How to Be Perfect

In the past, this blog has perused the New York Times for insights on how to be cool.  Today, we turn to a more weighty topic.  While coolness is of abiding interest to lifestyle journalists, many of the luminaries profiled in the Times‘ pages transcend mere hipness; they are consummate examples of human perfection, without flaws either inside or out.  How can we emulate them?  Let’s find out.

Be Insouciantly Good-Looking

Phil Windsor and Ben Towell exemplify everything that the ideal twenty-first century human should aspire to.  In “Yes, Even Fashionistas Have to Eat,” Julia Chaplin tells us of two entrepreneurs who founded Fat Radish, a “chic,” “scruffy,” “[hip],” “eco-minded” catering firm to the stars.  Chaplin caught up with the guys at an Art Production Fund gala, where she found that though they’re successful business owners who are revolutionizing the way people eat food, they’re also much more:  “That the two behind the Fat Radish (both 27 and with British accents no less) are ruggedly handsome with the tossed-together good looks of a Burberry model certainly hasn’t hurt.”  Tossed-together good looks are the best kind.  I hate it when someone’s genes seem like they’re “trying too hard” to ensure the organism’s reproductive fitness.  So mainstream. You know you’re “très Brooklyn” when even your DNA is like “Oh, this?  Just some phenotypic morphology I sort of threw together.  I’m not, like, into maximizing my chances of producing successful offspring or whatever.  Lately I’ve been really into harmful mutations.  I just think there’s something so evocative about errors in nucleotide sequencing.”

Similarly blessed with understated DNA is Colleen Saidman Yee, who, as we discover in “The First Lady of Yoga,” is a former model and high-profile yoga teacher in Sag Harbor.  “Ms. Saidman Yee, whether perching beatifically in full lotus position before 40-odd prone bodies or prowling among them like a jungle cat, emits at 53 her own curious, almost celestial incandescence.”  I wish the Times would profile me.  No one ever comments on my inscrutably luminous corona of radiance.  “Her eyes matched the pounding surf.”  So her eyes are…blue?  Or possibly blue-green.  I figured that out by process of elimination.  It is an unfortunate fact of life for dark-complected people in search of a flattering place to live that the world’s major oceans don’t go with brown eyes, and the Cuyahoga River doesn’t have a pounding surf.

Of course, as Yee’s example shows, being beautiful isn’t about mere superficial physical attributes.  It’s a vibe, an essence, an ineffable but subtly captivating emanation, given off by people who are thin and look Aryan.  For instance, Leslie Mann is “blond [and] willowy,” while her daughter Maude Apatow “has long chestnut-colored hair [and] a pale delicate frame.”    Kendall Jenner “is 5 feet 10 inches, very slender and very leggy.”  Toni Mellott is “enviably lean.”  The Brant Brothers are “wisp thin.”  Rachel Comey has “a surfer’s body and blond tresses.”  Kate Young has “striking pale blond hair and silvery gray eyes.”  The Berenson sisters have “identical riveting turquoise eyes.”  Luke Janklow has “eyes the color of cornflowers.”  Amanda Brooks‘ “blondish brown hair fell in an enviable natural wave, and her figure was willowy,” but that’s because she “‘lost a lot of weight working at Barneys.'”  “With her porcelain skin and shiny, chestnut-colored hair, [Chloe] Coscarelli certainly appears to be a testament to the health benefits of the vegan lifestyle,” although science tells us it’s possible she was a light-skinned brunette even before she went vegan.  Laura Marling has “alabaster skin, high forehead and snowy blond hair” and looks “ghostly, almost translucent, a very English apparition,” which must make planning Halloween costumes a breeze.

Then there’s Devorah Rose, who on a recent occasion “sauntered through the Garden restaurant at the Four Seasons hotel in Midtown Manhattan, her waifish silhouette accentuated by black stiletto heels and dark leggings…. Matt Lauer glanced as she walked by.”  To be fair, Lauer, like everyone else, probably has a habit of glancing at the people and entities in his immediate vicinity.  This is a great “lifehack” for maintaining minimal awareness of your surroundings and not bumping into everyone all the time.  But in this case, perhaps he was checking out Rose:  The beautiful and famous seem blessed with the ability to cause other people to look at them briefly.  Lauren Bush Lauren, for instance, is “strikingly attractive.”  “At a recent lunch at the Standard hotel, as she dined on a chopped salad (with a side of pickles), a few patrons glanced over quizzically, as if they knew they should know her from somewhere — a model? an actress? A Real Housewife? — while the waiters hovered solicitously.”  Such is the burden of celebrity: always to be surrounded by service personnel doing their jobs and tiny throngs of semi-indifferent people staring at you in confusion, trying to figure out who you are.

