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| Article Search 2000 THE NEW YORK OBSERVER
Weeding Out Your Friends

A lot of people I know in New York have too many friends. Too many friends means too many obligations, and by the end of an average week, you realize you’ve been to 29 events—nine goodbye parties, 10 lunches, four brunches, two baptisms, a bris, a graduation party, a wedding and a wake—and you’ve had no time to do important things, like eat chips, watch TV and try on new clothes you can’t afford.

That’s why it’s time to weed out your friends. You’ll reduce schedule congestion, save money and be happier. Here are a few tips:

1. First of all, it’s time to redefine who your friends are. "Friend" has become a loosey-goosey catch-all term these days—kind of like "fiancé." We use "friend" to describe everyone from our lifelong school chum to our co-workers to the super’s brother. As a general rule, I think you need to know the first and last names of your friends. You also need to have been to their home at least once, and for something other than to borrow AA batteries. You should also be able to steal money from them when they’re not looking, and hang up on them when you’re not interested in talking to them anymore. That’s a friend.

2. You don’t really need to have that many friends from your younger life. You can have a couple of friends from college, and one from high school, but any more than that is redundant and a bit pathetic. You definitely don’t need to be friends with your old roommate from 10 years ago. You never really liked her, and you will be very psyched when you don’t have to go to her husband’s 34th birthday party.

3. It’s good to have some friends at work. You need them when times are rough, plus work is where you make your money. But be careful about playing favorites. Work is a little bit like kindergarten—if you bring in cupcakes, you’re supposed to bring in cupcakes for everybody. If you don’t, you’re an asshole co-worker.

4. Another good way to clear out time for yourself would be to not make friends with artists. Artists are interesting people who contribute a great deal to the cultural energy of the city, and you can have very long, interesting conversations with them about graduate school. But artists can be needy. I don’t mean needy in the financial sense—because most "artists" I know in New York City just use that term instead of another, less nice term: "dilettante"—I mean needy in the event-planning sense. If you make friends with an artist, pretty soon they’re inviting you to things: openings, retrospectives, auctions. You don’t want to go to these things; they’ll clog up your life. Besides, what the fuck do you know about art?

5. Same goes with friends who are in bands. Avoid them. Actors and actresses, too. A friend I knew who stopped hanging out with actors said she reduced the amount of shitty theater she saw each month by 95 percent.

6. I don’t think I need to tell you that breakfast and brunch are for people you are having sex with. Period.

7. I think it’s best to avoid goodbye parties altogether. Goodbye parties are the plague of the New York City social life. By the age of 31, the average New York City worker has had 19 goodbye parties. Considering most people don’t start working until they are 21, that’s nearly two goodbye parties a year per friend. That’s a lot of goodbye-party cake, fat boy. Besides, usually it’s not some big dramatic goodbye anyway—they just got sick of working at CosmoGIRL! or some crap like that. Same goes for anyone throwing themselves a goodbye party because they’re leaving New York—as if they’re Charles Lindbergh taking off for Paris.

8. Graduation parties are for high-school kids. Your friend graduating from the Columbia M.F.A. program doesn’t need a party. He’s 31, has never had a job, and needs to knuckle down and write a fucking book.

9. You don’t need friends in Park Slope. Jesus.

10. Once you have winnowed down your friends, you should also tell them up front that you will attend three (3) events related to them each year. It can be a lunch, a graduation party and a wedding. It can be their mother’s funeral, a dinner and a New Year’s bash. But three events is the limit. Explain this to them and they will understand and make their plans accordingly.

—Adam Tyler

American Pronoun Day

There’s a movement afoot to create American Pronoun Day, to honor the variety of pronouns our nation has created. "You all" (or "y’all") is probably the most famous neologism, which parallels the somewhat antique Brooklyn "youse," as in "Youse guys better run!" But there are many more American pronouns. Early New Agers of the 1970’s used the phrase "this one" for "I": "This one feels the room is rather warm." Rap music has given us "Yo!" (which implies "you") as well as numerous versions of "we": "my posse," "my crew," "my buds," etc. Perhaps the quintessential American pronoun replaces the third-person plural: "The Competition."

To support American Pronoun Day, write: A.P.D., Post Office Box 63, Phoenicia, N.Y. 12464.


