Monday, May 08, 2006

Most Influential/Privileged New Yorkers

Today, New York magazine showed up in my mailbox, with its story on "The Influentials" -- those people whom we're supposed to appreciate with our hero worship for their "influence" on New York. I found the whole article a bit hard to stomach with regard to its dollar-sign and celebrity worship. I'm sorry, but if Lindsay Lohan, Dan Klores, and Anna Wintour are featured as prominent figures on any list, I'm pretty much going to stop reading soon after seeing that perfect storm of superficiality. Influential? Sure. I'll give New York magazine that. But should they be? I think the answer is pretty clear.

Here's an example to clarify why I'm feeling this way right now, especially:

I was walking to the gym this past weekend and saw a line about five people thick wrapped around two-plus blocks in the upper 20s. As I looked closer, I noticed they were mostly young girls -- mostly minorities -- in jeans standing alongside their girlfriends or their mothers. They were all holding half-sheets of white paper, and I wondered what they were waiting for. A rapper, maybe? Some comedian to show up? (Lord knows I've waited in many a Comedy Central taping line.) I couldn't stand not knowing what was going on, so I finally went up and asked one of them what she was waiting for.

"Prom dresses," a pretty girl with straight auburn hair said. "They donate them, and you just have to get in line, and you can get one. Macy's, everybody, donates them."

"Oh, well, good luck," I told her. "I hope you get a good one."

After getting over my own horrible racism, I thought about the girls the whole time I was at the gym. I knew instinctively that not all of them would be able to take a dress home -- there were just too many in line. On the way back from the gym, I overheard an older woman talking to another passerby about the giveaway. The professional organization that runs the Operation Fairy Dust (love that name) giveaway is called NY BACKed, she said. The woman is a teacher and has gone to this giveaway for four years, and it's never been this big before. In years past, she said, there were maybe a hundred girls total waiting for a free dress -- accessories included. But this year, they advertised it on the radio, and by 8 a.m., there were already several hundred girls in line. Her students who came early asked her why there weren't enough dresses to go around.

I'll never forget what she said next: "They're going to close it down after I get one more girl in. A lot of girls are going to go away empty-handed and heartbroken."

I wanted to go home and clean out my closet -- get my old, somewhat dated prom dresses, run downstairs onto the sidewalk, and give them out to the girls in line. But my few dresses are all in the Midwest in an upstairs closet, gathering dust on some cheap plastic hanger.

After I, as a new New Yorker, read about the "influential New Yorkers" (including the "Billion-Dollar Litigators Club") it's easy to become incorrectly jaded -- to think every teenager in New York is spoiled and private-schooled and goes shopping at Barneys for playclothes...or clubbing clothes -- thanks Lindsay Lohan. But, despite all of those New York stereotypes, there are hundreds of girls who can't afford prom dresses. Let alone a dress that's unique or in season -- thanks, Anna Wintour.

Influential New Yorkers? Let's think again. Click here to donate to Operation Fairy Dust.


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