Lisa Birnbach

ppinkk asked: I want to major in business, and am really interested in SMU. If I don't get in I need more options. Aside from these two, what are some other schools I should look in to? (I'm also thinking about Elon and Furman)

You mention SMU but said “these two.”  I gather from your interest in Elon and Furman that you want to stay within the South.  There are so many good southern schools that have undergraduate business departments.  Everything from Emory, to Washington & Lee, SMU, Wake Forest, and the ones you mentioned.  You can’t go wrong at any of them.



How I Spent My Christmas Vacation


Unfortunately, no.

Not even.

Over the holidays I was decking the halls with all the scraps of paper on which I’d scribbled the various toll free numbers for all the insurers who are listed on the Affordable Health Care webpage.  I  had a list — and I checked it twice.  And then a third time, when the answers I got from New York State helpline (average wait time for me:  1 hour and 12 minutes) didn’t parse with the answers from United HealthCare or Republic of Health or my doctor or the billing office at the hospital.  “We are experiencing higher-than-usual call volumes.  Please stay on the line, as your call is important to us.

The thoughts that usually speckle my brain at this time of year run the gamut from “Did I spend enough on Patsy’s present?” and “I wonder if someone will buy me a cashmere sweater” to “Does anyone really drink eggnog?”   Not this year.  Yuletide 2013 was full of fears about my future illnesses:  “Will I fall?  Will I need crutches?  Will they be covered?   Which is the good cholesterol again?”  As the health exchange bosses might say, it’s a trade-off.

I’m neither that old by actuarial measure, nor infirm, but the struggle to be covered by December 23rd  sort of did me in.   Excuse me, did you say something?  “Your call is important to us.”   In my weeks of attempting to speak to actual people, known as “representatives,” I had heard this fake validation so frequently that I  began to hear it in my dreams. 

The question of the metals is just plain clumsy.  What metal am I interested in?  One can choose from amongst bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.  There has to be a better way to think about whether you want spend more on your monthly premium or have a higher deductible.  (Warning:  repetition of the word deductible can change my body’s PH balance.)

And is the gold or silver conflict-free? Is it recycled?  Sustainable and renewable?

Not to mention the fact that one’s “metal” has nothing to do with quality.  For that you go to the ranking of “stars” only to discover that in the list of 1-5 stars, no plan has earned more than 3.  And that 3 star plan doesn’t seem to appeal to any of my doctors. 

And a word about the doctors:  If I were practicing medicine in this country in this city in this moment in time I too would try to keep as far away from the insurance and billing questions as possible.   But the Affordable Health Care Act has elicited more under-the-breath grumblings about Obama in these last few months than ever before.  My doctors are pissed off.  Weren’t these the same people who voted for Obama?  Who lauded national health care?  Who wanted to help the uninsured and uninsurable?

This quest is the first time I’ve talked to expert after expert on the subject – representatives of the doctors,, doctors, and insurance brokers — and learned nothing.  “You’re preaching to the choir,” they tell me.  “Your call is important to us.”  As one of my doctors advised, “best not to get sick in the first quarter of 2014.”



peavers5711 asked: My best friend is the ultimate fan of your book "The Preppy Handbook" but I can't find it in hard back in good condition. Any suggestions?

The hardback gift edition of The Official Preppy Handbook is sometimes available online through,, and/or  There was only one printing of it (I don’t know how big that was — it was 1981) and it’s somewhat expensive.  If you’re going to spend the money, try to get one that still has its slipcovered box intact.


The President’s Selfie

I tried to ignore this picture when it first started trickling in from South Africa.  Then I thought, “Oh they’re not posing for a selfie; they are looking at something on that lady’s phone. Who would be posing for a selfie at a funeral?  That’s not dignified.”

Then it turns out the the lady is the Prime Minister of Denmark.  Phew;  I was fearing that she was a stewardess from Lufthansa or someone’s simultaneous interpreter.  And yes, that’s Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom getting into the fun.  He’s not a good influence on our Barack Obama.

It’s a selfie, alright.  Look at Michelle Obama’s unamused facial expression (now the source of wild speculation over the interwebs).  Yet, we weren’t there; we don’t know if this picture was snapped during the long wait before the ceremony began.  For all we know, Cameron insisted on it, and it was a diplomatic “must” for Obama.  There is really no way that these 3 giggling world leaders were posing during the speeches themselves. 

And just maybe, Cameron insisted on it because “Selfie” was the one new slangy word that the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) admitted into its pages for 2013.

