Manners & Misdemeanors
Gossip and Judgmental Friends Do Exist in the Truly Rich World
Never take things to heart. But if you must, pack your bags and head to the ends of the earth for a little breather.
ILLUSTRATOR SANDY ARANAS
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The Truly Rich Lady answers your questions. E-mail her at [email protected].

Readers, do you promise to keep my secret? I am currently on a nimble cruise ship en route to the Chinstrap penguins and leopard seals of Antarctica. I am here because I am in hiding. And I am making myself scarce because I am about to blow the lid on the Truly True Lives of the Truly Rich Ladies.

How should I put this? There are moments when one Truly Rich Lady cannot stand another Truly Rich Lady. You may have been friends for decades, are members of the same dance class, clients of the same by-appointment facialists, believers in the same business philosophy (to remain Truly Rich!), and simply part of the same world, and yet there exist invisible nuances, the faint gradations that color the Truly Rich World into subsets, fragments, and smaller and smaller circles.

You open one door and another and another until you find, to your surprise, that the next door remains locked—to you. The way is shut because you diverge from the preferences of the others. It could be you are a Truly Rich Lady with a little less or a lot more, a woman who has bizarre opinions or too strong beliefs, a lady who does not eat meat, or a person with a funny accent. They find these traits, anything different really, anomalous, hence the door. (Hello? Is anyone there? It is me, Si-si!)

So what’s behind it? It is most likely the happy sounds of sniggering as the Truly Rich Ladies recount your latest misdeed among themselves. I know. So shocking! If you think that gossip and scorn and talking behind your back are beneath the Truly Rich Ladies, remember that this is all very proper because, well, you can not hear the sneers and will never know about them. Also please remember that expressing disdain is a democratic occupation that can be enjoyed by all economic brackets. We have rights, too!

My Just Rich Friend said it was very entertaining to be seated beside a certain Truly Rich Lady because she had so many zingers about the other Truly Rich Ladies. “Her comments were gold!” my Just Rich Friend breathlessly reported to me after a party. “And her vocabulary was very creative! It was so unexpected, I must admit! Please let me sit next to her again next, Si-si. Please!” I stopped inviting that certain Truly Rich Lady over.

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Emerging from their private powwow, your Truly Rich Friends may act as if no sin has been done. But if you are observant (or neurotic and paranoid), you will see beyond the placid faces, which you know have been trained by a tempered heart, perfect manners, and a low dose of Botox to always register serenity or, at the very least, blankness.

The only way to combat this guile is to play along. It is a battle of wills, nerves, and gentle stares. A snide comment may be muttered on the sidelines, but rather than telling them how you really feel (“Amanda, please kindly shut your face!”), you must keep the peace. You know they have their secret group and they know you have your secret clique, but it's all good because we are all here to join hands in celebration of this week’s most important birthday/ launch/anniversary/charity ball, so we must be on our best behavior. Air kisses all around!

Just remember to keep your eyes peeled. Every move is observed, each word remembered, and every single facial expression allowed to escape, noted. Every misstep in decorum is a huge crime that will never be forgotten. Once, at a very casual housewarming party (read: not informal at all!) given by old neighbors for our new neighbor, Family With Very Old Last Name, I found myself with another serving of sticky pork ribs. After a bite, I regretted the second plate because, well, I had reached my capacity, so I very discreetly asked the waitstaff to pack the unfinished ribs for later, because they were glorious and I would never waste good meat.

Let’s just say that the hosts were horrified. As soon as I saw the arched eyebrows, I realized my gaffe (never mind that the ribs would be fed to the bin) because, yeah, who would doggybag a treat from a neighbor’s party? So plebian. Now, whenever I see those neighbors, I still feel the low vibrations of disgust directed at me. They probably think of me as Si-Si, the Barbarian Barbecue Queen! I’ve never been invited to their house again.

I have learned not to mind. If you take these things to heart, if you grieve over the disappointment of realizing your friends are not so friendly, it will show on your face and the high bill from your dermatologist.

Sometimes, also, you just have to take a break from your friends of tens of years, because frankly, they can be irritating. I am looking at the soft clouds of snow on the frozen land ahead of me now. The waters around the ice bank are of a pretty jewel color that perfectly reflect the cloudless sky. There is nothing here and no one—not a Truly Rich Lady that I know in sight!—aaand I let the feeling of peace wash over me.

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C.C. Coo
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