Sometimes, the New York Times reads like a parody of itself. Of late, it’s raison d’etre has been to shape the world into two parts: victims and victimizers. That’s easy to do when you’re working with the leftist victim hierarchy. On one side, you have the white males and, unless they’re lesbians, the white females. On the other side, you have all their pathetic victims who are of varying races, sexualities, Islamic sects, and made-up genders.
This outlook, though, creates a problem for the Times: How do you report on the rich white leftists with whom you socialize and who have always been at the heart of the New York Times’s snobby love affair with “Society” in the City?
The Times has an answer. You write a heartrending story about how the rich are struggling to survive the Wuhan virus in their second homes (also known as country mansions) far from Manhattan. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh uncontrollably at their travails.
The article’s title is neutral: “Turning a Second Home Into a Primary Home.” It’s the subtitle that gives the game away: “Those who are lucky enough to have a weekend house have discovered that living there full-time can require some adjustment.” Those “adjustments” are where the real suffering begins.
The story opens with the plight of Sally Fischer, who owns a public relations company and is a loyal Democrat. She was forced to move with her husband and 22-year-old son “to their weekend home in Southampton.” Fortunately for Fischer, exiled now from Manhattan, she’s learning to love the sunshine-filled, cozy house, complete with its swimming pool. “This experience has rekindled our love for this house,” Ms. Fischer said.
After explaining how these wealthy Manhattanites are shifting their lives from city to country, we’re given to understand that it’s tough, very tough — and lonely, especially without the bagels:
While living full-time in places that usually get much less wear and tear, these homeowners share many of the same difficulties as anyone dealing with the coronavirus lockdown — working in communal spaces where their children now are present 24-7, discovering items in their homes that need updating, and then renovating a home while they are living in it. In addition, these homeowners must adjust to living in relatively unfamiliar towns, often far from friends, family, or creature comforts like a favorite bagel shop or longtime barber.
It also turns out that the people who live permanently in these vacation towns were less than thrilled when these New York aristos fleeing a virus-ravaged city plunked themselves down in these previously Wuhan virus-free communities.
We also meet Michelle Smith, whose large weekend home in the Hudson Valley boasts a swimming pool with a view over the whole valley. Smith is struggling because the house is “a family compound meant for entertaining – not work.”
It’s true that, for Smith, some of the challenges are quite real because she’s the single mother of an 18-year-old special needs son. Still, considering that her son “attended classes on Zoom from the butler pantry,” it’s hard to imagine a New York-based parent of a special needs son, with both trapped in a small New York high-rise, feeling much sympathy. (Emphasis mine.)
Smith’s anguish in isolation reads like a weird parody of “the rich are different from you and me”:
Ms. Smith’s mother has come to live with them to help out, but “I feel like my life went from 100 m.p.h. down to 10 m.p.h. in a day,” she said. When the pandemic hit, she went from dining in restaurants multiple nights a week and having the help of a sitter who did much of the meal prep for her son, to sharing full-time cooking duties with her mother and not eating a single meal outside her home in four months.
O.M.G. The struggle is real!
There’s also Jean Shafiroff, who’s had to move from an apartment on Park Avenue to a weekend home in South Hampton. To her credit, she expresses gratitude for the blessings in her life, but the Times writer still has to bring in some heartache:
While the house is spacious, and everyone has enough room to work, Ms. Shafiroff never got around to decorating her bedroom, and has no plans to do so now. “The walls are bare, but empty is good. Less is fine with me.”
(Shafiroff, by the way, occasionally donates to Republicans, but her heart and money are with the Democrats.)
As my kids used to say when one of their affluent classmates was whining about not being able to get the latest fashion items or skis, “rich people’s troubles.” And we know that rich people do have troubles. Money most certainly does not buy happiness, but it does buy escape from disease (as Boccaccio knew when he wrote his Decameron), as well as relief from the grinding specter of poverty so many people face today thanks to the Democrats’ assault on the American economy.
I don’t begrudge any of the people in this story their lovely second homes. They’re lucky to have them. It’s the pathos, veering into bathos, of this report that’s so utterly ridiculous. Only the Times’s Manichean world view, with good victims and bad white men, could somehow try to turn wealthy white leftists into the victims the Times always needs.