Selfies have taken over our planet.  

Not every single moment needs to be memorialized.  You could put down your phone and actually live in the moment.  Will you actually spend time looking at your pictures once you’ve taken them?

Selfies are mirrors with long memories.  Most people I know do not want to be caught checking themselves out in the mirror in public, but selfies are worse.  All they seem to do is get people in a lot of unnecessary trouble.  (See:  Anthony Weiner.)

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the vainest one of all?

"Sometimes a Bookcase is Just A Bookcase" *

As those of you who read my thread on Facebook already know, I was simply trying to sell a bookcase.  On craigslist, where I thought one did that.  (I had also listed it on a site called Apartment Therapy, where it did not get offers.)  

USING THE SAME LANGUAGE as I’d used on Apartment Therapy, “Groovy Green Bookcase”, I started to receive offers, but to my grave disappointment,  they were not interested in buying my piece of furniture.  These were of a different nature, complete with sexed up pictures of women (most likely not actual pictures of the real women since two different women sent in the very same photo of themselves) who wanted to make sure that I was “legit.”  Yes, you read that right.  

So why am I repeating this?  Just to say that though this blog page now looks different (and less distinctive), it is the same blog.  The charming vintage typewriter we all loved is gone.

Our crack tech team discovered that the typewriter template was causing the breakdown which made the text disappear.  I am sorry, but I must be practical.

So bye bye, manual typewriter. But it’s the same blog, written by me.  Sometimes a blog is just a blog.

And now, the best part, is I can resume blogging, knowing that you’ll actually read it.

(*  Thanks to Jon Maas, who posted that fine sentence.)



Pre Halloween Jitters

As someone who spent a Halloween dressed as a slutty slut (high school is my only excuse), I have grown to loathe Halloween.  If you are a fan of Halloween, you might as well stop reading now.


How clever we thought we were!  What chances we took!  

Not really.  No, not then, not now.

Not good.  At 15 I never thought about growing old and becoming a mother and having daughters and watching tv specials about sex trafficking.  

But overall, the prostitute costume is just a giant lack of imagination and creativity.  I own up to it when I was tapped out creatively (but mostly wanting to feel what it felt like to dress sexily, when my usual costume was baggy jeans, a sweater and Blucher moccasins).


I stopped liking Halloween about a dozen years ago, when there was elevator trouble in our building.  In other words, people held the doors for their crew, and kept the rest of us from enjoying the sugar surge when we wanted it.  (This is practically actionable in apartment buildings on Halloween.)

Then, after the candy has been collected and counted and consumed, their are frequent tears, accidents of all kinds, and headaches.  It’s not fun when one is in charge of many children, especially if most of them belong to you.

As for adults playing dress up, it usually seems so forced.  Besides the costume faces du jour:  the president and first lady — whomever they are, the devil (in a tuxedo or as a slut), the M & Ms, and so forth — I feel sad for everyone.  It’s all the awkward anticipation of New Year’s Eve plus candy corn. (And slutty nurses.)



[I have to admit the last time I was invited to a Halloween party, (at Henry and Peggy’s) we had a lot of laughs, especially with the Capt. Sully Sullenberger costume festooned with goose feathers.  I came as Kate, the unpleasant reality mother with too many kids, so I again, was kind of a whore, but one with a very funny and recognizable wig.]

Nevertheless, when my college student daughter, Exhibit B, called for our weekly conversation, she disappointedly reported on the Halloween Fail that happened at her dorm.  Costumes ran the gamut from Slutty nurses,to  a slutty skeleton, slutty preppies, slutty dancers, all the way to slutty prostitutes.

She urged me to remind readers that there are plenty of great costumes that don’t require exposed bras and miniskirts.  These include:  Mummy, Architect, Admissions Officer, Tennis Pro, and when every other idea is exhausted:  a ghost, preferably like the one that’s been living in your barn for the last 30 years.

And while I’m not a killjoy, (I swear), I will be attending a theater performance on Thursday night, dressed, most likely, as a writer.

Good evening.


lapetitemangue asked: Hi Lisa. Thanks for writing your books. I love them. I wasn't born until a few years after the official preppy handbook was published but was able to purchase my copy as a teenager in connecticut from a rare bookshop. i paid almost $80 for a first printing. When I found out you were writing true prep, I pre-ordered it. Just wanted to say hello and thank you from a fan! you're brilliant.

Merci beaucoup and thank you for writing.  I am pleased you liked The Preppy Handbook and hope you’ll like True Prep too.

