Navigating the social riptides of Manhattan used to be simple. It was always so easy to tell who was rich and who was poor. The person with the Verdura baubles, mink stoles and Blahniks was the rich lady. The beleaguered individual with the matted hair and the moth-eaten knitwear was the poor lady.
Confusingly, the tables have now turned. Now Manhattan is overrun by flashily attired gals with overextended credit cards and jobs in P.R. These spunky meatpacking-district habitués, with their knockoff purses and Barneys-warehouse-sale frocks, have figured out how to look rich while subsisting on a diet of Power Bars and unmarked canned goods. Commendably resourceful though this may be, it has upset the status-symbol apple cart.
To make matters more befuddling, rich chicks-not wishing to resemble the chippies described above-are now dressing like bedraggled asylum seekers (ref. the Olson twins). They wear dirty high-priced Antik denim, and their heirloom jewelry is tucked discreetly under ramparts of ethnic scarves and boiled cashmere. Every New Yorkeress seems to be intent on moving the goalposts, thereby concealing her true financial situation.
Well, not every New Yorkeress.
Onto the landscape of Manhattan, a new and lethal status symbol has alighted-and it’s causing the J.A.P.’s and WASP’s of the Upper East Side to quiver with envy. No, I’m not talking about those impossible-to-find strings of oversized Lanvin pearls wrapped in black mousseline. Or, for that matter, those $20,000 Rochas dresses that are selling before they hit the racks.
The lethal wealth indicator to which I refer is much more squishy and biological and-dare I say it?-uterine. All you need to possess it is a Matterhorn of cash and a high tolerance for pain.
Yes, I’m talking about THE THIRD CHILD. Call it the Grace Kelly Syndrome. You can even call it the Demi Moore Syndrome. Either way, three is the new two! That critical third child-quite possibly the status symbol of this decade-will get you more Park Avenue cred than a fleet of Bentleys.
This trend was highlighted for me last week by my pal Amy Astley, the editrix of Teen Vogue. Her observations were made after dropping off her two girls at elementary school in Tribeca. “The third child screams, ‘My apartment is massive, my S.U.V. is spacious, my cash unlimited!’” observed an amused Ms. Astley, who believes the third-child trend is not only driven by a desire to demonstrate richesse, but also by a deranged, Kennedyesque desire to give birth to a clan.
After running into A.A., I feverishly called maternity maven Liz Lange for verification. “Childrearing is so damn expensive, but there’s no shortage of women who seem to have the cash,” gushed L.L., mistress of the high-low aesthetic and herself a happy mother of two, who was in the middle of pulling together her fall collection for Target. Many of the customers she met when she first opened her eponymous store back in 1998 are now on their third or even fourth child, she reported. Because of this trend, not only is her business booming, but the customers know her designs better than she does. “It’s scary,” Ms. Lange said. “They can even refer to items by season and style number.”
Talking of status symbols and rich ladies, if one more person asks me what I thought of last week’s Met gala, I’m going to throw on a boucle suit with a knee-grazing skirt and immolate myself in front of the Chanel store on 57th Street. No, I was not there. Nobody invited me. Happy now? On the night in question, I was placidly ensconced in front of the telly catching up on my Tivo’d episodes of America’s Next Top Model. While you were basking in the reflected glory of the reflected glory of Karl Lagerfeld, I was familiarizing myself with the next batch of Manhattan-bound mannequins. My money’s on Kahlen. Those who cannot wait until the 18th of May to find out who won may want to stop by the Union Square Café, where I hear the lovely Naima is now, post-show, working as a waitress. Stop by. Tip heavily. Maybe she will spill the beans.