The Hamptons, Baby

And so my day at Polo Hamptons began
The matches are largely beside the point at Polo Hamptons in Bridgehampton. Iris Smyles

When I was 18 and had just moved to New York City, I’d go to “exclusive parties” in SoHo where I knew no one and would say, “I’m on the list,” though I was never on any list. Walking up to the crowd pressing in at the Bridgehampton polo grounds ticket desk Saturday, a small part of me felt I’d arrived. 

“Iris Smyles is already inside,” the publicist said, finding my name on the list, checked. 

“But I’m Iris Smyles.” 

She studied me for a long moment. “I’ll need to see some ID.”

And so my day at Polo Hamptons began.

Let loose under the tent and tagged with a pink wrist band proving my insider status, I scanned the densely packed crowd, anticipating a sea of famous faces dotted with even more famous faces — Ralph Lauren or Jerry Seinfeld maybe, or at least Iris Smyles. I wondered what she looked like in real life and whether or not I’d recognize her.

“I love your hat,” a man said, running a hand along my waist as he passed. I didn’t know what to wear and had instinctively dressed, like everyone else present, as an extra in a scene from “Sex and the City”: “Carrie Attends a Polo Match in the Hamptons.” Not recognizing anyone except the aged Rod Stewart look-alike I’d see around Manhattan 20 years ago when I was “on the scene,” and a fit 60-something in mini-dress and sky-high heels whom I momentarily mistook for Real Housewife Ramona Singer, I couldn’t help but wonder, who are all of these people?

The cooks were swapping out an empty paella tray for a full one when the man next to me said he was having a huge pool party next weekend and that I should come and do I have a card? Mid-50s with a soft build and wire-framed glasses, he didn’t. “I’m an anesthesiologist,” he said, finally introducing himself, “so we don’t really have to network. Shrimp!” he cried, as the cook unloaded a bucket into the rice.

The game was on, but few seemed to notice. A commentator narrated over loudspeakers, causing everyone in the tent to raise their voices over his. “What?” I said to the juice company start-up publicist who wanted to team up with me (me who?) or another Hamptons magazine on a special event this summer. He’d come out from Forest Hills with a few friends, hoping to spot a Real Housewife and network. “Bethenny is in Beverly Hills so we def won’t see her. I’m hoping for either Luanne or Sonja.” “We saw S.J.P. at Atlantic Beach today!” interjected his friend. “I said, ‘Be careful out there,’ and she nodded. So cool. . . .”

The tent was too small to accommodate the more than 400 standing guests, the tables under the sun were few with fewer chairs, and the bar was too crowded to warrant a wait-and-Coke — 20 minute wait, eight-ounce Coke — so I gave my demure five-inch heels a break and dropped onto a white circular sofa to plot my next move. The match had ended, though the match was largely beside the point, and the dance music was pounding.

I was still plotting when a man in white pants and checked shirt sat beside me and asked what I did. “I wish I were creative like you. I can’t make anything but money,” he said, swaying, his cup swishing a few moments behind the rest of him. He launched into his life story. “From Sri Lanka but I live in California. I have this $25 million beach house in the Hamptons, but sometimes I wake up in the morning and I wonder, like, what it’s all for. . . . I don’t even know anymore what’s real and what’s not. Trust me, between the wannabes and the wanna wannabes. . . . There’s all these people here looking to take advantage of the rich. You know, all these beautiful girls come up to me and they want to give me their phone number and hang out and they’re like, ‘Hey. . . .’ ”

“How do they know you’re rich?” 

“Trust me, they see an Indian guy at these things and assume he must be big in tech, and trust me, they want to hang out. I’m here with my business partner. We just closed a $30 million deal earlier today, but look at all these people. I don’t even know anymore who’s real and who’s not, you know,” he said, before he took off to refill his whiskey glass. 

Cigarette smoke wafted over from a man, in summer white, dancing like Larry at the Regal Beagle in front of three women standing with folded arms.

