Editor’s note: “Primates of Park Avenue” is a memoir about the tribe of uber-wealthy mums of Manhattan’s Upper East Side as told by Wednesday Martin, a PhD with a background in anthropology.
In the excerpt below, Martin and a friend calculate the cost of maintaining a “Manhattan Geisha” lifestyle for a year.
What, I wondered aloud to Candace as our Cobb salads materialised before us, did one do in order to be a beautiful-enough woman with children in this world?
And how much did it cost in actual dollars and cents? Candace’s hazel eyes, free of crow’s-feet thanks to good genes, good diet, and some good, strategic recent Botox, lit up.
“Let’s figure it out!” she suggested.
Why hadn’t we thought of this before? Our salads were soon forgotten — this was more fun than eating.
When we were done, our notes about what we guessed a Manhattan Geisha of the Upper East Side tribe I was studying did for and spent on her upkeep — based on conversations, observations, and a heavily padded version of what we did for ourselves — looked like this.
Head-to-toe analysis of annual cost of self-maintenance for high-mid- to high-ranking UES woman with kids in private school
Hair and scalp
Haircut & colour (5x/year @ $US500) $US2.5K and blowout (weekly @ $US70 per, incl. tip) $US3.5K = $US6K
Hair & makeup stylist for events (10x/year @ $US150) = $US1.5K
Consult and follow-up w/specialist who does not accept insurance, regarding hair loss due to colour, stress, hormones, and/or autoimmune issues caused by stress and hormones = $US2K
Quarterly Botox, Restylane, and fillers ($US1,000 x 4) = $US4K
Monthly peel ($US300 x 12) = $US3.6K
Monthly facial ($US250 x 12) = $US3K
Monthly brows: waxing, tweezing, sugaring, or stringing ($US50 x 12) = $US600
Laser (for sun damage, collagen stimulation, etc.) = $US2.5K
Facial skin-care products (cleaner, moisturizer, serum, sunblock, eye cream) = $US1.5K
Facial makeup = $US1K
Exercise classes = $US3.5K
Personal trainer = $US7.5K
Nutritionist = $US1.5K
Juice cleanses = $US3.5K if weekly
Mani/pedi = $US2K
Massage = $US9K if weekly; $US4.5K if biweekly
Spray tan = $US500
Spa getaway/s = $US8K if biannually
Plastic surgery incl. breast augmentation, lipo = wild-card items
Seasonal Fall/Winter = $US3K — 20K
Seasonal Spring/Summer = $US3K — 20K
Events = $US5K — 20K
Hamptons = $US5K
Palm Beach = $US5K
Aspen (ski jacket, pants, hat/s, gloves) = $US2.5K
Shoes/boots = $US5 — 8K
Bags = $US5 — 10K
“Stupefying,” Candace pronounced as we tallied the numbers and put our credit cards on the table.
Something like $US95,000, on the low end, just to be beautiful enough and well-enough dressed and well-enough shod and sufficiently well tended to be in the game.
“We are not telling our husbands,” she intoned seriously as we kissed good-bye and parted on the street.
Although maybe that would have been a good idea, since we were cheap dates compared with others we knew.
“Hey!” she shouted seconds later from the window of the cab she had just hopped into: “We didn’t even count drivers and Ubers to get to and from the stores and appointments!” She was right.
But I didn’t have the appetite to revisit our figures. I felt dizzy.
In spite of this fact, I had an outfit to plan, and some shopping to do.
Courtesy of Simon & Schuster. Copyright © 2015 by Wednesday Martin.
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