Town & Country

Crossing Main Street in East Hampton this past summer, an insightful friend noticed that the sadness of the rich in this town was palpable. There was something about the way the residents, all swathed in designer beach clothes, passed the brand-name stores, that felt oppressive on what was supposed to be a carefree summer day.

I get the same feeling when I flip through Town & Country magazine. The rules of society that are supposed to make me aspire to these glamorous and picture-perfect lives are clearly oppressing these characters. You can see it in their eyes, as they stiffly pose for the party pictures in their Chanel and Armani gowns outside Lincoln Center.

The October issue is devoted to certain communities of the rich: Sag Harbor, Long Island; Montecito, California; and New Albany, Ohio. Editor in chief Pamela Fiori tells us in her editor's letter: "the men and women who live in these three communities are sure they found their utopia." Before we learn why, the magazine offers a piece about famous haunted hotels, a survey of boring country-oriented gifts and stores (a box of Cooperstown cookies, mail-order bulbs, stores that constitute "high-WASP chic" in Locust Valley, Long Island,) a selection of $4K rings and $10K link watches, a choice of anti-aging creams and concealers that each cost more than $100, and elaborate advice for building a library (include a book owned by someone famous, a book once owned by the person to whom the book was dedicated, etc.). There is also a piece on how to gracefully accept a compliment (false modesty is déclassé. Instead, "take an instant to look the person in the eye and take a breath instead of blurting out an automatic response or diverting that old habit of deflecting praise.")

Then writer Leslie Bennets discovers that Montecito, home to cover star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, is "the French Riviera without the French," according to another resident, 1950s star Tab Hunter. Writer Philip Berger takes us to New Albany, Ohio, home to Limited Brand CEO Leslie Wexler and lots of other elite Midwestern corporate types with receding hairlines and a penchant for velvet Boulle furniture, and Jennet Conant discovers that Sag Harbor, Long Island, which was once a quaint and yes, utopian, writers' and artists' colony, is now only charming off-season, like most of the Hamptons. In general, most of the places and people covered in Town & Country seem like they would be a lot more interesting -- and a lot closer to living in utopia - if they were off-season, off-camera, and allowed to bend their precious rules.

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