Wednesday Martin, the chronicler of the “Primates of Park Avenue” — that species of designer-bag-wielding ubermothers who populate the penthouses of New York’s Upper East Side — looked very much at home at a book signing and talk in Georgetown on Thursday.
“There are Park Avenues everywhere you go,” Martin said during an interview with Carol Joynt, the host of the “Q&A Cafe” series, which airs on local cable. “D.C. is no exception.”
Martin, looking serene and summery in white pants and sleeveless top (a matching Prada bag was perched on a barstool of its own next to her) sees quite a few similarities between the milieu of the Beltway and UES elite. Both, she said, have a power structure in which men control the majority of the resources (as in her book, Martin prefers anthropological terms), a flourishing “body-display” culture, a tendency toward perfectionist parenting, and social climbing accomplished via strategic playdates.
So close are the two that when she launched into a riff about the passage in her book describing the role of the coveted Hermes Birkin bag as status symbol par excellence, she felt compelled to seek a show of hands. “Anyone here have one?” she asked.
The answer from the frosted blonde collective was no — perhaps. As Joynt noted, the women might not want to ‘fess up, as showy displays of wealth just aren’t a big Washington thing. (They might, Martin observed darkly, get one indicted.)
And there, she found, was the major difference between the two tribes. “You fetishize political power the way … the culture I studied fetishizes money,” she said. In other words: “Influence is your Birkin bag.”