A pack of tanned women breeze through the doors of Saks Fifth Avenue, reeking of custom-blended fragrance, dripping in blood diamonds, pilates bodies draped in haute couture. These perfectly-groomed ladies-who-lunch gossip in obscure accents about their homes in Switzerland as they eye massive, $12,000 Birkin bags. The youngest of the group, a Bergdorf blonde, is tortured over whether she should buy the classic orange Birkin or the “riskier” fuchsia one.
“Get the orange, darling. Always go for the classic,” her mother purrs, spinning an oversized emerald cocktail ring around her delicate finger.
Her gorgeous brunette sister, the wild card of the family, slinks into the scene, her smile blinding everyone with her great-white-teeth.
“I say get the fuschia,” she says, reaching into her python clutch, pulling out a 14-carat gold cigarette, lighting it up right there in the store.
“Get both,” their grandmother — the matriarch of the family softly purrs from her ruby-encrusted wheelchair.
The three women lock eyes.
“Problem solved,” our formerly tortured Birkin buyer declares, whipping out her heavy platinum Amex.
Who the hell are these people?
Hate to disappoint, but they’re certainly not me (fuck, I wish). These are the women I used to envision when I heard the term “champagne problems.”
A champagne problem was a problem exclusive to only the most privileged entities on the planet. A jet-setting wonder-brat distraught that she spilled Lobster Bisque onto to her new silk Prada skirt. An astronomically wealthy Parisian debutante debating a summer in the south of France or a summer in Tuscany. A European heiress to a Greek shipping fortune longing to charter a private plane to the Grand Prix in Monaco forced to fly first class.
A champagne problem was the kind of problem you could throw money at and the problem would disappear into the air. Like the steam that comes out of your mouth when you’re waiting for a taxi in January.
This was before I started drinking actual champagne. This was before I ever experienced the trauma of a blackout. Or woke-up shaking with regret, filled with a surefire instinct that something bad had gone down the night before. This was before I willingly spread my legs wide open for energy vampires because I was desperate to feel something, anything, please god.
This was before I really knew what a champagne problem really was.
I came of age in a pretty little town called Westport, Connecticut. A soulless suburb of Manhattan where everyone knew everyone and everyone’s dad worked in finance and everyone’s moms were active members of the PTA. My mother detested the PTA.
My mother was a bombshell. She has a charming English accent and was an original bunny in the Playboy club in London back in the 60s. She was the face of Winston cigarettes. The Westport mom’s totally disapproved of my glamorous mother who used to pick me up from school in all black attire, a giant red AIDS button adhered to her one-shoulder high-fashion dress. As a kid, I was always getting backhanded compliments about my mom from other moms.
“Wow, Lynn, actually cooks? I am shocked she has time!” they would bitchily retort when I would innocently mention that my mom made the best macaroni and cheese in the world (it was the kind from the blue box, but whatever. She totally jazzed it up by dousing it with cayenne pepper.) I learned at a young age that sheep are extremely jealous of the natural sparkle that permeates out of the pores of the extraordinary.
My dad wasn’t in finance like everyone else’s dads. My dad was in the beauty industry and bore a contained jew fro that sat on the topic of his head like a Hebrew halo. In the 70s he wore platform shoes. He’s the only Jewish cowboy I’ve ever met. Richie Havens (the hippie folk-singer who opened Woodstock) used to smoke massive joints on his ranch in New Jersey.
My colorful parents and notoriously wild siblings already set me apart in khaki-colored Westport. I tried to fit in, but it simply isn’t in my genetic makeup.
It was 2001 and I was in the eighth grade when the whole Tiffany trend blew up. Every girl was armed with one of those chunky silver ID bracelets. “If Found Please Return To Tiffany” it read on a heart-shaped dog tag that dangled from its grossly thick silver chain. It was so tacky.
