Authors: Lynn Schnurnberger,Janice Kaplan
Me too? Me too what? Not a good sign.
He gets back into bed, curls up around me and strokes my hair.
. Just some unfinished business I had to take care of. Sorry it disturbed you.”
How disturbed should I be? I don’t know, but I want to.
“Who was that?” I ask quietly. “Do you mind if I ask?”
“Of course I don’t mind,” he says, gently kissing my neck. “You can always ask me anything. I will always tell you. I want that you are happy. We should have no secrets.
, I think, as mollified, I fall asleep in his arms. And it’s not until I wake up much later that I realize he never answered the question.
“ARE YOU ALONE?”
It’s Lucy, calling Monday at midnight. Like Wal-Mart, she’s up and running twenty-four hours a day. And this time she’s not even in L.A.
“Yup. I’m alone. Why?” I flip off Jon Stewart. Now that I hang with Boulder, I’m way too hip for Jay Leno.
“I’m looking for Dan,” she says anxiously “Do you know where he is?”
“Not here,” I say, in case that’s what she’s suggesting.
“I know he’s not
She sounds so patronizing that I briefly wonder why Dan
be here. What’s the matter, I’m not pretty enough?
“Dan never came home last night,” Lucy says. “I’m beside myself. He hasn’t called. I’m worried that he was in a car accident.”
“But he never drives,” I point out. “He always takes the train.”
“Then a train accident,” Lucy says. “Maybe he touched the third rail. What else could have happened to him?”
I have lots of answers, none of which she’s likely to appreciate. “Could be he’s taking some time to think,” I suggest.
“That’s what his study is for,” she says, sounding slightly irritated.
“A place for him to relax. I just redecorated last year. In earth tones, very masculine. And he has his own Herman Miller chair. An original.”
“I always liked that chair.”
“I know. You have one, too.”
“No I don’t. Mine’s a copy. But I saved two thousand dollars and you couldn’t tell the difference anyway.”
“Yes, I could have. If I’d looked. The armrests are always different,” says Lucy, torn between being defensive, distracted and worried. “But anyway, do you think Dan’s all right? He’s not in his office. He’s not answering his cell. It’s goddamn midnight. Doesn’t he care that I’m worried about him?”
Lucy’s feelings might not be high on his list right now. If I know the ever-practical Dan, the soaring costs of rentals in Manhattan and the fact that he doesn’t have a clean pair of socks to wear tomorrow are probably all he can deal with tonight. Best I can tell, he OD’d on emotion a few days ago. Now he’s probably just going for a plan of action. Any action.
“I’m sure he’s fine,” I say. But I do wonder where he is. The Carlyle? The Pussycat Club? Camped out in Central Park with a bottle of gin? Not Dan. My guess is he’s tossing fitfully on the couch in his office.
“Somebody should tell him that this isn’t the way to win me back,” Lucy grumbles. “But if you’re alone, that means Jacques’s not there. How come?”
“Had to fly to Washington for some meetings. He’s coming back this weekend. And we’re not doing anything that has to do with canoes or cows.”
“Want to surprise him when he gets back?” Lucy asks. “We could do something to make you really beautiful.”
Not pretty enough for either Dan or Jacques, I guess. Amazing they let me out of the house. “Didn’t know I look that bad,” I say.
“That’s not what I meant at all,” she says appeasingly. “It’s just that now that we’re over forty—I hate saying that number out loud—we have to be realistic. Give Mother Nature a helping hand.”
“She did pretty well on the trees, the flowers, and Mount Rushmore,” I say. “Did she do so badly on me?”
“Darling, Mother Nature didn’t make Mount Rushmore. That’s the one with the presidents. See, even the mountains needed some cosmetic work. A little chiseling, a little nipping, a little shot now and then.”
I sigh. We’ve been around this block before. “No way I’m getting Botox injections,” I remind her. “And no way I’m seeing your favorite plastic surgeon again. Once in Dr. Peter Paulo’s apartment was enough, thank you. I don’t need to go to his office.”
“Oh, forget about Peter. I don’t go to him anymore,” Lucy says, shrugging off Dr. Paulo as being as yesterday as Jenny Jones or Susan Powter. Wonder whatever happened to her. Disappeared faster than the pounds she was supposed to help you lose.
“So who’s the new miracle worker?” I ask. “Annie Sullivan?
“Better,” Lucy laughs. “Dr. Herb Parnell. He has a new book that’s going to be huge.
The Needle of Youth
. There’s a bagels-and-Botox book signing party for him tomorrow.”
