The reality of Manhattan life rarely matches the fantasy on TV, which fails to convey the pee smell, but last week I was living the dream when I went to a party at New York Fashion Week.
I was invited by a friend from high school who is now a high-powered PR agent in fashion. She must remember me as cooler than I am.
I felt confident enough to accept because I'd just had my hair cut. As anyone with unruly hair knows, you need to honor the blowout.
I might've felt unworthy, but my hair deserved this.
But what would I wear? I ran my first outfit idea by my friend in a text message. Her reply:
"Dressier?" I asked.
She sent a screen shot of the guest list full of top models and celebrities, along with the word Peak.
I promised I wouldn't embarrass her, but inwardly, I panicked. What did I have in my closet that was "peak?" Put bluntly, what did I have that was both recently dry-cleaned and still fit?
Questions Anna Wintour never needs to ask.
I worried about finding the party address, but there was an honest-to-goodness red carpet. The photographers lowered their cameras to give me the live version of the blank face emoji.
I didn't take it personally. Instead I weaved through them, hunched and apologetic, as if I was walking in front of a movie screen. I was so hasty exiting the carpet, I completely missed the coat check and had to carry my bulky puffer jacket.
No one should have to be fashionable in February.
The event was as glamorous as I'd imagined. A handful of select, emerging designers were featured, and beautiful clothes and accessories were on display - tough leather skirts and architectural jackets, stylish chapeaux, and vintage watches, glittering heels and embroidered-silk slippers.
If I'd been able to sit down in my dress, I would've tried the shoes on.
As I'd anticipated, my friend was too busy hosting to hang, but it was fun to see her in professional mode. She looked gorgeous and confident as she worked the room, seamlessly shifting between warm interactions with party guests and deft directions to staff.
The only downside - I was on my own.
I'd been anxious that everyone would have the runway bodies and I'd feel like some writer-ogre, but the crowd was beautifully diverse. In some ways, it looked like any other industry party, except there were more women; better, mostly black clothing; and a shared love of a bold lip.
They could maintain carefully lined, burgundy lips because few were eating. Servers circulated with trays of hors d'oeuvres that the attractive guests politely refused.
This was when I leaned in to my writer identity and sampled every treat that came by - for research!
In my industry, a sample size is 81/2 by 11.
Without shame, I flagged down my favorite server for Round 2 of the mini ice-cream pops. My mouth was full or I would've explained, "I work at home."
Honestly, you couldn't get fat on this food if you tried. The portions were comically small. One appetizer was styled to look like a potted plant, with a tiny heirloom carrot served in a thimble-size clay pot of hummus.
A baby carrot would be too large a serving. These carrots were prenatal.
The open bar, however, was serving Big Gulps. My pinot grigio came filled so high, I had to slurp the brim.
Tiny bite, generous pour - fashion's food pyramid.
Maybe it was the booze, but I started to relax and enjoy myself. Networking events can be great when it's not your job field. I got to admire the designers' work and meet people without pressure to "connect." My sole objective was not to spill on the clothes.
In the end, I only spilled some on my own.
As the party wound down, some people I'd met asked me to join them for the after-party drinks downtown. I looked for my pal, but she'd been hustling nonstop, so I figured I wouldn't interrupt her flow and gave her a little wave from across the room.
Outside, we were just about to get in a cab when my friend came jogging out. "You're leaving?"
"I wanted to say goodbye, but they said you'd join us later, and - "
She stopped me with a giant hug. "Thank you for coming."
I was touched.
I guess you can still use an old friend, even at the peak.