Yes, the truly glamorous know how to make the most of their looks:  Even their smallest gestures draw attention.   “Ever blasé, Peter [Brant] tilted his head, looked at [Harry Brant] blankly, then turned away, showing off his strong profile.”  I’m so sick of the whole “looking in various directions” thing.  It’s such a transparent ploy.  It’s like, I get it.  You have a cool chin.  You’re so vain, I bet you didn’t know that I’m over here, stupid.  Anyhow, regular people have a body, which they use to sit down, stand up and walk.  People in NYT profiles have a frame or a silhouette, and they’re always “reclining their lanky contours” or or “striding on their shapely legs” or “protracting their ectomorphic physique to its full height” or “giving a toss of their übermenschen-esque flaxen locks” or whatever.  If someone can describe you tying your shoe without using five SAT words, twelve latin cognates and an umlaut, you’ll never have that “it” factor.

“If your eyes are already rolling at the latest celebrity makeup promotion, so too were [Drew] Barrymore’s famous hazel peepers.”  My organs of visual perception are gyrating, all right.  How Bee- Shyuan Chang must have agonized over the quandary of how to compose a sentence about eyes, without using the word “eyes” more than once.  “‘If your famous hazel peepers are rolling at the latest celebrity makeup news…’ no, that one’s not right either!”  {Tears sheet of paper from typewriter; crumples into ball; throws at already overflowing wastebasket.}  Truly, the beauty of celebrities is as difficult to describe as it is to maintain one’s sanity and intellectual faculties while in the presence of it.

Be Effortlessly Fashionable

There’s more to looking good than being born with perfect peepers, mandibles, cheekbones, locks/tresses, pout, gams, epidermis and posterior.  You have to accidentally throw on clothes in such a way as to conjure up a bewitching vision of a lifestyle…a habitus…a whole zeitgeist. Just look at the Fat Radish guys.  “Without really trying, they have become representatives for a manly breed of stylish locavores (equal parts Jamie Oliver, David de Rothschild and the Mast brothers) who wear designer jeans, spend weekends with organic farmers and hop between art fairs and fashion weeks.”  Imagine if they had tried to become representatives for a stylishly locavorous blend of those three people, though.  That’s so specific, they’d never pull it off.  People would be like “what are you guys supposed to be?  Wait, let me guess…trustafarian Prince Harry aaaaand… Colin Firth guest-starring on an episode of Portlandia?”  “No, no, no!  Why does no one understand our personal brand?  Maybe we need to get gingham shirts!  These people are idiots!”

“Their vibe is a bit posh but also Eton boys gone rogue,’ said Mazdack Rassi, the founder of Milk Studios.”  So their vibe is posh, but also…posh?  They act edgy and rebellious… like a posh person… who has rebelled and started being edgy.   “They bring in their culture and really infect you with it.”  Well, they wouldn’t be the first adorably scruffy guys who like to “infect” people with their “culture,”  am I right, ladies?  Always use protection. I don’t care what school the guy looks like he went to.  “They build an ecosystem.”  Yikes.  I hope they brought some locally sourced, heirloom penicillin!

“Mr. Winser…is a natural charmer who resembles an aristocratic polo player slumming in bluejeans. In fact, he played polo at the Beaufort Polo Club where Prince Harry is a member.”  These similes are collapsing in on themselves, like an improperly engineered railway tunnel that’s also collapsing in on itself, or a snake sucking its own dick.  If you can’t pull off the “aristocratic polo player in blue jeans” look because you’re not an aristocratic polo player and/or you don’t own blue jeans, take inspiration from Lauren Bush Lauren‘s casual elegance.  Bush Lauren’s name may sound familiar to you, because she’s made such a splash with her philanthropic endeavors, but also secondarily because she’s George H.W. Bush’s granddaughter and Ralph Lauren’s daughter-in-law.  “The denim shirt she had on at lunch [was] paired with American Indian silver jewelry and, of course, Ralph Lauren pieces: a wool blazer, distressed pants and preppy oxford heels).”  This is a perfect daytime look.  The blazer says “My ancestors have been here since the Mayflower,” the Indian jewelry says “big ups to the people my ancestors murdered,” the intentionally torn pants say “I like to think of myself as an arty punk rocker,” and the preppy oxford heels say “I’m actually a boring drip.”

