Lying in bed around 5 AM, my husband and I listened as a helicopter buzzed around in the sky, the noise as persistent and annoying as a mosquito, except much louder. What was going on outside? My imagination ran away with the possibilities: a dead body washed away in a flood, a criminal on the loose…though finding anything in the churning chocolate floodwaters seemed an impossible task.
I snuggled deeper into my fresh white sheets, chilled by subzero AC, my hair in crispy ruins from last night’s up-do, my mascara drained into abstruse Rorshach blotches beneath my eyes. I tried to soak in the luxury of sleep before the sun rose, dreaming I was a Hollywood starlet awaiting breakfast in bed.
Last night’s satin and jewels are strewn across my closet, my clutch lies where I tossed it, holding only life’s basic essentials: lip gloss and a credit card. That’s all you need to reach the land of Fiesta.
My iPhone alarm sounded off a flurry of buzzing and chimes and I banished it with a desperate, clumsy swipe, this move reminding me just how distant I was from silver screen glamour, the languid tracing of a manicured finger, dialing a rotary phone.
It was time for my workout class where we do endless sit-ups, push-ups, lunges, and crunches, this being yet another epic stretch from the cinematic world, black-and-white softened images of a long pull on a cigarette, smoke curls disappearing like magic.
As the helicopter blades whirred and echoed through the dawn sky, I kicked the covers off, wishing I could doze away the morning like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But I’m a mother, with children and two panting dogs to feed. Most days, I’m drinking lemon water at 6:30 AM, already dressed for workout, diligently replying to emails, slicing fruit for breakfast.
Hollywood decadence is remote, except during Fiesta, when the city seems to fall down a rabbit hole. Down in this imaginary land a car sales magnate dresses up like a Roman emperor to praise a cast of faux female royalty; or a male dancer stripteases in risqué gold lame, playing Jesus to the tunes of LA club music.
All of this spectatorship requires a steady flow of alcohol. Last night the Bohanon’s bartender helped me invent a martini made from St. Germaine, strawberry, lemon and vodka. He called it the “Lindsey,” because he didn’t hear my name right. It was icy cold, sweet-tart like a childhood lemonade, and I drank two of them. They made the vodka sodas at the following party taste even better.
At a ball where everyone wears long dresses, some people dance (badly) with red wine in their hands and spill it all over their dresses. Mine was a champagne satin gown that I spent a fortune on at Sloan/Hall. When I tried on this Parisian work of art, I did some imaginary thinking, i.e., fantasize that I was going to lose 10 pounds before I wore it.
The dress itself was Hollywood starlet material, but it was made for a real starlet, not a normal un-airbrushed person. Draped head-to-toe in this silk, I somehow I felt more naked than naked, so I had to remember to stand up stick straight and suck my stomach in like a Crossfit athlete. This concept works when standing in front a mirror, but out in the wilds of a party, I tend to forget.
“Delete it, please!” I begged my friend’s husband, after seeing the picture he took of us, my stomach poking out like an unwanted fanny-pack. My posture was so bad, he didn’t even threaten to keep it. He clicked the trashcan and we tried again.
I could see the tracings of my stick-on bra, which my daughter had to make an emergency run to SteinMart for. This is pretty much the opposite of elegant, and so was my entrance to the party, where my heel got caught in the hem of my dress and caused me to trip up the red carpet steps. (One year during another torrential rainstorm, I fell down at the front door of a friend’s house and rode down her stairs in my evening gown like I was on a roller coaster).
Looking at my dress in heap on the dry cleaner’s counter, I felt ashamed as I remembered the seamstress’s beautiful, delicate stitches that she had showed me with pride. And my hard-won workout the morning of the party, sweating and slinging weights and straining myself to the max? I felt a similar stab of regret.
And yet…I can’t resist! Each year I do it all over again. I travel to this land of make believe, which is Uber-accessible. The return isn’t easy. Jet lagged, bloated, I limp back to reality with aching feet. A long shower may wash away the confetti-studded grime, but the rest requires a steady series of cleansings and naps.
I’ll need one today, but for now, I see my Labrador’s perky face staring at me from across the room. If I lie really still, she will wait there for me, but the moment I make eye contact, she will bound over and leap on me, turning me from louche starlet to mother with one touch of her paw.