the idea for our current trip to cozumel started back in april when i was visiting dear NY friends with a new baby. elena is a sweetheart of a girl. as is always the case with little babies, though, you might set out to do something first thing in the morning, but after the feeding and the napping and the bathing and the changing and the feeding and the napping and the changing, you generally leave the house at the crack of 4PM.
i'm not complaining. it was a wonderful trip for many, many reasons, the least of which is that elena's dad being from puerto rico and elena's mom being a former NACLA editor made me think, briefly, that we should spend christmas in playa del carmen.
boy did we dodge a bullet there, or so i feel after having spent the day across the water in playa. it's definitely the maya riviera, complete with too-good-for-you attitude. i felt like a slovenly dullard, the way i always do in such places - think laguna beach, pacific heights, chelsea (UK or US). if i can be permitted a cheap imitation of tolstoy, it would be that rich people are the same the world over, or so i learned years ago in dalkey. after the disorienting north-of-the-liffey train stations, where bruised, middle-aged women stared down beer-swigging irish louts, we landed in a completely different, yet completely recognizable milieu of bottled water, white walls, blue skies and sangfroid. for playa del carmen, add women with beautiful, sandy feet in platform flip flops and buff boys in everything quiksilver.
finding myself in the magical land where everything is organic, charming and chic unearths wealth-dripping fantasies and a delicious meanness. i look around and think: chanel sunglasses with the logo on the arm? did you really think we wouldn't know otherwise? i wonder why that woman doesn't hire a trainer - and, for that matter, a new esthetician. honey, just because lady gaga wears white spandex doesn't mean you can. as for that guy over there, does he think being rich gets him off the crocs hook? and OMG what were they thinking with that house? i know african slate costs a lot, but it is absolutely hideous in that quantity.
making fun of rich people is one of my favorite sports. if my moral centre quavers momentarily, i remind myself that owning a vehicle that runs on the blood of the spotted owl must take the edge off being mocked by the likes of me.
of course, what yearns behind this nasty little commentary is the conviction that i would make a better rich person. i really do believe i would make a fabulous dowager. i would be trim, generous, tasteful and carefree, not to mention truly stylish. i would throw fabulous parties. i would eat fabulous food. i would have a fabulous body, a carefully cultivated icon to exercising well, sleeping deeply, and medicating appropriately. if i were rich, i would make the world a more beautiful place, starting with me. i want the opportunity to be the folks i see, but improved. when you think about it, it's kind of a generous pedagogical impulse. right?
unfortunately, playa del carmen did not open this satisfying avenida to me. i wanted to be that principessa (but with a wrinkleless brow and a better handbag) - or, rather, i wanted to want to be her - but instead playa unleashed the sniffy inner cheapskate that i hate. what makes a bathing suit worth that many euros? even if it's directly from florence, at that price it should come with a gorgeous italian lady! and are they serious: a matching cover-up? puh-leeze. although it is true that nobody wears white linen like the rich (oh, the look of white linen against a caribbean sea!), it is also true that big bucks make for big mistakes, at least judging by senora frumpy's baubles.
why didn't playa let me play out my rich girl fantasies?: not rich enough. there's a certain number of galleries, sure, but there's also a few too many wholesale-priced yucatan souvenir stands and 50%-off-silver touts. who wants to eat at a white-tableclothed restaurant if your gaze lands on seven minimum-wagers hastily ironing boxes of textiles from guatemala? no. i like my rich places to be well and truly rich, so rich it hurts all the way down to the core where your self-esteem should live.