Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hey, Upper Eastsiders

One of the really nice things about coming from New York is that you don't have to look very far to find movies and TV shows that feature your very own hometown. There's Blue Bloods, Girls, Elementary, How I Met Your Mother, Ugly Betty, 30 Rock, CSI: NY and, of course, Sex and the City. The Good Wife is supposed to be set in Chicago, but it's filmed in New York, and if you think about it, Washington's Embassy Row in Madam Secretary looks just like Manhattan's Riverside Drive. 

Oh wait ... it is Manhattan's Riverside Drive.

Whenever I'm homesick, all I have to do is find You've Got Mail on cable or pull out my well-worn DVD. Meg Ryan's adorable "Shop Around the Corner" is quite literally around the corner from where I grew up. The whole movie is pretty much a love poem to my neighborhood (not surprising, it was Nora Ephron's 'hood too). I may live in New England, but I'm still an Upper Westsider.

Maybe that's why I don't get Gossip Girl.

Maybe you have to be from the East Side.

In the last two weeks, we've had four snow days (the first and only snow days of the year — so far at least). Once she slept in until 11, once her homework was (halfheartedly) done, once she and a neighbor and the neighbor's little brother went sledding, my daughter was b-o-r-e-d. Bored. Luckily, despite snowmageddon rounds one and two, we never lost power or cable service or WiFi. My high honors high school student — who has been exposed to fine art and world-class culture since, well, birth — did what any red-blooded American teen would do.

She binged on Netflix.

Did she watch documentaries? The Colin Firth Pride & Prejudice? Downton Abbey? The BBC's Little Dorrit? Of course not. She watched back-to-back (to-back-to-back) episodes of Gossip Girl.

Here's where I came in. I was getting some cabin fever of my own. Although most of my clients were working through the blizzards, it was fairly quiet. The Y was closed and the lack of sidewalks and 8-foot snow piles at every intersection kept me from my usual walks. So, I decided to settle in and watch with her.

"Hey, Upper Eastsiders," saluted the anonymous and oh-so-snarky eponymous narrator at the beginning of the show. She then proceeded to air all the dirty laundry of Serena van der Woodsen, Blair Waldorf and assorted other prep school pretties with preposterous names. Apparently Manhattan's elite high schoolers party very hard, wear multiple designer outfits each day and live in absolutely palatial apartments on Park Avenue. (Except for one artsy family that lives in a funky, though equally palatial, loft in Brooklyn.) There are affairs and intrigues and eating disorders. The mothers (all of whom look considerably younger than I do) veer toward the frowsy and slightly inebriated. Then again, they aren't the main event. Their kids are. They own Manhattan.

Just like we did back in 1979, right?

Um ... not!

I went to high school on Park Avenue myself, but my experience couldn't have been farther from that of Serena and Blair. We were a school full of brainy kids, and accordingly most of us were, shall we say, fashion-challenged. No designer outfits (except, naturally, my Calvin Klein jeans). No outrageous parties. No last minute trips to Rio with a new boyfriend. We did homework, and went to the library and violin lessons and play rehearsals, and babysat on the weekends so we'd have pocket money.

It makes me wonder if today's teen audience thinks that there are really people living the Gossip Girl life. Not many, I'd tell them. Not many, if any.

Then again, people still ask me if living in NYC is like Seinfeld or, worse, The Real Housewives. No. It's not. And growing up there wasn't like The Carrie Diaries either. 

Maybe someday I'll write a TV series about what it was really like. 

Then again, I don't think it would do very well on Netflix.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at  

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