't that practical advice? Just have your butler inquire about breakfast desires and have your other servants sneak in to start up the fire in the morning. It had never occurred to me to provide such amenities, but I'll be sure to do so in the future.

Perhaps I'm being harsh, and this was meant to be a charming opening anecdote about how the very wealthy make their guests comfortable. In fact, I was waiting for the logical next point, which I expected would go something like this: "We may not all have servants and castles, but we can all take a tip from the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and do what we can to make our guest feel pampered and comfortable." Alas, that was not where the article went. Instead, it segued into a second charming reminiscence, about the night Ms. Roehm spent at the home of Oscar de la Renta and his wife Francoise: "As a French woman of infinite style, Francoise filled her guest rooms with special things that provided a sense of refinement and ease."

There's that "As a [blank]" rhetorical construct again, clearly a hallmark of Ms. Roehm's distinctive prose style. But the pointlessness of that construct pales before what seems to be the absolutely random use of words. "Infinite" style? Things that provide a sense of "refinement" and "ease"? What on earth do those words mean in this sentence? As an American man of finite style, I ponder what things I might fill my guest room with that would provide a sense of refinement. A scale model of a petroleum purification plant, perhaps?

So I await the next sentence, the explanation, the specific. I could wait forever. Ms. Roehm elaborates only as follows: "None of the items was extravagant -- each was practical and stylish." Clearly my petroleum refinery idea is out, but what, I ask, what could these practical and stylish items be? Hand-knit scarves? Blue-enameled cast iron pans? Gold-plated chapstick holders? What? I have to know!

There is only the merest of hints. After noting that even Americans have started to provide things for their guests, she berates them for what they choose to provide: "The things that Francoise used in those guest rooms -- such as scented candles --are now enjoyed everywhere. But what is often missing in our newly discovered civility is a lack of finesse."

Ignoring the grammatically shaky double negative (a "lack of finesse" is missing? say what?) what we have again is the seemingly random use of a word: finesse. What does that mean? At least we have a specific here: one of the things that Francoise de la Renta fillled her guest rooms with that provided a sense of refinement and ease that was practical and stylish but not eccentric is ... a scented candle! When Francoise de la Renta fills her guest rooms with scented candles, she is rich in finesse. But why then, oh Ms. Roehm, why are we parvenus deficient in that selfsame finesse when we fill our guest rooms with those selfsame scented candles? Carolyne, I am growing impatient and annoyed. You have not given me a sense of ease and refinement. Am I not your guest? If you cut me to the quick, do I not bleed? What do you want from me!

The depth of your ingratitude comes clear in your next sentence: "For me it is unnecessary to find chocolates or presents on my pillow when I retire to a guest room. I don't expect to feel as though I am in a hotel. What I want is a restful night in a comfortable setting." The nerve! After all that time I spent wrapping presents (serving trays, punch bowls, novelty glassware, ice skates) and placing them on your pillow -- just as they do in the finest hotels, I venture to add -- this is the thanks I get?

As an Okie from Muskogee, I am hurt.
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