If you can’t decide what to wear because you’re not related to any famous designers, just throw on the ugliest and most mismatched items you own.  New York nightlife kings the Brant brothers recently showed up to an interview “decked out in Jitrois jeans (leather for Peter, denim for Harry)…. Harry was working a designer armed forces look in a Louis Vuitton military jacket and Saint Laurent combat boots. Harry’s style has evolved.  ‘I used to only wear overalls, Alaïa T-shirts and my mom’s Manolo Blahnik loafers,’ he said. ‘That was my uniform.’”  That’s like that phase I went through where I would only wear  a distressed Hypercolor t-shirt, black latex sombrero, my grandfather’s vintage army trousers from World War II, and Comme des Garçons goldfish boots.  God, I was a cool high schooler.

Be Passionate

To be stylish, you have to have a deep love of fashion, as well as other stuff.  Lauren Bush Lauren “‘has a lot of passion.'”  Jennifer Mankins “stood out in terms of her passion for fashion,'” and “‘love[s] oversize things and Japanese style and muumuus.’”  Kate Young is “‘really, really intense on tailoring.'”  But no one has more passion than the Brants, who are “’interested in 18th-century furniture, late-19th-century art, the Arts and Crafts movement and history of the mid- to late-19th century.'”  Their joie de vivre even comes out in their tweets.  “’Most of my tweets happen between 1 and 5 in the morning,’ Harry said. ‘I’m a night owl, and random thoughts pop into my head. I’ll be watching “Mommie Dearest,” and I’ll be like, “Oh, my God, Joan Crawford is amazing.”’ ”  So random!  That’s just like me — sometimes I’ll order a latte, and then I’ll be like “this latte art is adorable — I’m going to post a photo of it on Instagram!”  A lot of people don’t “get” what I do, but that’s the burden of creativity.

“For a teenager, Peter Brant can sound like a been-there-done-that dowager countess, not that his Old World pretensions aren’t refreshing in the Internet age.”  Not that they are, either!  If there’s one thing I hate about the internet, it’s its lack of pretension.  Just once I’d like to see someone feign more erudition than they actually possess.   “Harry has similarly lofty passions. ‘I become obsessed with things like DNA or old Valentino shows or the Qing dynasty,’ he said. ‘I have a love of opulence.’”  How refreshing.  It seems like a lot of people today don’t  have a love of opulence, including the following: inner city kids, community college students, people who live in studio apartments, and everyone who works at the Piggly Wiggly down the street from me.  It’s like, hellooooo!  In case you haven’t noticed, opulence is amazing!  Have you guys even been reading Harry Brant’s tweets?

One problem with having passions is that it’s hard to understand when other people don’t share them.  For instance, Brant patriarch Peter loves to play polo, but Harry Brant does not.  “I think horses are beautiful, and I respect them aesthetically,” he said, ‘but I can’t play polo like he does. It’s a demanding sport.’”  I would love to have seen the blowout arguments that have resulted in Harry Brant feeling like he has to be so diplomatic about his lack of interest in polo.  I picture Peter Brant dramatically screaming “that’s the trouble with you, Harry, you don’t respect the aesthetic beauty of horses!  I HAVE NO SON!” and throwing a bespoke saddle across a barn made from wood repurposed from other barns.

Be Hard-Working

It’s no use being passionate about something, such as opulence, if you don’t have the drive to make your dreams a reality. People with famous parents instinctively understand this.  It’s imprinted on the nonchalantly crenellated folds of their cerebrums.  Just look at Lauren Bush Lauren.  “’Lauren, growing up, she was always doing something,’ Sharon Bush said in a phone interview. ‘Since she was small, I remember she and her sister would bead jewelry and we would show it at the craft shows. She’s always been a doer and really sticks to it, and doesn’t give up.’”  That’s dedication.  Most wannabe bead jewellers quit because they just can’t take the heat.  “Many are called, but few are chosen.”

