By the end of the Summer I had been exposed to four distinct mini breaks in the Hamptons.
My image of life there prior to these visits was limited, predominantly infused with scenes from Gossip Girl. My most recent impression was formed by a South African friend’s declaration that ‘New Yorkers are excited by the Hamptons because they’re used to really small houses’. The inference being that those of us South Africans who weren’t raised in shacks are used to big houses and are therefore very unlikely to be impressed by the size of dwellings in the Hamptons.
Wrong! While the most affluent South African and American playgrounds may share pristine sandy beaches, lush polo fields, an abundance of privately educated school boys and social acceptance of drink driving, they cannot be compared when it comes to sheer ostentation of property size. Plettenberg Bay’s most lavish residences would fit in the pool rooms of some of the estates I spied out there.
These monstrosities are literally the foundations that dreams are laid on. At one very-large-house-party, a man pointed out to me that just by virtue of their presence the guests were likely to be wealthy. Not an observation a wealthy person is likely to make was my first thought, but admittedly a good place to hang out should you wish to become rich by association. The competition will be fierce if you are hoping to go the marriage route but at least you don’t have to beat about the bush. It’s quite acceptable to ask things like ‘do you have a boat?’ and if the answer us yes for the follow up question to be ‘can my friends and I come sailing with you next w end?’. The men are just as ruthless. At another party that resembled a wedding in a botanical garden but was really just a ‘small beach party’ I was introduced to quite an attractive man. After two minutes of small talk, his wingman arrived and announced that they were going to do ‘a lap’. I was familiar with the concept – the rapid reconnaissance mission you do in clubs, parties and the like. I was not familiar with this normally discreet activity being verbally acknowledged and performed in order to avoid me. I had been identified as the female equivalent of a non boat-owner – a non-model.
Happily, even us non boat-owners and non-models who manage to slip past the heavies in the driveway can enjoy free canapés, cocktails and sunsets. If people are too busy lapping the room to have a conversation with you, at least you won’t go home hungry or thirsty. In fact, if you’re extra lucky you might even take home some schwag – that’s American for free shit. Turns out even the rich and famous love a goodie bag.
So what did I bring home with me from the Hamptons this Summer? A bit of a tan and some new acquaintances (I’ve actually heard myself saying ‘we met in the Hamptons this Summer’ when asked how I know someone). But more importantly I feel like I’ve returned from a pilgrimage to the essence of the American psyche. From Labor to Memorial Day, the Hamptons are a non-stop celebration of the great American lifestyle – athletic, free and plentiful. This is where you know American dreams have been realized.