“That’s an interesting menu,” I say. “Actually, I prefer my bagels with cream cheese.”
“But this is so much fun,” Lucy says. “You eat a little, you have a happy hour, and you all have your Botox done together.”
“Of course it’s a happy hour. You can’t move your face to frown,” I say. “Anyway, how much does this little Botox-and-lox event cost?”
“No lox—it’s in Connecticut,” Lucy says. “And since it’s a book party, the shots are free. Besides, it’s at Dahlia Hammerschmidt’s. You’ll love seeing her country estate.”
“Dahlia Hammerschmidt? I thought she was Dr. Paulo’s patient.”
Lucy pauses, suitably impressed. “Jess, you never know anything about anyone. How in heaven’s name did you know that?”
For once, I’m feeling unbearably smug. Liz Smith has nothing on me. At least I don’t think she does.
“Not revealing my sources,” I say.
“Oh, I’ve got it,” Lucy says, making a quick deduction. “I bet
Peter was name-dropping during your date. Seduction by celebrity-association. That’s so New Jersey of him. Just one of the reasons we’ve all moved on. Well, that and the rumor about Farrah Fawcett’s droopy eyelid. Not that I ever believed it.”
I sigh. “So what’s so good about this latest Merlin? Other than that he’s newer than the old one?”
“He’s got the latest of everything,” Lucy says conspiratorially. “All the drugs that haven’t been FDA approved yet.”
“That’s confidence-inspiring. I thought FDA approval was a good thing.”
“Please, they move way too slowly for us. At our age we can’t wait for those ten-year studies. What’s the worst? You blow a few dollars and it doesn’t work?”
“Or you blow a few dollars and end up dead. But with a perfectly unlined complexion.”
“At least you look good for your funeral,” Lucy says flippantly. “Be ready. I’ll pick you up at three.”
Lucy pulls up to my house in a flashy silver Porsche 911 Carrera convertible. The top is down and she’s wearing dark oversized sunglasses with a scarf tied around her hair.
“I didn’t know I was going to Connecticut with Grace Kelly,” I say, climbing in and landing on the low-slung seat with a thud. “What’s this all about?”
“Traded in the Mercedes. Way too matronly. Fabulous acceleration on this baby,” Lucy says, zooming away from the curb.
“But a silver Porsche?”
“Trite, isn’t it,” Lucy says, smirking as she revs past a gawking teenage boy in a Honda Accord. “Turn forty-two and buy a sports car to try to prove I’m still young. Just like the guys. Midlife crises are equal opportunity these days.”
“My understanding was you have an affair
you buy the midlife crisis car. How come you get both?”
“Just lucky,” she says, lovingly stroking the stick shift.
“Guess when I have my midlife crisis I’ll have to get a tattoo or dye my hair purple. I never learned to drive a manual.”
“Neither did I,” Lucy admits. “On this car, you can leave it in automatic. Then the stick’s just there for show.”
“Wonder if Mario Andretti used it that way.” I want to stretch my cramped legs, but there’s no room. Lucy turns onto the highway and whips into the left lane. My hair is flying wildly around my head and I try to tie it back with my fingers. Lucy purses her lips, jams her foot on the gas and hits eighty.
“A little reckless today?” I ask, clutching the sides of my seat.
“Sorry,” she says, dropping back down to seventy-five. “Check the glove compartment. I have just what you need.”
“A steel-plated crash helmet, I hope.” But I should know better. I reach in and find an extra head scarf. Won’t save my life, but at least it’s Gucci.
By the time we hit Route 7 in Connecticut, I’m enjoying the wind in my face and the envious glances of every man we pass who’s trapped in a family sedan. I’m starting to feel like the coolest girl in high school—if only my aching, scrunched-up knees weren’t reminding me that I won’t be trying out for the cheerleading squad anytime soon. With Metallica blaring from the CD player, we pull into Dahlia Hammerschmidt’s circular driveway and the young valet eyes us—or maybe the car—approvingly. Lucy springs out and tosses him the keys.
“Hope you can drive stick,” she challenges as she waltzes away.
We walk past perfectly manicured hedges that must keep a topiary-team of Japanese gardeners working 24/7. I can’t even keep my bushes from drooping over into the neighbor’s yard, and Dahlia’s evergreens are a menagerie of bears and elephants. Once inside the massive ornamented front door, a butler hands us a small bound pamphlet with a grand, curlicued title page that reads “The Hammerschmidts at Versailles.” I look helplessly at Lucy.