Sharon Bush attributes her daughter’s work ethic to her spartan upbringing:  “’So many kids in private schools almost have too much.'”  Imagine if they actually did have too much!    That would suggest that our society is riven by class inequality so severe, we need to seek solutions at the collective level instead of relying on the philanthropic whims of the affluent.  That would be ridiculous, but fortunately, America is blessed with a ruling class that’s just like everyone else.  For instance, maybe you’ve heard of the Winklevoss twins, two internet moguls famous because they tried to invent Facebook but Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea from them, or something.  The boys don’t mind a little good-natured ribbing about online social networks, but they can’t abide being criticized for their background:

“The one topic they do seem sensitive about is their upbringing in Greenwich, Conn., the sons of wealthy self-made parents…. Tyler agrees that ‘we were born into privilege,’ but adds: ‘We may have been born on third base, but we worked like we were starting from home plate. You know: batter up.’”  That’s admirable.  All the same, on the great baseball diamond of life, it can’t hurt to be surrounded by a network of wealthy and influential… baseball players who are invested in helping you win. Just like in a baseball game, when the guy with the bat…um…he swings it really hard, unlike certain other baseball players who are content to lie down on first base collecting welfare checks. It would be unfair if the batter were to keep missing the ball anyway due to lack of athletic talent, but luckily the umpire or referee or whatever is a friend of his dad’s, so even if he strikes out, the referee guy will be like “foul!  That was an illegal pitch!” and he’ll keep getting more chances to hit it until he finally scores a goal (?).  The lesson is that in America, hard work is always rewarded.  Also, I don’t really follow baseball.

Indeed, the pages of the Style section are filled with tales of the voluntarily diligent.  The Brant brothers go to school, serve on the boards of charities and spend their summers slaving away at Sotheby’s.   The general manager of the Met gets up at 4 a.m. and makes his own espresso, a ritual that “allows him to feel, amid all he can’t control at the Metropolitan Opera, that he can at least control the quality of his coffee.”  Celebrity stylist Kate Young “‘work[s] very hard.'”  Even public advocates of laziness are privately industrious.   Of Tim Ferris, “’It’s ironic that he wrote “The 4-Hour Workweek,”‘ said Garrett Camp, 32, StumbleUpon’s founder and chief executive. ‘He’s the exact opposite of that.’”  That is ironic.  Like when drug dealers don’t do drugs, or Shakeweight ads features people who got fit through non-Shakeweight-related means.

If all this doesn’t convince you and you’re considering slacking off, just take a lesson from Drew Barrymore: “Things are so personal to me; I work on them infinite percent.”  Hmmm.  I’m into accomplishing tasks in ways that are mathematically impossible, but all this time I’ve been working on things the square root of negative one percent. Barrymore’s approach seems potentially much more fruitful.

Be Entrepreneurial

There’s more to work than just doing infinite things an infinite amount of the time.    The ideal human life is built around ceaseless toil, but it obviously doesn’t count if you have to do it, like to feed your family or something.  Work should be an expression of some greater goal.  Just take it from Cameron Winklevoss. “‘I think our litmus test is, “Is there a purpose to it?”‘ he said.”  That’s so… wise.  This man has insight beyond his years.   “‘Are we helping build Hukkster? Are we helping to build SumZero?'” Never mind.  People who start internet startups define “purpose” in a different way than the rest of us, along with “meaning,” “beauty” and “not being an annoying dickhead.”  He’s right, though; to succeed, you need to dream big and create a brand.  This means you can found one of three things: An internet company whose name is the name of a normal word except misspelled; a clothing/beauty brand that’s like a glorified Etsy store but with pretensions of altering the very fabric of human existence; or a charity that helps poor people in some way that doesn’t involve affordable health care or progressive taxation.

Lauren Bush Lauren is already excelling at two of these three things.  “At the age of 28… Ms. Bush Lauren is thinking about building a lifestyle brand, expressing admiration for Gwyneth Paltrow’s empire.”  As if Lauren Bush Lauren weren’t relateable enough already!  With this line, she’s combining the “cool factor” of being related to George W. Bush with the inherent likeability of castle dwellers who do lots of juice fasts.

