I take the subway. Because I – like Holly Golightly, in fact – cannot afford cabs. I also take the last fourth of a cinnamon raisin bagel and a large container of coffee from Dunkin Donuts. I hope I am not botching the quest. I take some big sunglasses, and attempt to muster a little je ne sais quoi. And now, I feel ready. I am off to have breakfast at Tiffany’s.
I grew up idolizing Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly – that flaky, glamorous, wild woman who was “terrified of running into herself.” I think what I loved about her most was that she made being lost seem almost glamorous. I feel lost sometimes, too—especially in New York City.
But back to Tiffany’s. My plan is to reenact the iconic scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s where Hepburn’s Golightly window-shops with her morning meal in hand. I plan to capture the moment with a photo and be on my merry way, but something propels me forward, into the store. I swallow the rest of my bagel in one inelegant chomp and then head towards the revolving doors, already imagining how I’ll respond if sales-people see my grungy tote bag and busted flats and attempt to Pretty Woman me out of the shop.
But inside, it is quiet. A little team of salespeople in ascots whisper warm “hellos.” I stand on the threshold for a moment, blocking traffic. Audrey’s Holly once said of this room, “It feels like nothing bad could ever happen to you there.” I wonder.
This is the New York of the mystic other half (or percentage point), of course. Here is an older couple, listening to an Australian salesman impress upon them the “benefits” of the yellow diamond. Here is another couple, drinking champagne from frosted glasses while their purchase is wrapped up in the familiar robin’s egg blue box. The first thing I’m struck by is the lack of glee in this room; people seem to be very methodical and contained. I’m pretty sure that if I were buying a wedding ring here – or even a personal treat, or a present – I would be overjoyed. I would be spilling a stupid grin all over everyone. But that’s not the vibe in this store today. People are here to complete a task. They are shopping. So Tiffany’s begins to overwhelm me, as it seems impossible that I’ll ever have this mindset. Will there come a day when I’m blasé about diamonds? Probably not. But something like jealousy bubbles up all the same.
I pay homage to the Paloma Picasso collection, which represents the store’s “funkiest” offerings. My jaw drops over an olive leaf ring – gold with a blue topaz inset. It’s beautiful. I’m not even a ring girl, and it’s be-yoo-tiful.
And now I’m wondering if I’ll ever get married. I think about this plenty, in the Tiffany’s and Facebook sense – meaning in the highly abstract, but-I’m-still-playing-with-Barbie-dolls sense. And why jewelry, I wonder? Why is jewelry the binding end-all be-all of a romance? Our culture has elevated these utterly useless stones to such a high status. Rocks mean relationships. Rocks mean wealth. And yet, they are only pretty things under glass.
A security guard is starting to peer at me, so I shuffle on. My guise, if anyone asks, is “blushing fiancée on a scouting trip.” I try to look appropriately giddy. I try to look appropriately fabulous. I hold my hand up against all the cases. I imagine how heavy the stones are.
If I begin to see how Tiffany’s is an appropriate station of the cross for a certain kind of New York woman, I’m not sure I understand how a poor, distracted Holly Golightly would call this austere fortress home. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s (the movie), Holly and her lover Paul Varjak go to Tiffany’s to have a crackerjack ring engraved. They find a way to make this forbidding place their own. But at the end of my day, this is just a beautiful old building full of beautiful old things.
Paul Varjak tells Holly Golightly, “You’re chicken. You’ve got no guts. You’re terrified someone’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well, baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself.” The older I get, the more I realize that I’ll need to begin letting some of these beloved fictions go. I am not Holly Golightly, the same way that I’m not Carrie Bradshaw, or even Liz Lemon. I never was. I am Brittany Allen, and my Tiffany’s isn’t here.