Sunday, March 7, 2010

Nanny Returns

Nanny's baaaaaaack. Nan of the Nanny Diaries is twelve years older and about ten minutes wiser. She's married to Ryan (né Harvard Hottie). They've been all over the world for his UN related work and now they're in Harlem, buying and gutting a four story house and renovating it while living there. Nan's working as an HR consultant for teachers ("Uh, are you guys working hard?" "Yes" "Uh...could harder? Ooh, I know--I'll get you hammocks!").

Grayer, now sixteen, shows up at her house having seen the video tape she left at the X's those years ago and confronts her about abandoning him at the end of the first book. Grayer's parents have divorced, and his mom's got the cancer (except as it turns out she's faking!). Adolescent Grayer drinks, smokes, and swears (don't worry--he doesn't rat his hair).

Nan feels guilted into helping Grayer and his seven year old brother, Stilton. She poses as their mother in a boarding school interview because Mrs. X isn't the most reliable of moms these days (holy ethics violation, Ms. Those Who Can't Even Teach!). She also accompanies the boys to school events, gets Stilton to the ER for a burned hand when Mr. X's new girlfriend won't deal with him, and even parents the boys for a week when the X's go AWOL, all the while coming to terms with her own insecurities at child rearing.

At the end, there's a showdown between Grayer and Mrs. X at (for no real reason) the home of Grandma X (the terminally ill mother of Mr. X). Mr. X has been selling off most of her stuff for money. Poor Grandma X.

Since it turns out that Mr. X Bernie Madoffed away much of the city's money, there's nothing left for Mrs. X. Grayer tells her she'll have to be a good mother to Stilton or he'll cut off her allowance (Grayer conveniently has a trust fund from the rest of Mr. X's relatives).

Along the way, Nan hangs out with Citrine, an old high school friend, who's moving into Ryan's parents' old place with her Wall Street trader husband. Citrine basically lived the same life as Grayer with asshole rich parents, and is reaping the rewards of the spoiled lifestyle. She wears a Bergdoff bought, "Scorn Me, Bourgeois Reader, I'm a Trust Fund Brat" sign on her back for the entirety of the novel.

So how does Nan stack up? Internally she's as judgmental of the Park Avenue set as ever. Of course, she's too bland to do anything other than smile and nod, as long as she's talking to someone she needs to impress, and she's also a bit too egotistical to realize how hypocritical she's become.

Meet the new, improved Nan "Yes girl" Hutchinson.

Meet Ryan. Ryan has no personality other than being perfect. It's hard to write the perfect man, so Emma and Nicola sent him off to Africa to deal with grain storage issues for the length of the book, where he doesn't need to talk or act or do anything at all.

Meet the X's.

Grayer X

Mr. X with Grandma X

Introducing Citrine "Taking the subway instead of a cab is my adventure for the day" Cilbourne.

Clark, the refined, reggae loving, "Babe, your pregnancy is distracting from my first fuckin' Chagall unveiling" stockbroker Cilbourne

Let's take a look at a few scenes with translation courtesy of Sadako's chick lit translator (with help from Herb Powell).

The X's place. The fake boarding school interview.

Interviewer: "You look so young to have two strapping boys."
Nan: "Start the Botox early and then you'll have no wrinkles to erase." I know all about mocking the Upper East side set! Man, watching that Real Housewives of New York-a-thon last weekend sure paid off.

Nan's parents and their Upper West Side digs, discussing Ryan's desire to start a family.

Nan: "I need a note from my mom saying I'm not ready to be a mom." I don't have any real problems. Time to kvetch. Ooh, kvetch. Make a mental note to drop that into conversation when reaching out to Hebrew colleagues.
Mom: "You can tell him, Nan."
Nan: "I tried." But he doesn't speak whiny entitled Upper West Side Princess.
Mom: "Do you want eggs?...I could go for McDonald's."
Nan: "I live a block from every fast-food outlet in America. I came here for Zabar's." Gentrifying in Harlem is gross and greasy. Except I'm not a snob because I'm from the WEST side, reader!
Mom: "Just don't wait so long to be ready that you have scientifically induced sextuplets. What would you do then?" [Emma: Ooh, good one, Nicola! It's vague enough that it could reference OctoMom but it still applies to the Gosselins if she's not in the press when this comes out. Nicola: Plus, it's got the alliteration. Win!]