“The collection, the aesthetic of which she described as ‘modern Americana,’ features many categories, including bakeware, tumblers, iPad sleeves, jewelry, baby bibs, scarves and women’s clothing.” That’s it?  This line sucks.  I’m going to save my money for when Hadley Nagel comes out with her collection of nail art, car sunshields, potato chip bag clips, shapewear, ski masks, truck nuts, toe rings, egg separators, shoe trees and bacon-flavored vodka.

But Bush Lauren isn’t just using this brand to burnish her own image; she’s giving the profits to her  charity, Feed.  “Ms. Bush Lauren fashioned the Feed bag prototype (the burlap material mimics the food-ration bags she saw in poor regions) while still in school.”  With Feed, she’s solving what was once an intractable problem in the third world: the native population’s failure to notice how fabulous their ration bags were.

I totally dare you to buy this.
I totally dare you to buy this.

If vague concern for the needy is one element of entrepreneurialism, creepily specific reverence for business moguls of yore is another.  Paul Graham, the founder of a famous startup organization, observes that “I can be tricked by anyone who looks like Mark Zuckerberg. There was a guy once who we funded who was terrible. I said: ‘How could he be bad? He looks like Zuckerberg!’ ”  The Winklevoss twins have a similar regard for tech tycoons.  “‘Dad was a pure entrepreneur,’ Tyler said. ‘The dinner conversations weren’t like, “Did the Yankees win today?” Cameron and I would be reading business magazines and talking about guys like Bill Gates.’”  This would be a great family to be born into, if you find dinner-table conversations about whether the Yankees won to be excessively fascinating.  (N.B. the joke above only works if you find baseball unbelievably dull.  Sorry, baseball fans. I respect your alternative lifestyle, but I can’t relate to it.)

As Thomas Friedman is constantly reminding us, eventually we’ll all be pure entrepreneurs.  But for now, areas of human existence remain that are tragically un-monetized and un-verticalized, having yet to attain conceptual liftoff.  This gives you the chance to sit at the apex of an entrepreneurialism pyramid, selling your fellow citizens not goods or services but the concept of entrepreneurialism itself.  This strategy has brought success to Lindsay Heller, a nanny mediator who revolutionizes the lives of parents by empowering them to order their nannies around in more proactive ways.  Says one satisfied client:  “’I make mission statements for companies. It made sense for my child, too. There’s a certain way we want him raised, and I need that to still go on when I’m not in the house.’”  Can there be such a thing as a mission statement for the perilous mystery of our day-to-day existence, or a quarterly earnings report for the soul?  Can the heart’s inchoate cries of yearning be equipped with search engine optimization?  Yes, and I want it implemented yesterday.

Be Connected

Without other people, the finest social media strategy would yield nothing, and the most elegant discovery platform would be for naught.  Everyone needs contacts, and it’s best to be born into a family full of them.  “Harry [Brant], 15, and his 18-year-old brother are the well-spoken product of cross-pollination of the Übermenschen.”  Wait, the Übermenschen are real?  I thought they were a myth, like philosopher kings, noble savages and Jungian racial memory.  Is this article coming to us straight from the 1930’s?  There should be a special thesaurus New York Times writers can use that tells you a word’s meaning, its synonyms, and whether you should ever use it un-ironically.

Similar examples proliferate.  Luke Janklow was “raised in the epicenter of literary Manhattan.”  Nathaniel and Simon Rich are “the sons of the New York literary notables.”  “Ms. Bush Lauren…surrounds herself with ‘a close group of friends; a close group of colleagues,’ she said, adding that she always has her family to fall back on.”  I can see how that would be the case.  Her family would be real dicks if they refused to let her fall back on them; in fact, they’re real dicks anyway.  If you don’t have the world’s most influential people surrounding you from birth, use the other tips in this list to draw them to you.  That’s how the Fat Radish founders became caterers to the stars:   “Collectors and artists including Eli Broad, Jeff Koons and Kiki Smith were smushed together at long picnic tables… ‘Fat Radish?’ echoed Michael Stipe…. ‘I’ve heard of them.’”  The more important a celebrity you’re talking to, the less good a quote you have to get. “‘Who are you again?’ observed Anna Wintour.”  “‘Excuse me,’ commented John Hamm, his taut Armani-clad bicep making all-too-brief contact with the arm of a reporter.” “‘Snrnf,’ observed Barack Obama, but he may have been attempting to dislodge a piece of fluff from his sinus cavity.”

