[Ed. note: this article was originally published in Dec. 25, 1995 - Jan. 1, 1996 issue of The New York Observer.]
Christmas season in New York. The parties. The star on 57th Street. The tree. Most of the time, it’s never the way it should be. But once in a while, something happens and it works.
Carrie was at Rockefeller Center, thinking about Ghosts of Christmas Past. How many years ago was it, she thought, putting on her skates, that I was last here. Her fingers trembled a little as she wrapped the laces around the hooks. Anticipation. Hoping the ice would be hard and clear.
Samantha Jones made her remember. Lately, Sam had been complaining about not having a boyfriend. About not having a love during the holidays for years and years. “You’re lucky now,” she told Carrie, and they both knew it was true. “I wonder if it will ever happen to me,” Sam said. And both of them knew what “it” was. “I walk by Christmas trees and I feel sad,” said Sam.
‘But I’m Not Gay’
It was Skipper Johnson’s second Christmas in New York, and he was driving everyone crazy. One night, he went to three cocktail parties in a row.
At the first one, he saw James, a make-up artist. James was at the second and third cocktail parties, too, and Skipper talked to him. He couldn’t help talking to everyone. Remy, a hairstylist, came up to Skipper and asked, “What are you doing with that guy James? You’re too good for him.”
“What do you mean?” Skipper said.
“I’ve seen the two of you everywhere together. And let me tell you something. He’s scum. A user. You can do better.”
“But I’m not gay,” Skipper said.
“Oh, sure, darling.”
The next morning Skipper called up Stanford Blatch, the screenwriter. “People thinking I’m gay, it’s bad for my reputation,” he said.
“Please,” said Stanford. “Reputations are like cat litter. They can be changed every day. In fact, they should be. Besides, I’ve got enough of my own problems right now.”
Skipper called up River Wilde, the famous novelist. “I want to see-e-e you,” he said.
“You can’t,” said River.
“Because I’m busy.”
“Busy with what?”
“With Mark. My new boyfriend.”
“I don’t get it,” Skipper said. “I thought I was your friend.”
“He does things for me that you won’t do.”
There was a pause.
“But I do things for you that he can’t do,” Skipper said.
“That doesn’t mean you have to be with him all the time,” said Skipper.
“Don’t you get it, Skipper?” River said. “He’s here. His things are here. His underwear. His CD’s. His hairballs.”
“He has a cat.”
“Oh,” Skipper said. Then: “You let a cat in your apartment?”
Skipper called up Carrie. “I can’t stand it. It’s Christmas and everybody is in a relationship. Everybody except me. What are you doing tonight?”
“Big and I are staying home,” Carrie said. “I’m cooking.”
“I want a home,” Skipper said. “I need a house. Maybe in Connecticut. I want a nest.”
“Skipper,” Carrie said, “you’re 26 years old.”
“Why can’t everything be the way it was last year, when nobody was in a relationship?” Skipper moaned. “Last night, I had the most amazing dream about Gae Garden,” he said, referring to the famously frosty socialite in her mid-40’s. “She’s so-o-o beautiful. And I had a dream that we were holding hands and we were so in love. And then I woke up, totally bummed because it wasn’t true. It was just that feeling. Do you think you can ever have that feeling in real life?”
“Sometimes,” Carrie said.
The year before, Skipper, Carrie and River Wilde had all gone to Belle’s Christmas party at her family’s mansion in the country. Skipper drove his Mercedes and River sat in the back seat like a papal personage and made Skipper keep flipping radio stations until he found some music he could tolerate. Afterward, they went back to River’s apartment and River and Carrie were talking while Skipper complained about how his car was parked illegally. Then skipper went to the window and looked out, and sure enough, his car was being towed. Skipper started screaming, and Carrie and River told him to shut up and do a line or smoke a joint or at least have another drink.
The next day, Stanford Blatch went with Skipper to get his car out of the pound. The car had a flat tire, and Stanford sat inside the car, reading the papers, while Skipper changed the tire.
“I need a favor,” Stanford Blatch said.
He and Carrie were having their annual Christmas lunch, at Harry Cipriani. “I have to sell some paintings in the Sotheby’s auction. I want you to sit in the audience and bid them up.”
“Sure,” Carrie said.
“Frankly, I’m broke,” Stanford said. After losing his investment in a rock bad, Stanford’s family had cut him off. Then he’d gone through all the money from his last screenplay. “I’ve been such a fool,” he said.
For the past year, Stanford had been pursuing a male model he nicknamed the Bone. He’d been writing a screenplay for him, and paying for the Bone to get acting lessons. “Of course, he said he wasn’t gay,” Stanford said, “but I didn’t believe him. Nobody understands. I took care of that kid. He used to fall asleep at night while we were talking on the phone. With the phone cradled in his arms. I’ve never met anyone who was so…vulnerable. So mixed up.”
The week before, Stanford had asked the Bone if he wanted to go to the Costume Institute benefit at the Met. The Bone freaked out. “I told him it would be good for his career. He screamed at me,” Stanford said. “Insisted that he wasn’t gay. That I should leave him alone. Said he never wanted to talk to me again.”
Stanford took a sip of his Bellini. “People thought I was secretly in love with him. I thought I wasn’t.
“He beat me up once. I was in his apartment. We got into a fight. I set up an audition for him with a director. He said he was too tired. That I should leave. I said, let’s talk about it. He threw me against a wall, then he literally picked me up and threw me down the stairs. Of course he lived in a cheap walk-up. A beautiful boy like that. My shoulder hasn’t worked right since.”
The White Mink
Carrie has been getting complaints about Skipper. From women who are older than he is. Like Carrie’s agent, and one of her editors at a magazine. Skipper had been putting his hand on their knees under the table at dinners all over town.
