NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The latest symbol of wealth in one of New York's richest neighborhoods isn't a fancy car, couture clothing, or an expensive piece of jewelry -- it's a big brood of kids.
In Simon & Schuster's (CBS), Primates of Park Avenue, a new memoir of the powerful women who live in New York's wealthy uptown neighborhoods, Wednesday Martin explains that wealthy women have big families in tow -- at least three children -- and wealthier women have even more. "Three was the new two, something you just did in this habitat. Four was the new three -- previously conversation stopping, but now nothing unusual. Five was no longer crazy or religious -- it just meant you were rich. And six was apparently the new town house -- or Gulfstream."
A diamond-studded designer handbag may cost upwards of $200,000 at auction, but once you make the initial purchase, it's free to tote around. Whereas a child's expenses -- thousand-dollar outfits and annual prep school bills that cost as much as a car, for instance -- are forever.
The following is from an early chapter of the book:
I marveled, day after day, at the abundance all around me. It wasn't just that the neighborhood and the neighbors were rich. Through the lens of anthropology, I saw that they lived in a state of what one could only term extreme ecological release. Every living thing is tethered to its surroundings. Environmental conditions -- climate, flora and fauna, predation -- all help determine the daily course and overall life cycle and evolution of every population of every species. In much of the world, humans still struggle to ward off predators and disease, and work hard to provision themselves and their families in unstintingly difficult environments -- the savanna or the rain forest or a shantytown in Brazil. It is nothing new to say that things are different for the well-off in the industrialized West, where our dinners come prepackaged from stores, we get vaccines, and, in the words of primatologist Sarah Hrdy, there are no jaguars lurking outside our nurseries. In short, many of us live unconstrained by our environment in unprecedented ways. But nowhere, I considered as I walked from here to there every day, foraging for crisp Frette sheets and shiny All-Clad pots and pans and the perfect sconces, are we as radically and comprehensively released as on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It was the land of gigantic, lusciously red strawberries at Dean & Deluca and snug, tidy Barbour jackets and precious, pristine pastries in exquisite little pastry shops on spotless, sedate side streets. Everything was so honeyed and moneyed and immaculate that it made me dizzy sometimes.