As I gather my thoughts to write about Bhutan (a daunting task that really should be a book, not a blog post), I decided to share another unique story first:
Last November I attended the most unexpectedly terrific dinner party ever. Knowing that I would be in London for one night on a trip that took me to Rwanda and Oxford, I sent a message to Gwyneth Paltrow to see if she might happen to be in London at the same time. Gwyneth and I met years before when I lived in London and, even after I moved to Hong Kong, we kept in touch and I sometimes visited her when I was in town. Despite having relocated to Los Angeles, Gwyneth happened to be working on a movie in London and would be there during my visit. She invited me over for dinner.
I had been to her house a few times for lunch, sometimes just the two of us, sometimes with our kids and once with her whole family, including her brother and his wife. Having made the mistake of asking her sister-in-law what kind of photos she takes when I later learned that she’s one of the most famous photographers in the world and was opening a solo show at the Tate Modern that same week, I wanted to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself again. I sent Gwyneth a message asking if anyone else was coming and she replied that yes, a few great ladies would be joining. “Who?” I asked. “My best friend Stella McCartney and Adele. The singer.”
Oh my. Seriously?!
Now what do you wear to a dinner party of four that includes the world’s most beautiful Oscar winner lifestyle guru, an OBE top fashion designer daughter of one of the Beatles and a Grammy award winner with the most stunning voice ever? I opted for black skinny jeans, a sequined racer back top and a gray cashmere coat sweater with little heel boots. I know next to nothing about fashion anyway, but I think it was OK for the evening.
Gwyneth’s home is lovely and she took great care of us. She served beautiful food and we indulged in great conversation that flowed seamlessly from the mundane to the ridiculous and back again. Sometimes we were talking about work/life balance and raising children and then they were comparing notes on changing paparazzi laws and how terrific Beyoncé is. I could contribute to some conversations, and not at all to others, but the fundamental feeling I had was that we were four moms with very different lives, but who all love and want what’s best for our children.
At one point during dinner after I finished telling them about my trip to Rwanda and how I had worked in Somalia years before Stella says, “Christ, we all feel like wankers compared to you.” I laughed hard and told Stella that I wanted to have that engraved on my tombstone.
Stella and I bonded over Ed Ruscha, my favorite California artist who had done an Iconoclast episode with Stella I had recently seen. I gave her my card and hoped I might hear from her, but didn’t get her contact details. Hugs goodbye with all and I was in a taxi home, pinching myself from a truly fun and wonderful night.
A few weeks later sitting at my desk in HK a message arrived from “Merry Sam” with nothing in the subject line. I nearly deleted it thinking it spam, but then decided to read it. It said,
“Hello. I am writing on behalf of Stella who has asked if you could let me have your underwear bra / pant sizes, shoe size and also your children’s ages and names please. Also the best address to send you something please. Many thanks.”
I pondered this strange message and then replied,
“Hi. I’ve never received an email like that before. Are you serious? If so, I’m psyched. If not, well, you have a lot of random info at your disposal. Here goes…”, and I listed the information requested.
A few days after Christmas in Colorado I returned from skiing to find a box waiting for me with a return address “Stella McCartney.” Opening the box there were four beautifully wrapped silver packages with red ribbon, one each for my children and one for me. All were addressed by name and signed “Stella.” Each kid had received a beautiful outfit, and a nightgown for me that fits as if it was custom made. I was so touched that she thought of me and even with her extraordinarily busy schedule sent beautiful gifts for no apparent reason. I was (and remain) rather speechless with gratitude.
I share this story because it’s too good not to. The cult of celebrity is so intense, so revered, so reviled and such a mystery. My biggest take away from the night was that these are women with extraordinary talents, but even bigger hearts. Moms who want the best for their kids, like we all do, who are trying to make life work for their families and to share their talents with the world. I am as inspired by the depth of their character and thoughtfulness as I am by their resumes, and I was so honored and thrilled to have spent an evening in their company.
Now on to karma knitting in Bhutan…