“Dahlia’s ballroom is an exact replica of the Hall of Mirrors,” Lucy
whispers. “She figures if it was good enough for Marie Antoinette, it’s good enough for her.”
We walk down an endless parquet hallway hung with dozens of ancestral portraits. The Hammerschmidts have either a fine family tree or a good art dealer. Once we reach the football-field-sized ballroom, I stop short, awed. Probably the desired effect. The room is done entirely in white and gold and mirrors—the same decorating scheme of every apartment I’ve ever seen in Miami. But this faux-French rendering boasts a dozen enormous hanging cut-crystal chandeliers, two-dozen statues of gold nymphets hoisting up shimmering candelabras, and enough three-story-high arched French doors and windows to have kept the Pella company busy for two years. Dahlia even copied the red velvet ropes currently used at Versailles to block eager tourists from touching the gilded treasures. Apparently nobody told her Louis XVI wasn’t the one who put them there.
Lucy spots an editor of
across the room and goes off to compare notes on their slow-weight training class. Talk about the latest. Instead of hours in the gym pumping iron, the new in-the-know technique requires hefting something the weight of a small Brinks truck just once or twice. Verrryy slowwwly. Makes no sense, but apparently it works. Just twenty minutes a week and they both look like goddesses. Muscle-spasmed goddesses, but goddesses. I decide to get something to eat, but all I can find here at Versailles-on-the-Housatonic are a few bacon-wrapped figs and one tiny tray of cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Dahlia must be very, very rich, if she can afford not to feed her guests and expect them to come back.
But obviously they do. Looking around, I realize the room is packed with celebrities—or people who think they are. Fox News anchors, ’70s sitcom stars, and the local weather woman from WPIX. Wouldn’t they prefer to get their Botox shots in private? No, maybe not. Letting people know you’ve had plastic surgery is the fastest way to land a
cover these days. Right behind starting a twelve-step program for sex addiction. Or hiring a surrogate to give birth to your babies, preferably triplets.
Lucy comes wafting back, trailed by an attractive, bespectacled doctor in a polo shirt and cashmere jacket. The man of the hour. And dressed right. If you’re performing appendectomies, hospital scrubs and white lab coats offer reassurance. But for elective beauty procedures, good looks and a custom wardrobe are the ticket.
“Jess, darling, meet the fabulous Dr. Herb Parnell. Every girl’s new best friend.”
“Nice to meet you,” he says, scrutinizing me as he extends his hand, and I notice his long tapered fingers. Concert pianist might have been a more fulfilling career option. Or maybe not. “Lucy tells me you’re a virgin.”
“Plastic surgically speaking, of course,” Lucy adds hastily.
Ever the professional, Dr. Parnell appraises my face. “Even if it’s your first time, you’ll be easy,” he says cupping my chin. “A little Botox on the forehead. Some Cymetra under the cheekbone. A couple of shots of Restylane around the lips. And CosmoDerm to fill in the laugh lines around your eyes. You’re lucky, not too much damage yet. Two, three dozen injections tops and we’re done.”
Done with what? With any chance to remember that forty isn’t twenty and doesn’t have to be? The good things about getting older—wisdom, experience, all that—are fine, but I guess nobody wants them to show up on her face. Still, how can you age gracefully if you’re at the doctor’s office all the time?
“Why would I need an injection under my cheekbones?” I ask Dr. Parnell, curious despite myself. “And what did you say would go there? The one that sounded like a new STD?”
“Cymetra. My new favorite,” he answers, warming to the subject. “All pure. Made from ground-up human skin. A little hard to get since it’s made from cadavers. We’re fighting for FDA approval. But my real dream is to have it part of the donor form on the back of your license.”
What an idea. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to make the ultimate sacrifice and save someone from a lifetime of wrinkles?
“He’s recommended Artefill for me,” Lucy bubbles enthusiastically. “For my laugh lines. Lasts longer than regular collagen. It’s got acrylic beads in it.”
“The beads stimulate your skin to make its own collagen,” Dr. Parnell explains. “There is a little downside, though. Sometimes the beads show through. Especially if you have thin skin.”
“That won’t be a problem for me,” Lucy says cavalierly. “Can’t last in my business with thin skin.”
We’ve obviously monopolized the book-writing doctor long enough, because just then, Dahlia Hammerschmidt sashays over. A diminutive woman in size only, with pouffed-up hair, pushed-up breasts and diamond jewelry that weighs more than she does, she drapes a proprietary arm around Dr. Parnell’s waist.