I’m told that there exists a great guide (sadly only published in German) called something to the effect of ‘An Idiots Guide to America’. In this guide they caution that when an American says to you ‘You simply haaave to come and stay with us in the Hamptons darling!’, this should in fact NOT be interpreted as an invitation. Though it may sound like it, they don’t want to get to know you better in the intimacy of their sprawling Summer home on Long Island. They just want to let you know that are fortunate enough to have a house in the Hamptons. The same applies to ‘You simply haaave to come and stay with us in Aspen darling!’ … and so on.
I wish I’d known this a few months ago. When the guy I was dating (and yes I know that we were dating because he confirmed when I asked him 2 months in) alluded to having a house in Montauk for the Summer on our very first date, I naturally started packing my mental w-end bag. Silly me. Firstly, he doesn’t ‘have’ a house there for the Summer. He has a share in a house. Secondly, it wasn’t an invitation. He just wanted to let me know that he was someone who ‘Hamptoned’.
Luckily, he’s not the only one with a share in a Hamptons house. Access to one is not as exclusive as you might think. It works pretty much the same way as a regular apartment share. Someone rents the house and auditions roommates to live there with them for the Summer. Of course, most non-exclusive people like me have jobs they have to go to during the week and so only go up on the w-end or every second w-end. And so, the parallel Summer housing arrangement is born. You have your city roommates and your Hampton’s roommates. When someone introduces their roommate to you in the Hamptons, they mean their Hamptons roommate. And as in the city, when a roommate isn’t occupying their room (or bed), you get someone else to sublet it.
This is how I’ve come to find myself in the Hamptons – by knowing someone who knows someone who has a ‘share’ and is happy to maximize w-end rental income. If you think about it, if you hang around in New York for long enough you’re bound to happen upon someone who knows someone, who has a spare bed in a share. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not being blasé, I’m thrilled to have stumbled upon my very own secondary connection to prime beach property in my first year. For all its glossy mag pretension, Long Island is undeniably pretty. It has pristine beaches, quaint harbor towns and ridiculous houses with sunsets, rolling lawns, swimming pools, tennis courts and hot tubs. Perfect if you just ‘have to get out of the city!’
I love a good cliché and America lives up to a lot of its on-screen projections. As a result, living here, I often like to pretend that I’m in a movie. So I made sure when I first caught the train out there early one Friday afternoon along with the rest of Manhattan, I was armed with all the essentials: Fun Friend, floppy white hat, oversize shades and whatever stripey yacht clothing I could find.
The Hamptons welcome lived up to my cinema standards. Upon disembarking in Bridgehampton, Fun Friend and I were greeted by 3 charming Ralph Lauren poster children who were clearly waiting for a lift from their mom. They wanted to know if our boyfriends were coming to pick us up. ‘Yes’, we said, ‘and they’re very big and strong’. It is the ultimate playground and the inhabitants behave accordingly. The island reeks of decadence of course, but tolerance for trashiness is reassuringly low. I witnessed a great example of this when our group was invited to a house (read mansion) party being hosted by some young successful start-up founders. In attendance was us and literally, a coach-load of University of Texas girls who had been flown and then bussed in as poolside entertainment. They were very excited to be there and had donned their skimpiest butt-hugging shorts, neon heels and push-up bikini tops for the occasion. I hate to judge but I did find myself thinking that if I was a guy and was basically paying chicks to attend my party, I probably would’ve picked classier ones, models even. The start-up founders obviously realized their mistake the morning after, because the next night the sent the guys in our group a text to reassure them that they’d ‘gotten rid of them and replaced the house with new girls’. Disappointing for the Texas crew, no doubt, but not a bad little graduation party after all.
The whole outing was a major cultural eye-opener. While I’m very happy to have access to the beautiful playground that is the Hamptons, I’m thrilled to be doing so in a couch surfing capacity with my Fun Friend in tow. At least when you’re paying for your pillow you can’t be sent home after one night for not being fun/pretty/skinny/classy enough.