“Maybe this year you’ll come to the Cape … We’d love to have you visit in the Hamptons … Please spend a weekend with us at Fire Island … You know you’re always welcome in Connecticut.”
The desire to have guests, I suspect, is because they’re rattling around in enormous homes that were the right size when their kids were younger. The children now have their own families and vacation homes; some may already have their own liver spots. Empty-nest syndrome continues to taunt with unused bedrooms and an excess of beach towels, apparently more disturbing at the beach than in the city. I say this because no one with an extra bedroom in Manhattan has ever pleaded with us to sleep over.
Martin and I, who for three months think of ourselves as “MarSyb,” the Brangelina of our social circle, do not particularly welcome this A-List status. For us it’s a seasonal disorder because we turn down every offer, our own “least favorite nations” clause. It’s not that we don’t adore and enjoy our friends. We value each tremendously and welcome any opportunity to spend time with them but, like single guys who are eager to go home after sex, at the end of the evening we want to sleep in our own bed.
Early in our marriage, we went to Bridgehampton to stay with dear friends, Roberta and Vic. On Friday night, Roberta hugged me, saying how thrilled she was to have our four toothbrushes in the same house. I went into the bedroom, where an anxious Martin whispered, “What’s the soonest we can leave without seeming rude?” He was worried whether he’d be able to sleep with no TV on (his habit). Getting up at 3 a.m. to visit the bathroom or refrigerator (another habit) compounded the stress. Was it okay to nosh on the smoked salmon, or was that tomorrow’s lunch?
Waking to find Roberta in the kitchen making blueberry pancakes was more than we could bear. We were already feeling guilty that they’d prepared a room for us, stocked up on food and invited friends for dinner. They wouldn’t let us help — not with the marinating, chopping, blending, or driving to pick up the bread, newspapers and others arriving on the Hampton Jitney. There were not enough bottles of wine or slabs of imported cheese on Long Island that would allow us to reciprocate.
In addition to feeling beholden to our overworked hosts, Martin and I lose all authenticity, feeling obligated to defer to their every wish and plan. At cocktail hour, I’ve heard myself say, “Sure, vodka is fine,” when what I really want to say is, “You wouldn’t happen to have any frozen strawberry margaritas around here, would you?”
We can’t buy into mi casa es su casa, never forgetting who’s paid for and caring for the casa. After a few stabs at being houseguests, Martin and I admitted to each other that it was too hard to be on someone else’s turf.
Fortunately, summer is our favorite season in New York. The city empties out, so we can get a restaurant table that would otherwise be held for Alec Baldwin and see a movie without calling Fandango. Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach is a 30-minute subway ride away, and there are blintzes on the boardwalk. Our apartment is three blocks from the Hudson River, where you have a choice of biking, skateboarding, tennis, canoeing, kayaking, or miniature golf-and, of course, sunbathing. We walk on the newly constructed High Line and stop into Chelsea’s art galleries, after which we get soft ice cream from a truck named Mister Softee.
Best of all, we return to our own home
— Sybil Sage
After working as Carl Reiner’s secretary, Sybil broke into the male-dominated field of comedy writing, doing scripts for many TV show including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude and Northern Exposure. Her humorous essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Redbook, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Coastal Living, The Daily Forward and more. She also designs pique assiette mosaic art.