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After Work: Whar A Swell Scene

…I joined a dozen or so women in the charity foundation’s board room. Many pairs of be-ringed, manicured hands make light work so much lighter. There were differing opinions of how the task should be set up. These were women used to being in charge…

Dona Gibbs realises she is probably not cut out for the glitzy life when she joins the highly-polished "charity'' ladies in Palm Beach, Florida.

Maybe I’m not cut out for the glitzy life. I can’t take it seriously enough to carry it off.

Once again I stuck a tentative toe into the Palm Beach lifestyle. I’d volunteered to stuff invitations for one of Palm Beaches many charitable events.

These elaborate balls include dinner, dancing (of course) and as a little thank-you, a goodie bag. If you’ve never seen the very rich, the merely rich and the just barely well off tear into goodie bags, checking out the sample sizes of cosmetics and fancy key rings, think of the unfettered avarice of a three-year-old at a birthday party.

The balls take place at one or two locations around the small town. Usually the ball chairladies pick The Breakers, a historic grande dame of a hotel that can handle the demands of the crowd. Pick a night and The Breakers is probably the scene of a ball benefiting some disease or other that continues to plague mankind despite such yearly balls.

When we attend these events, Ever-enthusiastic Husband delights in pulling up to the security gatehouse and as the guard peers in, intoning, “Heart”, “Arthritis” “Eyes” or whatever body part the charity seeks to help. He thinks it’s a real giggle.

I joined a dozen or so women in the charity foundation’s board room. Many pairs of be-ringed, manicured hands make light work so much lighter. There were differing opinions of how the task should be set up. These were women used to being in charge. They weren’t chairing the event but they had chaired other events and knew, believed to their cores, that they and they alone knew the best way to stuff envelopes.

There were the proponents of the assembly line method, but Mrs. A joined by Mrs. B vociferously lobbied for the start-to-finish approach: each of us doing all the steps on our own individual stacks. Two different management styles, indeed. In the end, we all went with the start-to-finish proposal. I remained silent. I’m new to the subtext of these kinds of conversations.

Charities are big business and it’s not that they are relying on these privileged volunteers for envelope stuffing. What takes a dozen or so women three and a half hours to accomplish could probably be done in the same time with only three women. Not to mention fewer sandwiches and fewer cups of tea. But what would be the fun of that? This is one of the ways the charity forges a tighter bond with some well-meaning and generous donors.

Ah, after such a hard morning’s work, what to do? I had booked an appointment in one of Palm Beaches’ most fancy beauty salons for a hair trim.

The joint was jumping, starting with the wallpaper – all roses and ribbons. Hair dryers were going full blast. This salon features several hair dryers the likes of which I haven’t seen for thirty years: the kind with the plastic helmets that can be adjusted to cover heads adorned with huge rollers. Then again, the hairdos that some of these ladies sport I also haven’t seen for thirty years. To call it “big hair” would be an understatement. They have enormous hair and it’s hair that could survive a battle or at least a tussle at a Gucci sale.

“How would you like your hair?” the sweet voiced Central American woman asked. The stylist had handed me off to an assistant. I think she thought, after finishing my trim, that my style was too boring for her artistry. Or she had me pegged as tight with tips.

“Just don’t make me look like my head exploded,” I requested.

She laughed, a merry little tinkle, and proceeded to do just that.

The very next day I was out and about in Palm Beach again. This time at a fashion show and luncheon. La-de-dah.

This was an alternate universe to be sure. And now I knew what those enormous heads of hair were up to. I saw the trademark of the famous tony salon everywhere.

On my way home, I mused about Palm Beach, a tiny dot on the Florida coastline –a small barrier island. A place of privilege. A place of very big heads.


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