Remember how all through recorded history, women AND men liked to dress up in fur garments? Then back in the 1970s, certain people developed the odd notion of not liking to hurt what is now trendily known as “sentient beings.” These folks took offense to animals being held in cages to get ‘em sleek and furry enough to kill ‘em and skin ‘em and make jackets out of ‘em.
These protesting freakazoids started throwing red paint – and not even latex paint, mind you; it was oil-based! -- on fur coat wearers.
And remember what happened? (And if you're too young to remember, I'll tell you.) Although many people thought that spewing paint on anyone was rude in the extreme, a paradigm shift arrived, seemingly overnight. More people started to believe that killing and skinning critters was just plain wrong. Folks who continued to find nothing objectionable about this practice, and who adored their mink wraps more than life itself, found it necessary to draw their bedroom drapes, remove their furs from locked cabinets, and wear them for their own solitary viewing before a dimly-lit three-sided mirror.
How much fun was that?
My prediction: The same sudden and politically volatile revulsion is about to make the modern day Whoopty-do house into something no one will want to be caught dead in. Certainly not alive in. Of course, an abode the size of a mini-mall is not so easily stuck in a closet or given to Good Will. Folks'll have to call in the bulldozers.
Here’s how the movement against bazinga-sized houses will go down: No, we will not be shooting red pigment at any of our Island’s block-long homes. What’s going to happen is this:
Rich hosts and hostesses will goof up and invite some absolute lout of a 99%-er over for dinner. This is usually about as common as threading that ol’ camel through a needle, but sometimes people make mistakes. Normally rich people surround themselves with other rich people because, well, who else will let them rattle on about the thousand buck-lunch at that cute little bistro down the block from their office? And plans for St. Moritz next weekend? And whose jet should we take, or should we all fly our own and meet up there?
This is obnoxious conversation, to be sure, but who are we to look down our noses at what people say in the privacy of their own baronial dining halls, with a screening room above, and a bowling alley below (for the kids, the help, and the squad of security guys.)
But let’s just say a depraved, broke, and yet high-minded 99%-er is seated at a dinner table thronged by a dozen billionaires, and a supercilious butler has just extended a tray of lamb slices and Brussels sprouts over the d.b. yet h.m.ed 99%-er’s left shoulder, and the latter says, looking to her left, then looking to her right, and seeing field-stone fireplaces blazing on both sides, suddenly asks the host point-blank:
“Why’d you build this place so big, dude?”
The only honest answer would be, “Because you can never construct a home large enough to impress all your friends. Someone’s gonna go ten / fifteen thousand square feet bigger than your own most recent acquisition and, dammit! you’re left with egg on your face!”
So what are we talking about here? Of the ten biggest houses in America, the most egregious is the so-called Versailles in Orlanda, FL, measuring a staggering 90,000 (yup, no mistake in the zeros in that figure) square feet. That makes the White House seem cozy, coming in at a mere 55K. Bill Gates’s big whammo of a house is 66K, beating out the Sultan of Brunei’s estate in Las Vegas by a full thousand square feet.
All of which reduces the monstrosity meter of any of the bozo-big new constructions on Martha’s Vineyard, the fattest turkey of the flock that 21,000K colossus on Upper Main Street in Vineyard Haven.
But most of the local big boppers tip the scales at nine / ten thousand.
And yet . . . we just don’t like them, do we?
We love the hills and dales and shorelines of our scenery here, and we resent having rows of pretentious Palladian windows and enough cedar shingles to patch over the Wall of China, sitting squat in the midst of what used to be a gorgeous natural view.
So let’s get cracking.
Now that the summer’s over, there’s less chance than ever that you or I will be invited to dinner at a home at least four thousand square feet too big for its own good. But if you do, mind your manners: Place your butter knife on the small dish to your left, and try not to blow your nose with your linen napkin. Don’t be a muzhik, in other words (you’ll find it in Dostoyevsky; it means, loosely, a ham-fisted dolt).
But then, at this dinner party, as soon as it’s determined who has more diamonds, Bulgari’s or Tiffany’s, be sure to get in some little dig about the galootishly large house.
“Are you leaving this to a convent?”
“I’d like to use the bathroom, but do you have a GPS for finding my way back to the table?”
“Next time there’s an earthquake in Haiti, why don’t you air-lift the whole population to this house?”
See? We don’t need to be too, too disagreeable about it. All we need to do is administer a well-placed gibe or two and, before you know it, people will be shucking their chateaux (or at least razing the east and north wings) quicker than you can say Sultan of Brunwho?