It is almost 5 months into our tenure in Snobsville and the moment I have been dreading is here. For other SNOBbies it is a weekly event – the reason they have au pairs and nannies rather than using conventional child care. But for me it may be fraught with opportunities to fail a myriad of Snobsville tests. What I wear will be more minutely assessed, the way I talk, our ability to off-handedly spend obscene amounts of money. All painfully on display at the Charity Ball. Second to the Political fundraiser, this is the moment I have been fearing more than any other.
There was no escaping it – Jason’s company had bought us a table and the Children’s hospital is hardly a cause we could easily turn down. Nothing short of a pre booked summer in Tuscany, (and by pre booked I mean the Nanny has set aside her own schedule to attend), would get me out of this.
The Charity event is a rite of passage in Snobsville. The ‘What’s On’ page is packed with food drives, trivia nights, school fetes and expensive dinners. In Snobsville, where children have busy schedules and ‘too posh to push’ is a compliment, women who organise charity events reign supreme.
And Linda, (of course), had organised the charity event to defy all others in the name of Snobsville’s second favourite sport- one upmanship. She was an expert in knowing exactly which flavours complimented which palette’s without being seen taking many bites of anything. She was adept at combining the perfect buds into a striking floral table arrangement. She had countless anecdotes about her immeasurably gifted young son, and just enough references to her handsome salt-and-pepper haired, obscenely rich husband. Her figure was immaculate, her laugh lilted just as it should. Always, she was ahead of the game and had done one thing more, run one more marathon, climbed an extra mountain, knew someone a little bit more famous. In every way she was winning the night.
The Snobsville men, (who are rarely seen specimens outside of a golf course or away from their offices), separated themselves instantly from their wives as they walked in the door in a show of independence and oozing a masculine charm. They bid frivolously on expensive items like boats and vacations, signed memorabilia and once in a lifetime experiences at the silent auction. Of course, they are adept at making sure their over the top bids are not so silent. Clearly the auctions are a symbol of their ever comparable virility and the size of the bid is not only analogous to the size of their bank accounts, but also the size of their…manliness. The auction tables were exclusively patronised by men in expensive suits, their extravagant cologne competing as fiercely as the undercurrent of machismo.
The women linger at the table, drinking Prosecco, (which goes quite nicely with the antipasto darling), gossiping openly and competing in another way – through their children. It’s as if the act of giving unearths a sense of competition that is barely repressable in every day Snobvillian life. And Linda, the belle of the ball and the most competitive of competitive parents, was the favourite for the title.
“Kingston is just so bright I can barely keep up with him. He reads at a second grade level and does Lego at a 6-10 year old level. His teachers are simply astounded.”
“Yes, I’m sure he’s quite astounding.” Caroline said it through gritted teeth. “And even with all the drinking while you were pregnant.”
“It was the social season dear. Anyway, his father and I are both trained lawyers. I doubt it would have mattered.”
“Yes. I think Aiden might be a lawyer the way he argues with me.”
Linda’s gaze narrowed. “It takes more than that dear.” Caroline smiled and enjoyed the small victory. For a (very) brief moment I felt sorry for Linda and swiftly steered the conversation in a new direction.
“So. This is a great party Linda.”
“It’s not a party dear. Parties are for children. It’s an event.”
“Oh. Which one of these handsome men is Charlton’s Dad? I bet he looks just like his father.” The women in the circle darted their eyes from side to side at each other, a mixture of shock and delightful anticipation spreading across their faces.
That damn Snobvillian silence. Orchestrated perfectly to accentuate someone’s error or misfortune and provide as much amusement as possible for onlookers.
“What? You mentioned the father…you said he was a lawyer?”
Finally Linda put me out of my misery. Sighing, she said “Never mind dear. It’s nothing I’m ashamed of. Simon is a little more mature than I am, so I had to use a donor. It’s not that there was anything wrong, particularly, it’s just…well, to be honest, some of his nieces and nephews are a little slow. I was concerned about his ability to produce quality offspring. He is Kingston’s father in every way that counts. And as an added bonus I got to select from the finest donors in the world.”
“Oh! Well, that’s good.”
“Good? It’s perfect dear. Kingston is the product of two well-educated parents and a Nobel prize winning Olympian. He has the very best chance anyone could ask for.” Chance at what, I wondered. Finding the cure for cancer? Joining the Australian Curling team? Solving world hunger whilst skiing backwards down a double black run in the French Alps?
“That’s, uh, amazing, I suppose.” I was feeling less sorry for her.
“Nothing to suppose dear, it is amazing. It’s why we always holiday in Europe instead of one of the Islands. More cultural stimulation, because he’s so very –“
“Bright. Yes, we know.”
“Caroline, not every child can be content without constant stimulation from a nurturing learning environment. It’s why our Nanny is also-“
“A tutor? Yes she sounds amazing.” Elizabeth was joining in the verbal eye roll too. It was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. But Linda wasn’t finished. She had picked up a head of steam and was rolling right on.
“You know, it’s quite difficult being Kingston’s parent. He’s a complicated child. Last month at the school fete Charlton popped his balloon. It wasn’t just a balloon to him you know. He had created an entire story around the character he imagined to inhabit the balloon. He was just devastated. It was positively traumatic.”
“Are you sure he wasn’t just upset that Charlton popped his balloon?”
“With a child as bright as Kingston, it’s never as simple as that.” Linda scoffed at Elizabeth. “And it’s not just him that suffers. While poor Aiden struggles to learn to read, poor dear, I have the opposite problem. I am going broke going through so many readers for Kingston. I can barely keep up with him.”
“Struggles to read? He’s four!” Clearly Caroline was losing patience, but I was in a trance unable to look away from the five car pile up unfolding in front of me.
I smiled to myself. The two hours I spent in front of the mirror were abundantly unnecessary. I had been so concerned I wouldn’t be glamorous enough, thin enough, smell of expensive enough perfume, or would put my foot clumsily in my mouth. It would amount to nothing. I knew, without a doubt in my SNOBbie mind, that all anyone would be talking about tomorrow was Linda. More importantly, how Linda had crossed the very feint and fuzzy line between stunningly beautiful, gracious charity organiser with an impressively gifted child to self-indulgent, slightly inebriated and socially aggressive competitive mother.
Jason lost a tight battle bidding for a First Class South Pacific Cruise on a luxury liner – he must be becoming more and more SNOBbie too, such was the disappointment imprinted on his fragile male ego. But I had a win tonight. I wouldn’t be the one the gaggle would be talking about tomorrow. It’s a small distinction. It may not be a W in the win column, but it sure wasn’t a loss either.