“I don’t understand why you girls like those bracelets! Is it just because it’s Tiffany? They’re so ugly and Tiffany isn’t even that COOL,” I exploded at the lunch table one Monday afternoon. I was met with a sea of wicked glares. Daggers shooting out of pre-pubescent eyes. You’ve never experienced “shade” until you’ve told a table teeming with adolescent girls that their most prized possession is uncool. I was like that nine-year-old boy who can’t help but wear blue nail polish to his public school in Texas even though he knows he’s going to get the shit kicked out of him. I couldn’t help but be myself even if it meant social suicide.
After I was officially kicked out of the popular group, I decided to let my freak flag fly. I rocked ripped fishnets and twenty-eye dr. Martin boots to school. I wore floor-length zebra printed coats and painted my eyelids black and boldly expressed my liberal views on abortion in social studies class. I covered my lockers with posters of Angelina Jolie half-naked and smoking heroin in Gia. I felt like a Mermaid plucked out of a roaring ocean, trapped in a tank at Seaworld, exposed and on display for the masses to gawk at.
It was 2003 and I was fifteen when my parents moved the whole family to Sarasota, Florida. At this point, I was super comfortable with my bad girl reputation. I smoked cloves. I drank black coffee. I wore ripped vintage t shirts that said shit like “I am a Virgin, This is A VERY Old Shirt.” (I was totally a virgin at fifteen). I listened to The Cure and hung out with boys who wore hoodies and sold drugs.
I was instantly popular with the party kids.
My parents had a huge collection of wine and champagne and I was always sneakily swiping bottles. My two best friends Owen and Ruba, particularly loved when I jacked a bottle of champagne. It could’ve been sparkling wine from the budget liquor store. It didn’t matter. It had BUBBLES in it and BUBBLES were the wild juxtaposition of fancy and fun.
Bubbles made bad things like blackouts and vomiting far less harrowing. The occasional hit of ecstasy or the occasional line cocaine didn’t seem so delinquent, because we chasing our drugs with a sparkly golden liquid. Drug addicts; damaged people with real problems, didn’t drink wine or champagne.
When you’re a young girl who drinks and parties you toss yourself into a slew of compromising situations. By the time I graduated high school I had been sexually taken advantage of, abused, robbed and objectified more times than I cared to remember.
And all of this is how I got here, I suppose. I am now a twenty-one-year-old aspiring actress living in New York. I work a day job as a makeup artist at the counter of a department store to make ends meet. Tonight it’s snowing and I’m watching little snowflakes transform into big, luscious snowflakes and this beautiful white blanket is slowly covering the dirty pavement. I am sitting by the window thinking about how sweet it is that the snow can temporarily cover up all the ugliness of the city.
My best friend Beatrix is sitting across from me. We’re at AOC, a charming French brasserie in the West Village. An untouched breadbasket gleams in front of our eyes. I’m not eating bread because I’ve convinced myself I’m fat (I’m not). Beatrix isn’t eating bread because she’s gotten back together with her ex-boyfriend Adderall, even though I’m certain she won’t admit it. She’s been trying to break up with Adderall since she graduated from USC last summer. “Adderall kills my spirit,” she told me just a few weeks ago. “I’m done with that shit.”
“Beatrix, what are we drinking tonight?” I ask. I am hoping that a drink will take the edge off my hunger.
Beatrix looks at me with lifeless eyes. “Something with bubbles.” She begins to gnaw at her fingernails.
“Waiter!” I can feel tiny beads of sweat making their way across my top lip. “Can we get a bottle of champagne?”
I watch as a gentle wave of relief washes over Beatrix’s tense body. I smile at her. It feels good to know that I’m not the only one eager to take the edge off my day.
x PART TWO RELEASE DATE: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 16th. x
My debut book GIRL STOP PASSING OUT IN YOUR MAKEUP: THE BAD GIRL’S GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR SHIT TOGETHER is available NOW on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and BAM! It’s also available as an audiobook on audible, google play, audiobooks.com, Itunes, and more! If you send me a screenshot of your order, I’ll send you free swag in the mail!