Primates of Park Avenue (now available for pre-order, release date 6/2/15), a memoir from Wednesday Martin, offers Martin’s firsthand account of living in the rarefied world of the Upper East Side, where babies as young as 3 months are enrolled in pricey music education programs and toddlers go to preschools with tuition costs that far exceed what many are paying at the university level. From The New York Post:
“On the Upper East Side, the right nursery school opens the track to the Ivy League. The average tuition for a toddler in 2004 ranged from $25,000 to $35,000 a year…“before nursery school, your toddler was supposed to take classes at Diller-Quaile School of Music,” which accepts 3-month-olds. “Before Diller-Quaile, you were supposed to do a certain baby group. Everything, it seemed, fed into everything else.” ”
“Since the way children play with others factors into nursery-school admission, many Upper East Side mommies hire play-date tutors. Aristotle Circle, for example, offered group play-date tutorials last year for $400 an hour, complete with a write-up of your child’s social deficits. They currently offer one-on-one sessions between toddler and therapist for $150 to $300…And then there are the extracurricular play dates, as crucial for the mommies as the children. “Parents try to raise their status and build relationships through their children,” Martin says. “There’s a lot of social jockeying through play dates.” ”
“Most of [these mothers] were highly educated, yet had given up their careers to tend to their homes, their children and their husbands — and the husbands were almost never around, working late or off on business trips…These women lived in fear of their husbands cheating or leaving them, and since they didn’t have careers or money of their own, they had no leverage…Martin saw many in her circle self-medicate with pills, pot, wine and vodka…“The women I knew took them in the middle of the night,” Martin writes, “when they woke up with their hearts pounding, panicking about schools or money or whether their husbands were faithful.” ”
Here’s the book’s description from Amazon:
Like an urban Dian Fossey, Wednesday Martin decodes the primate social behaviors of Upper East Side mothers in a brilliantly original and witty memoir about her adventures assimilating into that most secretive and elite tribe.
After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers’ snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realized other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analyzed tribal migration patterns; display rituals; physical adornment, mutilation, and mating practices; extra-pair copulation; and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought-provoking, and hilariously unexpected.
Every city has its Upper East Side, and in Wednesday’s memoir, readers everywhere will recognize the strange cultural codes of powerful social hierarchies and the compelling desire to climb them. They will also see that Upper East Side mothers want the same things for their children that all mothers want—safety, happiness, and success—and not even sky-high penthouses and chauffeured SUVs can protect this ecologically released tribe from the universal experiences of anxiety and loss. When Wednesday’s life turns upside down, she learns how deep the bonds of female friendship really are.
Intelligent, funny, and heartfelt, Primates of Park Avenue lifts a veil on a secret, elite world within a world—the exotic, fascinating, and strangely familiar culture of privileged Manhattan motherhood.
Take a peek into the world of the 1% in Primates of Park Avenue, and maybe come away grateful that it’s not the world you live in.