Be Hater-Proof

Beautiful, stylish, hard-working and popular individuals will always have their share of critics.  “Mr. Ferriss said he’s learned he can’t please everyone and that if he tried, he’d be boring — and insane. So he focuses on the fans and embraces the adage, ‘Living well is the best revenge.’”  Has Mr. Ferriss considered the possibility that he already is boring and insane?  If your intellect is such that you are actually inspired by inspirational Facebook image macros, you may not be living as well as you think.

Another great tip from
Another great tip from

The Winklevoss twins have detractors, too.  “But if revenge is a dish — like a lobster roll — best served cold, then the Winklevii are feasting.”  But if you’re supposed to strike while the iron is hot, the Winklevii would be crappy blacksmiths because it would take them, like, a year to make one horseshoe.  Also, aren’t you supposed to serve revenge to the people you’re trying to get revenge on, rather than yourself?  Right now it sounds like they’re avenging themselves on their hated rivals by offering them delicious pastry.  Either Mark Zuckerberg is allergic to shellfish, or  Jesse McKinley doesn’t understand how metaphors work.

“Ms. Rose is aware of her haters, but chooses to ignore them.”  It’s good to know that all those campaigns to raise awareness of haters have succeeded.  But there’s so much more work left to do.  We need increased funding for research into the causes of hateration if we’re going to someday find a cure for haterade.

Don’t be Poor

This might just be my imagination, but it seems like a lot of people in these articles are…how should I put this… reasonably well-off.  I don’t know, it’s probably a coincidence… just in case, though it can’t hurt to add “become stupendously wealthy” to your list of self-improvement goals.  Simply amass a staggeringly immense personal fortune, and then you can work on becoming the attractive, creative, likeable person you always knew you could be.  Hope this helps!

9 thoughts on “How to Be Perfect

  1. To be fair, Lauer, like everyone else, probably has a habit of glancing at the people and entities in his immediate vicinity. This is a great “lifehack” for maintaining minimal awareness of your surroundings and not bumping into everyone all the time.

    This bit in particular made me crack up.

  2. This is a better one:

    Lauren Bush Lauren, for instance, is “strikingly attractive.” “At a recent lunch at the Standard hotel, as she dined on a chopped salad (with a side of pickles), a few patrons glanced over quizzically, as if they knew they should know her from somewhere — a model? an actress? A Real Housewife? — while the waiters hovered solicitously.”

    The Times’s contempt for most of the Bushes knows no bounds. LBL gets a modified pass because Ralph Lauren (aka, Dad) has spent more money advertising in the Times over the years than most cities have spent on their public school systems. But still, standards must be upheld. Change that celebrity citation to Sofia Vergara or Chelsea Clinton or anyone; use your own name. “I think I should know you from somewhere…are you a Real Housewife?”

    1. I should clarify a couple of points:

      The whole post was delightful. My citation above was from the original Times article, which made it even better and more of a neg.

      Lauren Bush Lauren’s father is not Ralph Lauren; that’s her father-in-law. Even Ralph Lifshitz wouldn’t be so delusional and WASP-obsessed to name his own daughter Lauren Lauren. I will tell you though that I attended a religious service up in Massachusetts recently and wore Ralph (Lifshitz) Lauren from head-to-toe and have never felt more comfortable and appropriate. The only thing I didn’t wear was that horrible cologne Polo, which I don’t think they even make anymore, because its stench reminds me of a kind of 80s-era Jersey Shore, although of course back in Bedrock in the 80s we barely had TV, and we certainly didn’t have reality TV.

  3. This!: “The more important a celebrity you’re talking to, the less good a quote you have to get.”

    Also I want Comme des Garçons goldfish boots. I will wear them when I take my Feed bag to Africa and whap starving people over the head with it while shouting Nanny Doctor slogans.

    1. I’ve often wondered how people in the Third World get by without nanny doctors. Do they just have to figure out how to discipline their nannies through trial and error??

  4. genius! the only thing wrong with this blog is that it leads me down a rabbit hole of reading 13 NYT articles an hour…

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