As you watch the Oscars tonight and are seduced by the gowns, glam, and greatness of the So Cal life I offer you this peek into my recent foray into the heart of L.A. – the mall.
Is there anything more overrated than Los Angeles? Well, there’s yoga pants. Those are so overrated. Not that I don’t enjoy the wonder and forgiving qualities of an elastic waistband, but come on women, get to know how to work a zipper again. In fact, now that I’m thinking of it L.A. is a lot like those Lululemon stretch pants – obscenely over priced, all about the label, and geared towards people with deep-seated self-esteem issues.
I can say all this because I’ve recently spent quality time in Los Angeles and years ago I called it home. But nothing brought out the overratedness of L.A. like being there with my 14 year-old-daughter, Isabella, several months ago. When she got off the plane she was like Bambi (you know if Bambi wore flip-flops) all starry-eyed, fresh-faced and agog at exploring the entertainment capital of the world. My excitement level was at zero because I was girding my loins in preparation of driving in the hellacious traffic.
Her first Los Angeles based query was “where are the pretty parts?” This is when I had to break her heart and tell her that L.A. was basically all freeway and the pretty parts were hidden, like the Lost City of Atlantis, to keep people like us away.
But my daughter, God bless her youthful optimism, wasn’t ready to believe me. She suggested we go The Grove, an upscale shopping center where younger celebrities are known to hang out. I tried to explain to her that The Grove has almost exactly the same stores as our mall back home, but like most teenage girls she was very persuasive so off to The Grove we went.
The first Grove gauntlet we had to run through was mastering the mall’s parking garage. You know you’re not in Kansas anymore when you have to pay more to park your car than you do for a sweater at Nordstrom’s. The second was not getting lost in the vast sea of Range Rovers that seemed to dominate the parking garage creating a feeling you were being held hostage in multi-leveled car dealership. The Rover has to be the official car of Los Angeles. Basically, if you want to pretend you’re special you need a Rover that costs six figures and has Ugg fleece-lined seats with Patagonia floor mats (okay, those last two things I just made up, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist somewhere).
This whole driving an expensive car thing in L.A. confuses me and speaks to the larger issue of the intelligence level of people who live here. Why in God’s name would you buy, lease, borrow or, whatever, a car that costs double what my first home did when you know that it’s just going to get banged up, keyed, crushed, and have other assorted acts of abuse perpetrated on it? The most popular pastime in L.A., besides hair removal, has to be taking your car in to be repaired.
What’s that? You’re confused about my hair removal remark. Well, let me explain. Los Angeles is the land of shiny people and they’re not shiny because they’re stars or any other such nonsense. The people of L.A. shine because they’re in a perpetual state of having any hair that isn’t a scalp follicle waxed thus giving their faces, arms, backs, legs, and other much more delicate parts a “I’ve just had hair forcibly ripped off my skin” sheen. How do you know you’ve made it in L.A.? When you have a certified, fair trade, organic waxing specialist that travels with you.
Two things I knew for certain when we hit the epicenter of The Grove. I weighed more than most of the people shopping plus I had the thickest eyebrows and that’s including the men. Nothing says I’m from Los Angeles like a middle-aged man with brows that look like Elsa’s from the movie Frozen.
Another thing that was wrong with me was my handbag. It wasn’t designer. Your bag is your calling card. It sets your pecking order and the bigger the better. L.A. is a land of horizontally challenged women schlepping around, what amounts to suitcases, on their wrists and shoulders. My daughter and I began playing a game I called “Price that Purse.” We took turns guessing how much each woman’s purse cost and then used our phones to Google the exact amount. The high dollar winner was an almost $8,000 Hermes bag that I thought looked exactly like a Dooney & Bourke purse I had recently seen on clearance at a Nordstrom Rack.
“It doesn’t even look that pretty?” My daughter wondered out loud. “Why would someone spend that much money on it?”
“I don’t know,” I answered. “Maybe it matches her Range Rover.”
Finally, after we had our fill of people watching, we hit the Cheesecake Factory for lunch. (Yes, life is just one big chain restaurant.) After we placed our order I noticed a group of mothers were sitting with their children and as their kids ate they were drinking some God awful looking moss-green, foamy, potion, in a glass bottle. I asked a mom sitting close to us, who looked like an even skinnier version of Tori Spelling (FYI Los Angeles is comprised of women who look like Tori Spelling. If there is ever a missing persons report filed on Tori half of the female population of L.A. County would meet the physical description) what it was and she enthusiastically shared she was sipping a “handcrafted juice cleanse comprised of kale, spinach, romaine, chard and cucumber.” Apparently, it was “life changing” and she had “pretty much given up solid food.”
I wondered to myself if she had given up on life. Who voluntarily surrenders their right to chew? Is this going to be some sort of new movement – the Non Chewers? Are we soon going to be judged and regulated to “loser” status if we choose to chew? Oh, go ahead and think I’m crazy, but ten years ago would you have predicted that a large percentage of women would stop wearing pants with zippers and buttons?
In fact, those women not chewing made me want to chew harder. I plowed through my Chinese Chicken salad with gusto really chomping on the crispy wontons. My daughter asked me what my problem was I told her I was pro chewing and not afraid to show it. She gave me one of those specials looks 14-year-olds save just for their mothers. The one that says, “Ugh. Why am I stuck here with her?”
Before she had a chance to follow-up that look with an eye roll we had our first celebrity sighting. A sit-com star was in the Cheesecake Factory. My daughter whispered to me, “He looks so, I don’t know, not like he does on TV. It’s kind of disappointing. ”
I knew exactly what she was talking about. Los Angeles is all about artifice. Under a blanket of smog that looks like the area is being smothered with a dirty Snuggie everyone is pretending to be someone they’re not and worse they’re scared of all the not important things in life like hair, handbags and chewing.
“This right here,” I tell her while gesturing with my fork, “is why being average rules.”
“Huh?” she answers not getting my point.
“Average folks can chew with wild abandon. It means we’re okay with who we are.”
“So. Not. Following.”
“You don’t have to understand me. Just know this. Never lose your sense of self. You know, being okay with who you are. It’s your common sense compass in a world of directionless goobers that are easily distracted and get lost by taking the bright and shiny exit. Oh, and one more thing, never relinquish your right to solid food.”