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Why would you make up such boring stories?

Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir - Wednesday Martin Ph.D.

Primates of Park Avenue is one woman's memoir about moving to the famously wealthy Upper East Side after her first child is born. As she mentions every few pages, just to make sure you never forget, the author has a Ph.D. in cultural studies (FROM YALE!!! YAAAALE!) which means she tells the story as though it's an anthropological study, comparing the people of the UES to various primate groups around the world.


There is a clear hook here--who doesn't enjoy hearing gossip about the rich and the ways they (mis)manage their incredibly privileged lives? The problem is that Martin tries to paint herself as an outsider who's only joining the mean girls for the sake of her son when it's obvious that she badly wants to belong to the group she's bitching about and in fact has all of the superficial trappings one needs to fit in: wealth, designer clothes, conventional attractiveness, and family members in the neighborhood who can help pave her way.


Some of Martin's struggles as she desperately tries to join this new tribe:

1. She buys (or rather, her husband buys for her--is this her "wife bonus"?) a Birkin. An entire chapter is dedicated to her love for and eventual acquisition of a notoriously overpriced bag. To the reader's great sadness, she's unable to get one in her first choice of color, but it's still fancy enough for her to rub in the face of an underpaid sales clerk (she actually does this).


2. Before she Birkins up, she is literally charged and run off the sidewalk by an older woman wearing a fancy handbag. I'm sorry, does anyone believe this story actually happened, especially given the other factual inaccuracies that have come to light about the book? (The author's name isn't really Wednesday, for starters--it's Wendy.)


3. To lose her baby weight, which wasn't very much because she got horribly ill during pregnancy and was actually the envy of her UES friends for her gaunt frame, she becomes obsessed with ballet barre workout classes. Apparently these are much different from Soul Cycle workout classes, and the people who go to each class are like warring factions. There's another chapter or so spent on this and it is excruciatingly boring. Dear Wendy: nobody cares about your dreams unless they're in them, and nobody cares about your workout/diet unless they're doing the same one.


4. She can't get any of the snobby women at her son's snobby pre-k to set up play dates with her son. Her sister-in-law's children went to the same school and presumably she could have introduced her around, but instead of discussing this possibility at all Wendy cleverly flirts with an "alpha male" at a school function so that he invites her kid to play with his. It is important to preserve the narrative that all women in this group are cutthroat to outsiders although I admittedly would not go out of my way for a sister-in-law who acted like the author and would probably be embarrassed to introduce her to my friends. So I guess that anecdote makes more sense than I originally thought. 


The most baffling thing about this book, which appears to be chock full of inaccuracies ranging from the number of years actually spent in the UES to the number of children she had during her time there to her actual name, is that she would put so much effort into making things up without inventing a single anecdote that's funny or interesting.