I love hearing from my readers.  

A bientôt,


Hello, Can You Hear Me?

I’m just going to write something here and assume that you will be able to read it.  (I do not know whether Tumblr is working yet.)

It feels like I’ve been in a kind of bubble/witness protection program for the last week.  Why?  We moved downtown to a neighborhood where I don’t know anyone.  And, we have decamped from an apartment building for our own brownstone, so we can feel isolated if we want.  Or very private.  There’s no one to interact with on the elevator, because there is no elevator.  The gym is now our staircase.  

My last neighborhood (in which I’ve dwelled most of my life) is Uptown, as in apartment buildings, lots of doormen, building staff, and yummy mummies pushing strollers.  That’s Park Avenue.

As I was making my first excursions around the neighborhood, in quest of a new dry cleaner, supermarket, pharmacy, etc.  I was following a woman pushing a stroller alright, but she was an elderly tattooed woman pushing her groceries in a baby carriage.  Not quite the same.

My boxes are sprouting new boxes.  With each box I empty and cut open, a new one appears in its place.  They’re like bamboo.  Or kudzu, the plant that invades and keeps on spreading.  (This was once a house.)

I’m no longer in walking distance of school (the Exhibits’ school, that is), the doctor, my mother, or my friends who lunch.  Some of them might visit me downtown.  They’re invited.

In the meantime, I may try to meet the neighbors.

Lisa x

Moving On

This stock photograph is a fairly good representation of what’s in the center of my living room, though most of the boxes are already stuffed and sealed.

We’re moving.  Again.  And you know I’m not in the military, a full-time employee who gets relocated for work, or ducking from my landlord.

But I am moving.  Each move requires some shedding of things.  Things that were valuable to keep last time around, but somehow have lost their sheen now.  Each move forces you (or in this case, me) to reevaluate all that I own:  Can I imagine this piece of furniture in the new place?  Is there a good reason to feel sentimentally tugged by this particular end table or bookcase?

Is this the move that will turn me into a minimalist?

As some of you long time blog readers may know, I lost an enormous amount of possessions in a flood at our country house in 2012.   

People were kind.  They offered condolences.  A Lilly Pulitzer resale shop offered me choice pickings.  But the loss of so many great pieces, books, mementos — (my exhibits also displayed great fortitude after the flood) — made me think hard about what I have and what I don’t have.  And made me realize that things I treasure should be stored more carefully.

Then I learned that the things I’d paid to store in a facility in the Bronx — shared with my ex-husband, had somehow evaporated:  a carton of 1st editions of The Official Preppy Handbook, our babies’ crib, half of my library, our wedding china, and much much more.  What lesson can I take from this loss?

Just to winnow my precious belongings to a few things, hope to use and enjoy them in life, and remember that “storage” is not much better nor safer than “putting things out on the street.”

But I digress.  This move is an optimistic one, but not without its perils.  We are trying out an entirely new neighborhood, for one thing.  I’ve been planted within a 20 block radius for most of my life, so this will be a jolt to the system.  But change is good, and in this move we will feel more like a family.

While you are enjoying the last of your Labor Day barbecues, we will be figuring out which treasures fit into our new home, our new life, and which we will have to give away.

I can’t wait.  



Half-Sized Summer

Hi Friends,

It’s July 27th, and I am feeling and acting as if the summer were over.  Schools are now mailing the Exhibits or me forms to fill out and bills for the school year.  There is no quicker buzzkill for the summer than thinking about the beginning of the school year.

Maybe because of the seemingly endless hot spells I’m addled and confused.  Outside the Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church on East 22nd Street was a sign that said something like, “Hello Satan, Please Take Back Your Weather”.

Besides the academic calendar, in New York City we are experiencing a desultory mayoral race.  Well it was a big bore until “Carlos Danger” reared his big (and little, I’m so very sorry) heads.

"Six weeks till the primary" hark the newscasters.  But if it’s 97 degrees out with 100% humidity, election season seems fake, or like that tree in the forest that has no witnesses to its fall.  And then to be hijacked by Carlos Danger and Sydney Leathers?  New York’s mayor?  (Mayors currently rolling in their graves include LaGuardia, Beame, O’Dwyer, Lindsay, and Koch.)

And speaking of leathers, department stores are showing fall clothes — knits and yes, leather — in their windows.  No wonder I have seasonal dysmorphia.

Don’t go all Dr. Phil on me, either. 

Just hand me a glass of ice cold rose.

Until soon,