Fred Grimm

Fred Grimm: Miami comes off shallow by this Parisian’s high standards

Miami has endured disparagement of our collective intellect before. In 1823, a territorial land survey reported that our end of the Florida peninsula was “home only for beasts, or for men little elevated above beasts.”

Pamela Druckerman reached a similar conclusion 191 years later, though she was more specific about the beasties who render Miami uninhabitable for Parisian intellectuals.

“And while there are some thinkers scattered around town,” she observed in The New York Times, “Miami is overrun with lawyers, jewelry designers and personal trainers, all trying to sell services to one another.”

Living the life of an expatriate writer in Paris seems to have granted Druckerman license to condescend. (Plus, she was nominated for Time Magazine’s list of the “100 most influential people in 2012.” Oscar Pistorious, by the way, made the final cut.)

Druckerman grew up hereabouts, but after high school, she found us wanting. “When I left for college, I put Miami behind me and tried to have a life of the mind.”

When she came back for a visit this summer, the author (whose contributions to the literary canon include a book about global infidelity called Lust In Translation) discovered that we remain as dumb as ever. The poor woman “struggled to have conversations that weren’t about real estate or consumption.”

Her visit also coincided with a very fleshy week-long swimwear fashion extravaganza, which seemed to have exacerbated the 44-year-old's disapproval of our bikini-centric lifestyle. (“Compared with the Miamians, I felt practically deformed.”)

“There was a lot of pleasure in Miami, but not enough surprising interactions and ideas. Miami may one day be the city for normal-looking people with semi-intellectual aspirations and a mild social conscience. But it’s not there yet.”

Her low estimation hurts because, well, she’s not just some piddling newspaper columnist but the author of Bringing Up Bébé, One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, in which she goes international with her mighty generalizations, arguing that permissive American parents should emulate the French, who apparently never stoop to accommodate their children’s petty wants.

However, Druckerman does not extend her austere approach to marital relations. She wrote a piece in the fashion magazine Marie Claire in 2011 recounting how she fulfilled her husband’s birthday wish. “For his 40th birthday, I had my eye on a vintage watch But when I mention this to him, he balks. He says that what he really wants isn’t a good, but a service: a threesome with me and another woman.”

Tough love for the Paris kids. Ménage à trois for the Paris hubby. No wonder we seem so shallow in Miami. “There’s a sweet moment at the end when the three of us lie together under the covers, with the birthday boy in the middle. He’s beaming. I’ll later get a series of heartfelt thank-you notes from him, saying it was as good as he had hoped.”

If only our expatriate intellectual’s essay had been circulated among us brain-dead Miamians before her visit. I’m pretty sure the conversation would encompassed more than real estate and shopping.