The night of the Costume Institute benefit, Carrie was getting her hair done and yelling at Skipper on the phone when Mr. Big came home. He had a big package under his arm. “What’s that?” Carrie asked
“It’s a present for me,” Mr. Big said.
He went into the bedroom, and came out holding a white mink coat. “Merry Christmas.”
“Skipper, I have to go,” Carrie said.
It was just three years ago, Christmas, when Carrie was living in a studio apartment where an old lady had died two months before. Carrie had no money. A friend lent her a piece of foam for a bed. All she had was a mink coat and a Louis Vuitton suitcase, both of which were stolen when the apartment was inevitably robbed. But until then, she slept on the piece of foam with the fur coat over her and she still went out every night. People liked her and nobody asked questions. One night, she was invited to yet another party at someone’s grand Park Avenue apartment. She knew she didn’t really fit in, and she had a hungry look and it was always tempting to stuff your face on the free food, but you couldn’t do that. Instead, she met a man who had a name. He asked her to dinner and she thought, fuck you, all of you.
They went to dinner at Elio’s and sat at one of the front tables. The man laughed a lot and ate breadsticks spread with cold butter from his knife. Are you a successful writer, he asked.
“I have a story in Woman’s Day next month,” Carrie said.
“Woman’s Day? Who reads Woman’s Day?”
Then he said, “I’m going to St. Barts for Christmas. Ever been to St. Barts?”
“You should go. You really should. I rent a villa every year. Everyone goes to St. Barts.”
“Sure,” Carrie said.
The next time they had dinner; he had changed his mind and couldn’t decide if he should go skiing in Gstaad or Aspen or to St. Barts. He asked her where she went to school. “Nayaug High School,” she said. “In Connecticut.”
“Nayaug?” he asked. “Never heard of it. Hey, do you think I should get my ex-girlfriend a Christmas present? She says she’s getting me one. Anyway.”
Carrie just looked at him.
After dinner, he walked her home.
Still, her misery lifted for a few days until she realized that maybe he wasn’t going to call again.
Two days before Christmas, she called him. “I’m about to take off,” he said.
“Where did you decide to go?”
“St. Barts. After all. Have a happy Christmas, O.K.? I hope Santa is good to you.”
“You have a good Christmas too,” she said.
That afternoon, she went ice-skating, doing one spin after another in the center of the rink until they made everyone get off because the session was over. She called her mother. “I’m coming home,” she said. It began snowing. She got on a train at Penn Station. There were no seats. She stood in the vestibule between the cars.
The train went through Rye and Greenwich. The snow turned into a blizzard. They passed Greens Farms and Westport and then the dirty little industrial towns. The train stopped, delayed because of the snow. Strangers began talking. It was Christmas.
Carrie lit a cigarette. She kept thinking about the man lying around a pool underneath a blue St. Barts sky. Carrie watched the snow blow into the car through a crack in the door. She wondered if she would ever get anything right.
‘You’re So Naughty’
“Chéri,” said a man’s voice from the living room. “I’m so glad you come to see me.”
“You know I always come to see you,” said the Bone.
“Come here. I have some presents for you.”
The Bone checked himself in the mirror in the marble foyer, then went into the living room. A middle-aged man was sitting on the couch, sipping tea, tapping his Italian-slippered foot against the coffee table.
“Come to me. Let me see you. See how you’ve aged in the past two months. No sun damage from our time in the Aegean?”
“You haven’t aged at all,” said the Bone. “You always look young. What’s your secret?”
“That wonderful face cream you gave me,” said the man. “What was it again?”
“Kiehl’s.” The Bone sat on the edge of the bergère.
“You must bring me some more,” the man said. “Do you still have the watch?”
“The watch?” the Bone said. “Oh, I gave that to some homeless man.”
“You’re so naughty,” the man said. “Teasing me like that.”
“Would I ever give away anything you gave me?”
“No,” the man said. “Now look at what I brought you. Cashmere sweaters in every color. You’ll try them on?”
“As long as I get to keep all of them,” the Bone said.
River Wilde’s annual Christmas party. Loud music. People everywhere. In the stairwell. Doing drugs. Someone was peeing off the balcony. Carrie and Mr. Big were holding hands, telling everyone they were going to Aspen the next day. The Bone was ignoring Stanford Blatch, who showed up with twin male models who had just come into town. Skipper was making out with a woman in the corner. The Christmas tree fell over.
Skipper broke free and came up to Carrie. She asked him why he was always trying to kiss women. “I feel like it’s my duty,” he said, then asked Mr. Big, “Aren’t you impressed with how fast I moved?”
Skipper moved on to River. “How come you never include me anymore? I feel like all my friends are dissing me. It’s because of Mark, isn’t it? He doesn’t like me.”
“If you keep this up, no one is going to like you,” River said. Someone was puking in the bathroom.
At 1 A.M., the floor was awash in alcohol and a cadre of druggies had taken over the bathroom. The tree had fallen over three times and no one could find their coat.
Stanford said to River, “I’ve finally given up on the Bone. I’ve never been wrong before, but maybe he really is straight.” River stared at him, dazed.
“Come, River,” Stanford said, suddenly happy. “Look at your Christmas tree. Look at how beautiful it is.”
Candace Bushnell began Sex and the City as a column in The New York Observer in 1994; it subsequently became a book and a series on HBO. She is also the author of Four Blondes, Trading Up and Lipstick Jungle, which is being filmed as a pilot for NBC starring Brooke Shields. Ms. Bushnell is also the host of Sex, Success and Sensibility, a live weekly talk show on Sirius Satellite Radio. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, New York City Ballet principal dancer Charles Askegard.