Last weekend, social researcher Wednesday Martin shot straight to the top of the Most Emailed list on the NYTimes site thanks to an op-ed piece detailing her adventures living on the Upper East Side. Martin posits herself as Jane Goodall in the urban jungle (just substitute boots for Louboutins) in her new book, Primates of Park Avenue. And if you think the "wife bonuses" are the only click-worthy conclusion from the anthropological embedding, guess again.

Martin sat down with the Post today to talk more about the lives of the rich and insecure. "It’s the most fascinating and alienating and completely separate world I’ve ever encountered," she told them. "This is a separate tribe in New York City."

There's a lot about the aggressive parenting style of locals ("There’s a lot of social jockeying through play dates"), including this bit of anxiety-provoking minutia:

Martin was further panicked to learn her child had been born in the wrong month; many women on the Upper East Side time their pregnancies and IVF treatments to school enrollment, so their child will begin school at the oldest age possible — a practice known as redshirting.

“You go to the Upper East Side, and everyone will be heavily pregnant in the same month, because the time to have a baby is October or November,” Martin says. “Those are the good birthdays.”

Then there's this anecdote about the moment Martin crossed the barrier from outside observer to American Express Black Card-wielding member of the 'tribe.' This was her come-to-Jesus (and drink-a-glass-of-Rosé) moment.

Martin had her own capitulation to Upper East Side fashion. In her early days, she was walking along East 79th Street when a woman toting a Birkin bag deliberately swiped her with it — on an otherwise empty street.

“Something about these arrogant women, who pushed and crowded me like I didn’t exist, made me want a beautiful, expensive bag,” Martin writes. “Like a totem object, I believed, it might protect me from them.”

Birkins range in price from $10,500 to $150,000. Martin became more determined when a friend’s mother told her she had seen the wife of a super-famous New York comedian throw a hissy fit at Hermes until she got the Birkin she wanted.

So Martin’s husband agreed to buy her one: a 35-centimeter bag with black leather and gold hardware. (A used version goes for up to $30,000.)

“It was a total buy-in,” Martin says. “I just said, ‘You know what? Screw you. You’re not gonna run me off the sidewalk anymore, or be nasty to me at play group.’ I wanted to win! What did I want? Some play dates for my son and myself some friends.”

There's also the matter of the wives and moms self-medicating with pills, pot, wine and vodka: "Some mommies serve wine at 11 a.m. play dates. Ativan, Valium and Xanax are used for sleep aids."

This is all just scratching the surface of course: the publicist for the book has a nice checklist of some more of the "stranger than fiction facts" from the book, including:

  • UES wives receive clothing allowances, charity allowances, and year-end bonuses from their husbands.
  • A “self-maintenance” budget can run an UES mom around $85,000 - per year.
  • Podiatrists will inject painkillers into women’s feet so Louboutins may be worn with relative ease.
  • Perpetual hunger, anxiety, compulsive exercise, and sleep deprivation are characteristic of the group. UES mothers get by on white wine, weed, Xanax, and other sleep aids.
  • The UES is the Sahara Desert of sex: relentless exercise and meticulous attention to dress take priority.
  • To have the privilege of buying an Hermes Birkin handbag, one must join a waitlist that can be three years long. Unless the waitlist is closed. Prices start at $8,000 and can go as high as $150,000 or more.
  • Dinner parties are sex-segregated (no flirting allowed), including all typical night time rites such as nursery school benefits, dinners out with other couples, and evening galas.
  • This intensely sex-segregated world keeps women in a place of financial dependence and fundamental disempowerment. Anthropologically, the UES is the equivalent of a menstrual hut in Mali.
  • Women schedule their pregnancies to avoid giving their children “bad” birthdays (schools frown on any date later than August).
  • Parents spend thousands of dollars to hire tutors to prep their three-year-olds for the standardized test that determines preschool admission.
  • A child’s playmates can directly impact his mother’s social rank, creating an aggressive, competitive game of social jockeying.
  • Some coops enforce rules segregating children in strollers to the service elevators, which also carry deliveries and garbage. The passenger elevators are reserved for everyone else, including dogs.

Here is the full synopsis of the book:

After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers’ snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realized other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analyzed tribal migration patterns; display rituals; physical adornment, mutilation, and mating practices; extra-pair copulation; and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought-provoking, and hilariously unexpected. Every city has its Upper East Side, and in Wednesday’s memoir, readers everywhere will recognize the strange cultural codes of powerful social hierarchies and the compelling desire to climb them. They will also see that Upper East Side mothers want the same things for their children that all mothers want—safety, happiness, and success—and not even sky-high penthouses and chauffeured SUVs can protect this ecologically released tribe from the universal experiences of anxiety and loss. When Wednesday’s life turns upside down, she learns how deep the bonds of female friendship really are. Intelligent, funny, and heartfelt, Primates of Park Avenue lifts a veil on a secret, elite world within a world—the exotic, fascinating, and strangely familiar culture of privileged Manhattan motherhood.

Lastly, let us not end this without comment on Martin's move from the UES to the UWS, one which implies that maybe she drank a bit more of the Kool Aid than even she realizes: "Upper East Side is immaculate and conservative and clean, and this is left-of-center, dirty, progressive," she said of her new digs on the Upper West Side. "The Upper East Side is skinny; the West doesn’t care about the last 10 pounds. The Upper East is totally manicured and coiffed, and this is, like, post-menopausal gray hair...Let me tell you: I’m sorry, but I miss the Upper East Side." Yikes.