The party was hosted by the stylist-cum-designer Rachel Zoe who, like any gracious hostess, sat at a table cordoned off by ropes to keep her guests from getting at her. I didn’t actually see Ms. Zoe, but the presence of her husband, whom I recognized from their reality TV show, peaking out from a barricade of bodyguards suggested she might be nearby. 

Against the ropes, a couple in their late 20s asked me to take their photo. They’d come in just for the weekend from Queens, they told me, though they used to rent a share house every summer until the crackdown. “This guy we know ran lots of share houses. It would be like 30 of us in a house, and he’d organize dinners and meet-ups and he’d invite us to this event every year with all the other shares.”

“Thirty in one house? Where’d you sleep?”

“Well, the houses had like eight bedrooms.”

“I’ve got, like, 200,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter, so I basically know everyone,” said the former share house organizer a few minutes later. “And they’re all here. This party’s super exclusive. It used to be even more exclusive when I was running the houses. . . . Hi honey. . . . This event is full of influencers and major brands. . . . Who, me? I’m in real estate now. Just closed a major deal earlier today for $30 million. That’s my partner right there. And Bitcoin, yeah. Wall Street is trading Bitcoin now, it’s going to be so, so big. . . .”

If these conversations seem hard to follow, that’s because they were. Follow-up questions yielded no more clarity but inspired the reiteration of buzzwords and phrases like “$25 million,” “I’m in real estate,” “Bitcoin,” “major major deal.” 

It was after I told the 22-year-old in a shorts suit who claimed to be a Wall Street trader who’d just closed a major deal this afternoon involving $47 million, that I was too old for him — he replied, “I’ll bring some excitement into your life” — that I realized the success of my outfit. Spotting a shy woman alone in her polo best, he thought he’d spotted a rich fish. He was still reeling me in when I pulled out the hook and made for the open sea beyond the tent, where a slew of Porsches were on display.

A big bald man that had sweat completely through his white button-down but was still wearing his navy blue blazer and shorts was snapping a photo of a buxom woman leaning seductively against one of the cars. There was a line to do so, while a few feet away a “Porsche experience” was being raffled off. I wrote my name on a slip of paper, stuffed it in a Plexiglas box, and was told that if I won I’d be permitted to take one of the cars for a test drive around “an exclusive track.”

I walked away, worrying that the other Iris Smyles might win instead. For a moment, I imagined her glamorous life, whirling around the track with her equally glamorous friends, all of them in shorts suits closing $47 million deals.

Oh! But I forgot my gift bag and headed back into the tent, where I met a young reporter I knew from one of the other papers chatting with two handsome 20-somethings, one of them barefoot. The boys introduced themselves as employees of the Montauk Brewing Company. “We wheel the wheelbarrows,” they said, smirking, then changed their story, “We’re actually polo players; we were in the match,” then changed their story, “He’s a sailor and I own the ponies,” then changed their story, “We’re helping to take care of the ponies for the summer and living in the stables until I can get out on another crew,” said the swabbie. “A reporter? Wow! You mean you get to go to all the parties?” 

On my second exit, the big bald man stopped me in the outer field, near the exit, before the cars, and said things like “Bitcoin,” “millions,” “phenomenal party,” and “M.I.T. graduate,” when a young woman with a fake English accent drawled “Darling! Take off your jacket!” and introduced herself to both of us. “Are you from London too?” she asked after I gave my name. She looked me up and down as if we’d both shown up in the same Halloween costume and she were trying to gauge whose was the more convincing. 

“No. Why?” 

“Your accent, darling. I thought I detected a trace of the queen.” 

“That’s the other Iris,” I answered, before heading out to the field of cars where I’d parked my Hyundai on which no one was posing.

 


Iris Smyles is the author of the novels “Iris Has Free Time” and “Dating Tips for the Unemployed.” Read more at easthamptonstar.com/iris.