Nan dealing with the Steve the Contractor, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard

Things go wrong with the renovation, dear reader, oh so wrong--and no, it's not because a well meaning Nan tries to placate the locals with offerings of fried chicken. Rather, the staircase collapses, the ceiling falls in, and due to the faulty bathroom, Nan's peeing in a bucket. She takes out her rage on the contractor. Does Nan remind you of a certain rich Park Avenue older woman who underpays her staff? (Mrs. X isn't as bad as Nan, though, because she tries to stiff the sandwich platter guy, but ends up giving him a $500 Faberge egg as collateral.)

Steve the Contractor: "Yeah, well, when do you guys think you can pay me?"
Nan: "Pay you?" Dude. Rich white people get paid in connections and networking opportunities. Silly gauche contractor.
Steve: "Yeah. Because you know that fungicide put you over another ten grand or so and that's coming outta my pocket right now..." If her idea of payment is me doing her over the pee bucket...fuck...
Nan: "I don't--we don't have another twelve, fourteen, grand...Steve, you have a day. I need to be living somewhere in that by tomorrow night." Time to step it up and be a bitch...
Steve: "Well, I'm still waiting for the fungicide to clear."
Nan: "Then put on gas masks. Hire a new crew. Get me a FEMA trailer. Something that makes me feel just the tiniest bit like you're in his with us, Steve. Fix the fucking concrete. Anything!" ...But it's OK! I'm a bitch living in gentrified Harlem digs! Not a bitch on the Upper East Side! I'm so in touch with the people. Maybe tomorrow I'll venture into a fried chicken joint.

Nan having dinner with Citrine at her old downtown digs the night before the move to Park Ave.

Nan: "After we left Africa I swore I wouldn't sit on the floor again for at least five years, but this is on a pillow, so, all good!" Your quaint couchless apartment is so...quaint. Did I mention I'm well traveled?
Citrine: "So Moroccan for dinner is out? My god, you guys went everywhere."
Nan: "Not everywhere. And, at most, two years at a time. But it gets old. Making friends you know you'll be leaving. Never really fixing anything up. Always sleeping on rented mattresses." I'm Carmen fucking Sandiego! But like all yuppies, I almost dried up without my IKEA fix.

Nan attempts to get Mr. X to be a parent after Mrs. X has fled the apartment and Mr. X's girlfriend/fiancee leaves him and throws the kids out. Incidentally, Nan and her dog are also out on the street because her gentrified Harlem digs are unlivable at the moment.

"Take 'em to the corporate hotel in Murray Hill. The business has a suite." The CORPORATE suite. As in corporations being all corporationy!
"You need to do this. Because you are their father...."
"But you're not a stranger."
"But I'm not a parent."
"I am asking you to just give me a week. One week. It sounds like my boys feel safe with you. If you could just take them until next Friday, let me get this deal closed. I will personally come and relieve them...Can you do that for me? I'll give you a grand in cash for incidentals. It's a huge suite--Jacuzzi baths, the whole nine. Can you do this, for Grayer and Stilton?"
Nan's thought bubble: "And in that moment, I know what I'm worth. Because I care for these kids, I do, right down to my toes. But I've just learned, apparently, for plumbing I'm a whore." [Nan: Ooh. A porcelain pee bucket.]

Nan goes to Citrine's baby shower.

Nameless, faceless rich bitch from Nan's past: "Remember...when I shimmied under the desk and tied Ms. Conner's shoes together? She broke her front teeth."
Nan's thought bubble: "...I have the strangest sensory experience of the room swirling away and the eyes in her thirteen year old face locking with mine as Sarah and I bring Ms. Conner a wad of paper towels." Drink up, Judah-Ben-Conner. I really was a queen among adolescents.

Scene, weekend at the Hampton's chez Citrine and Clark. Clubbing!

Generic rich bitch: "Of course, I have the perfect Luca Luca just sitting in my closet. Now, when will I wear that?"
Nan: "It's a problem." Spending money on clothes to taunt the middle class is ruuuude. Now, dropping K's to taunt the welfare state in Harlem--awesome! But if I nod and smile, maybe she'll give me her castoff Luca Luca!

The Hamptons. In which a Birkin carrying bitch laments how good help is hard to find.

Generic rich bitch: "[My nanny] needs to be more sensitive."
Nan: "She did keep Astin entertained all day...She's a find."
Generic rich bitch: "O-kay..."
Nan: "Astin's probably overtired, that's all You know, big day in the country." (Nan internally: "I...unsuccessfully [try] to reroute into a "no need to be embarrassed tone.") I really should take down and fire the Chekov's gun that is my resentment towards the upper class by going postal on your ass. But then you people might not invite me out to the Hamptons anymore, and I'll have no excuse to work the word Jitney into my Monday morning conversations.

Nan? A lovely parting gift for the road: