Thursday, March 6, 2014


I am sick with a bad cold, but this morning the sun is bright and feels warm and good on my skin as I sit in a rattan chair on the deck and look out over the beautiful canyon, hazed with ocean mist.

I am reading "Vanity Fair" - a 500 page magazine my husband bought from the supermarket a couple weeks ago, because it's the pre-Oscars edition. I haven't had time to read it until now, four days after the Oscars. But now I can, because I'm home sick from work and have finished my library books.

I'm reading the editor's letter, penned by Graydon Carter, a man with an extraordinary hair-do that includes both a pompadour and a flip. In the photo, he leans his chin on his hand and smiles cunningly at the reader - it's like we're sharing our little secrets.

In the letter he discusses what he calls a "brouhhaha" that has arisen between his magazine and a Hollywood star. I had no idea such turmoil existed, but according to Graydon, it has taken the world of Hollywood and celebrity publishing by storm.  He describes the germ of an idea that began the conflict - curiosity that "people" seem to hate such a beautiful and accomplished celebrity.  Was it envy?  Did people think she was flaunting her wealth and privilege?

Then he tells how he went online and visited the star's website. "To be frank," he writes, I found it no more elitist or out of touch than many women's magazines."

I sit there in my day-old pajama pants on my Topanga deck, sucking cough drops. I have waded through 128 pages of ads for Gucci, Calvin Klein, and Chopard jewelry before getting to Mr. Carter's message to his readers. The page it is printed on faces an ad for a Louis Vuitton bag, one that, according to the Louis Vuitton website, is priced at $5,200.00.

Mr. Carter goes on, "the thing is, because [the star's website] reflects the vision of a single woman, and one with a privileged upbringing, a close family, an Oscar.....I realize that it might be a bit much for most working moms, no matter how content they are or successful at making their lives work."

Behind me, in my house, two Latina women are at work cleaning the kitchen. Our regular cleaner has been in an automobile accident, and her sister and her friend are taking care of her clients while she's recovering.  Rosa needs to keep her business going, even laid up. My Spanish is not good enough to ask Rosa's sister about insurance coverage, and even if she wanted to share these private details with me, her English is not adequate.

I speak to Rosa on the phone, and she's a little groggy from pain medications. She can't walk for another two weeks, and her car was totalled.  She doesn't say it, but I can only think with such leg injuries she will need physical therapy. It will be hard to start cleaning houses again, especially in hilly Topanga, and in a house like ours with many stairs.

It wouldn't be fair for me write this without visiting the movie star's website, so I do. She has great style. No Vuitton bags, but there's a Fendi bag I admire, for about the same price. She lists some favorite restaurants of hers, including some I've been to - some I've featured on this blog.

I have a job that allows me to stay home with a cold, with paid sick leave. So I can sit on a sun-washed deck and read about a personal cat-fight between a movie star and a glossy magazine editor. And read him concede that ordinary working moms might find a blog written by a privileged woman to be "out of touch."

And then I give that a second thought.

There are people like Rosa who can only depend on her family network to carry her through a time of medical crisis.  A simple accident can mean disaster to people who struggle to make their lives work.

I'm not sure what to do. I add another twenty dollars to the customary check to pay her, but it doesn't seem like much.

Just think what the price of a Louis Vuitton bag would mean.


smalltownme said...

I've looked at that goop a few times but it was not for me. Although the $1200 malachite box is quite lovely.

This is reminding me of The Tortilla Curtain.

Kizz Robinson said...

I think about this kind of stuff all the time.

Gilly said...

Sorry about your bad cold - do hope you are on the mend now. I don't know why people say 'its only a cold' - they can knock you for six and lay you really low. Get well soon!

Good for Rosa's family stepping in for her! But how dreadful if she had no-one to help - poverty can creep up really fast on you.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Hmmm... a disconnect between the advertisements for $5K bags and the common working mom (what would that be? A month's wages?)... and then the even larger disconnect for someone like Rosa. Awareness is the first step, compassion is the second step. You've managed to take those steps despite being laid low by a bad cold. This is why I like you!

Jen on the Edge said...

I have followed that tempest in a teapot between VF and GP with interest. Not because I wish her ill or hate or anything like that, but because I do find her holier-than-than attitude annoying and was curious to see if it was merited or hypocritical.

I can't imagine spending a lot of money on designer handbags recommended by GP or anyone else, but I also know that I do spend money on things that other people cannot afford and/or would not spend what I do (such as travel, shoes, organic food).

charrette said...

Well said

charrette said...

Well said! You captured the disparity perfectly.