The news of the rare, by-invitation-only sale in Valentino's corporate office in our building spread like wildfire. However, when I learned that the sale featured 50-80% discounts on items retailing from $600 to $85,000 - including the actual dress that Cameron Diaz wore to the 2007 Golden Globes, I decided to remain at my desk. As my coworkers raced for their wallets and the elevators, my boss pulled me aside, slipped me her credit card and told me to go pick something out for myself. I could not believe it. Finally, she said, "If you ask me a fourth time if I'm serious, I'm going to revoke my offer."
Without another word, I quietly accepted her credit card and followed the pilgrimage of women to Valentino. Of course, I looked for the cheapest thing I could find. Though I am sure I could have chosen a slightly more expensive clutch or a gorgeous jacket that caught my eye at 80% off of $2200, I just could not bring myself to do it. In the end, I selected a pair of shoes with a retail price of $645 and triumphantly carried them in their red canvas box to the register.
When I returned to the office, I gave my boss the receipt and asked, "Is this ok?"
She looked at it and laughed.
"Yes," she replied, "That is fine."
As I sat at my desk admiring my new shoes and wondering if I'll ever actually have the courage to wear them outdoors, I overheard my coworkers discussing their own purchases and the other shoppers they had noticed. Apparently there had been more going on upstairs than I had been aware, but being overwhelmed by sticker shock, I had not noticed the debutantes and ladies who lunch strolling among the items in the Valentino display room. And - having been lost in my own little world as I carefully considered the dozens of exclusive options that were suddenly available to me at the swipe of my boss's credit card - I had missed the hissed whispers of "That's [so-and-so]'s daughter" or "That's the wife of [so-and-so]."
Even though I enjoy an above average share of "exclusive" New York City nightlife - thanks solely to my gorgeous girlfriends who know all the right people and a few friends who are investment bankers - I often forget that there is this whole other world of elite Manhattanites coexisting around me, who actually purchase the $20,000 crocodile handbag - whether or not it's on sale. Even the dramatized insights into this mysterious realm provided by The Real Housewives of New York City and Gossip Girl carry with them a suspension of disbelief in which I rarely pause to consider that there are regular people (i.e. not celebrities), who actually get to live like this every day.
Now I have my own pair of shoes equal in value to half my month's rent, and I can put them on and feel like Carrie Bradshaw floating over the cobblestone streets in the West Village. But it's strange to remember that my friends and I will always likely be the girls that the true Manhattan socialites grumble about when they say, "It seems like they'll let anyone in here now."