Forget the poisonous envy, the smart set has made our little village a much more enjoyable place to live in.

It was a fancy lunch at DeBretts. I arrived late, one of my boots had a rip in the toe, I'd forgotten to bring a lipstick and my frizzy orange hair looked like an homage to Janet Frame.

Hoping to blend in, I talked to the young girl sitting next to me. She was from Hamilton (so am I), she was a journalist (so am I) and she was researching a feature about rich young socialites. I suggested she visit my local haunt, 46&York, which is often full of Bright Young Things.

I'm good at identifying them, due to the fact that as a teenager my life was one long anthropological study of the "smart set" to which I didn't belong, but both resented with a burning hatred and idealised with a passionate desire to join.

No chance. I went to a state school (about decile 2) and then went to university when I was 16. In the Auckland University quad, private school kids, languid, confident and relaxed in their familiar habitat used to make me feel inadequate and invisible.


Yes mum and Eleanor Roosevelt, I know no one "makes" you feel anything, but fat lot of use that is when you are homesick, alienated and feel like you're lunch for society's predators.

Defensive about my lowly worm status as an immigrant, a lumpy non-entity with no rich parents, no skiing holidays and no designer labels I effected an insouciant indifference, wore too much pale Shiseido pancake makeup, read Sylvia Plath and perfected an icy primate stare.

The blue steel look said "I wouldn't want to be your poxy friend anyway": it's called "throwing shade".

Years later I found students of my cohort nicknamed me "Shoes" as I tended to sneer derisively at their footwear.

Anyway yesterday, the young journalist's article on Auckland's "super-rich crowd" was published. "The Socialite Network: Moet, $1000 shoes, BMWs, helicopters on front lawns." Just like a mini-me the journalist seemed to be filled with a gratuitous fascination as well as a poisonous envy of these people.

She sought to paint this group as decadent, shallow, bogus: a modern-day version of the Hooray Henries spoofed in Evelyn Waugh's 1920 satire Vile Bodies. They were a clique of vacuous spoilt brat party animals.

Except the truth is not quite that simple. I have grown up and now I know that just when we think we have grasped life it turns out our perceptions are imperfect, our understandings incomplete.

I know some of the so-called "super rich" kids quoted in this article in real life and they do not seem like pampered bubbleheads to me.


The fact they were all working and taking entrepreneurial-type risks was not considered any mitigation in their favour.

Neither did their attempts to make Auckland a more lively and enjoyable place, or to raise money for worthwhile causes in stylish ways.

To quote Waugh: "They thought if a thing's not worth doing well, it's not worth doing at all."

Maybe, like the two well-connected entrepreneurs who started 46&York, they were endeavouring to make life here more fun, even to transcend dreary humdrum reality.

But it seems Calvinist puritanical pleasure-denial still runs deep in our little village. I thought the implicit criticism in this article was not just about class or money, but a reprimand that these young people dared to depart from the approved life course of every other middle class New Zealander: you are supposed to want to buy a house in the suburbs and spend weekends going to Bunnings.

Perhaps the crime of these kids is not to be super-rich, but to dare to want glamour, fantasy and fun - magic madness, heaven, sin, to quote the song. It is not the money that is egregious, but the ostentiousness and opulence. If they had spent their money on an overpriced do-up and stayed home with a glue gun, no one would have noticed their wealth.

Rich kids are like anyone else. Some of them will be sulky dorks with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, some will be thoughtful and interesting and empathetic.

Whether they are also glamorous is immaterial. And incidentally, the woman who organised the fancy De Bretts lunch used to work for a modelling agency, now runs a charity helping disadvantaged women get back in the workforce, is involved in prison reform and was the only person who stepped in to start a campaign to help a disabled homeless man who she saw living rough in Queen St. Don't judge.

$12 fine fair price for thrill of being a bit naughty

I don't gamble, I don't take drugs, I pay my GST, but I do have my own secret vice. I never buy pay and display parking vouchers. I just take the punt that I won't get a parking ticket. And then if I do get a fine - this week $12 for five hours in the hairdresser on Ponsonby Rd - quite reasonable really - I just put it in the pile and later go online and pay them all at once.

This seems to work quite efficiently as a system. It bypasses the time and effort of standing in a line and finding change or trying to work the complicated texting option. It also gives me a wanton buzz of being naughty and, just for a moment, defying the Big Brother machinery of bureaucracy; the cheap thrill of rebellion alone is probably worth the price of any parking tickets I incur.

And every time you return to your car and find there is no fluttering ticket under your windscreen wiper you get a little frisson of victory. Yes!

Given the cost of parking in central Auckland I suspect I actually save money by taking this approach, although I have never crunched the numbers.

Yes, I realise my calculations do not factor in the inconvenience of getting towed, although this has not happened to me yet.

Also, I realise it is anti-social, as if everyone took my approach the system would cease to function and chaos would ensue with the eventual breakdown of civilisation and life as we know it.

But as compensation, perhaps in recognition of the satisfaction I get from my mini-rebellion, I am always unfailingly courteous to parking wardens.

"How's it going? You're doing a great job!"