• Jennifer Strube

Gold is the New Black


It’s exhausting pretending to be rich.

At every second, you have to make sure you look pristine, that your neckline matches the curves of your well-kept haircut, which must look air blown enough for glamour but not as though you just barely escaped the wind tunnel of the South China Sea. You have to hide your dress tags from H & M and pretend you didn’t buy said dress 10 years ago, when your waist line didn’t need a belt to aid with hour-glass perfection. Plumping your lips and strolling down the promenade, you must also hide the shovel you are keeping in your purse. No one likes a blatant gold digger. And while the gold rush may have happened years ago in California, mining still exists in the eye glimmer of many a woman in this city built on JP Morgan and Panasonic.

Such is the life of the gold aficionados here in Hong Kong. You know who you are. You dress up in knock-off Cartier bracelets to go swimming at the Four Seasons Rooftop Pool, where every cocktail is 25 USD, poured with hand-pressed pineapple juice, and sprinkled with real twigs of thyme. The scene itself smells like a Barry Manilow Christmas special and, if you are lucky, the man across the pool who bought it for you doesn’t resemble Barry at all. If you linger long enough, you may just get offered a helicopter ride to Macau or a journey on a luxury yacht. Try not to spill your martini on your white cocktail dress when such gifts are offered to you, because you will be judged for that. Shake hands when you bid adieu to this poolside crowd and move on to your next lounge, where, upon ordering from the off-menu chef’s choice recommendations list, you politely drop the name of the Club you used to below to, but now have moved on because the brass handlebars of the staircase are no longer spit-shined and frankly, you can’t deal with the mess. 

While there, order the most expensive appetizer on the menu and wink at the man across from you, whose tailor-made suit still can’t hide the fact that his tie is too short.(Don’t let that bother you.) Eat all but three bites of the appetizer which could fund a developing country and then comment on how the artichoke spinach truffle dip is slightly salty but oh sooo cheap. Finish off your happy hour with a stroll through Cartier, where you just happen to try on their diamond solitaires, as the staff delivers you warmed jasmine tea and red velvet stools on which to linger. Get their card, which you assure them you will pass on to your boyfriend, as soon as you find him tomorrow at the Four Seasons Pool.

I am not a gold digger. And I have not done any of the aforementioned activities. And one of these sentences is a lie. 

I still believe that love comes in small and tender manners. Not that I wouldn’t mind such packages to be mint green and emblemed with Tiffany’s, but sustainable romance involves pointless late night discussions about Rocky films, debating why number 1 and 5 should have been made, but 4 was simply a Cold War Propaganda piece. Such soothing banters should occur on the couch over French wine and cheep take-away street food, hand-whipped hummus on a three dollar gyro served with a vintage pour. Here on the sofa, balcony air streaming through your studio apartment, there are no standards or rules. Your hair can be as messy as your sweatpants, which match Sylvester Stallone’s during his Philadephia-based training regime. With the windows open and the sounds of a taxi rambling by, this is the “stuff” of all good romance. Forget jewelry. Give me brilliance of mind over diamond cut and clarity any day of the week.

But it’s so hard to remember this in Hong Kong.

I’m shocked really. I came to the East expecting to buy a whole new wardrobe for 100 USD and to eat cheap chow mein most nights. Besides my image of cheap China, I really thought the world was in a recession. But I can’t seem to find proof of any of this here in Hong Kong. Furthermore, I take back what I said about the expats here. Sure, there are pounds of creepy millionaires, but any streetside watering hole is filled with the most stunning and brilliant 20-30 somethings I have ever met. Step back New York City. I thought my East Coast hometown was filled with type A personalites. True, New York is a cultural epi-center, but your 20’s there are filled with dreams of Broadway fame. New York is fueled by ambition, but in reality, you can barely pay rent and spend your off days as a waitress, waiting for your big break. 

The imported expats in Hong Kong are dreamers but a different breed of romantics. Type A+ dreamers with a pragmatist side = ambitious and successful. What a concept. I’ve never paired the two really. But I’m quite sure the their visa applications also requested their SAT scores, familial pedigree, and their knowledge of obtruse fashion trivia. In New York, by age 28, you are still broke and dreaming about your next big break dancing back up for a Sears commercial. Or maybe you played the orchestra extra once in a warehouse in Brooklyn. But by 28 in Hong Kong, you are a member to golf clubs, sipping martinis in your silky shabby chic suit, and have a watch that could fund the downpayment of my future dream house.  In New York, you hope to be a designer and maybe sold a handbag once. In HK, your line gets exported to Milan, Paris, and Los Angeles but you only work on Tuesdays. And somehow that funds your existence…

And my lunch. But really, I have never had so many pick up conversations that challenge my wit and vocabulary, which has seemed to shrivel ever since I moved to China to teach music to kindergarten children. Maybe my visa hold up is teaching me a thing or two about life, love, and novelist success. I’m not sure exactly what as I can’t seem to put my finger down on the real world right now. But once I find it’s pulse, I’ll be sure to reboot my heartbeat to the tune of love, ambition, Harry Winston, and Rocky films. I mean really, is there anything else?

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