The Olsen I.P.O.

Next week, lonely men and ’tweens the world over will share a euphoric moment: On June 13, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen turn 18. The auspicious birthday will catapult the twins into the driver’s seat of an expanding empire that might one day rival General Electric. That is, if G.E. had made its fortune selling body glitter and books with titles like Boy Crazy and Camp Pom Pom.

Considering that the twins virtually disappeared from public view nine years ago, when they stopped playing the little simian Michelle Tanner on the sitcom Full House, their accomplishments are impressive. Dualstar Entertainment, the privately held company which houses the Olsens’ 52-plus product lines (sold mostly through Wal-Mart), is projecting $1.2 billion in sales in 2004. Its chief executive officer, Robert Thorne, described the strategy as a "global expansion campaign," with upcoming launches in Japan and Spain, in addition to its current presence in the U.K., Canada, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Israel, France and Germany.

Mary-Kate and Ashley, who have bought adjoining (conjoined?) $3.5 million condos on Morton Street and will be attending New York University in the fall, will be assuming the joint title of "president" of Dualstar after next week, in addition to gaining unfettered access to their own money, which is currently handled by "hordes and teams of court-monitored advisers," according to Mr. Thorne.

For those who fret that the sudden crush of responsibility might overwhelm the girls, there is good reason for concern. History is littered with baby millionaires who squandered their fortunes and had to be pried out of the gutter: Corey Haim, of 80’s Lost Boys notoriety, filed for personal bankruptcy in 1997 at age 24, owing money to the I.R.S., while Gary Coleman, of Diff’rent Strokes, sued his parents for misappropriation of his trust fund, won $3.8 million and then went bankrupt in 1999. Just last weekend, Brian Bonsall from Family Ties earned a D.U.I. after he pulled his car over to let his friend throw up out the window. (When the troopers asked him how much he’d had to drink, Mr. Bonsall replied, "Plenty.")

Evan Bell, a C.P.A. and financial adviser specializing in the young and suddenly wealthy, has seen many a youngster with money flame out spectacularly.

"I would say the instinct to try to handle everything yourself would probably be the biggest mistake," said Mr. Bell. "I’ve seen some situations like this where, by the time I got involved, a 22- year-old actress—whose name you would recognize—had 14 friends living in her house. I think they feel guilty about what they have, and they realize how many friends they have, and how much each one of them wants.

"I have clients whose relatives are on the payroll and can’t seem to get off. It’s endemic," continued Mr. Bell. "For me, 18 years old is still a child. If they want to start taking control of their empire, they have to start learning." Mr. Bell explained that many of his clients, who work mostly in the entertainment industry, start to "glaze over" when he tries to explain their finances to them, which is typically not a good sign.

Apparently, this is not the case for the twins. Mr. Thorne said that all of Dualstar’s business decisions are already made by himself, Mary-Kate and Ashley "by consensus," and that they "couldn’t possibly be more involved than they already are." They speak on the phone "several times a day."

"We travel together, they are actively involved in scripts, fashion design and product decisions as much as humanly possible," said Mr. Thorne. "We’re already in the process of constructing office space for them in New York for them to stay involved—a place for them to do interviews and conference calls, just as we have offices in London, Sydney, Auckland, Paris and Tokyo."

"From the time they were 6 and 7, we were all making decisions with them and their mom and dad, and always made sure that their voice was heard—even if it was, ‘Mom, I don’t want to go do that,’" said Michael Pagnotta, Mary-Kate and Ashley’s spokesman. For example, the girls were the ones who rejected the idea of Mary-Kate and Ashley–branded fruit roll-ups.

"For many years, they got an allowance from their parents—$10 or something—if they did their chores …. Now they’re able to supplement that. They have credit cards, but they spend cautiously," continued Mr. Pagnotta. "They were never anybody’s meal ticket; they were never made to feel that way. That’s what separates them from other child stars."

Unfortunately, all of this means that hopes for a hot and wild Olsen summer may not materialize. Said Mr. Thorne: "I see their money being spent on college tutoring, not on lavish parties in the Hamptons."

—Sheelah Kolhatkar

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This column ran on page 2 in the 6/14/2004 edition of The New York Observer.




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