Monday, April 08, 2013

RIP Lilly

"That's what life is all about: Let's have a party. Let's have it tonight."

As you have no doubt heard, the world lost a very bright star this weekend, when Lilly Pulitzer passed away at 81.

I am an enormous fan of Lilly prints on purely aesthetic grounds - it's true that it's hard to be anything but happy when you're wearing Lilly.

But even more than the clothes, I love the lady's attitude. Her joie de vivre was legendary and inspiring.

Not long before I got married, I read her entertaining book, Essentially Lilly. Reading about her fantastic, enthusiastic approach to party-throwing kicked my hostess drive into high gear. That book was a turning point for me. I went from hosting an occasional party to throwing a lot of them.

On the surface, the Lilly lifestyle appears frivolous and privileged. And it's true: Lilly Pulitzer didn't have to worry overly much about, say, how much she spent on dinner.

But she's not a legendary hostess because she spent a lot of money to become one. In Essentially Lilly, her co-author Jay Mulvaney wrote, "Lilly's elegance doesn't come from fancy china or heirloom silver (though she has plenty of both). Her elegance comes from her innate desire to see people enjoy themselves in her home, to have a delicious meal, to feel welcomed and cherished. And do they ever."

Occasionally, I wrestle with the fact that so much of my energy and creativity (and budget) goes to planning social events.

Instead of throwing parties, I wonder, should I be helping cancer patients gain access to pain meds, like my friend Meg O'Brien does with her non-profit, the Global Access to Pain Initiative? (She is awesome, by the way.) Instead of writing about fancy desserts, should I be doing more serious, hard-hitting journalism? Should this post be about Margaret Thatcher instead of Lilly?

But then I think about who Lilly was and all of the smiles she brought to people's faces, by way of her prints and her parties. She might have been fun, but she wasn't frivolous - at least not in a bad way.

There's honor in throwing parties - in bringing people together and making them happy.

And I thank Lilly for reminding me of that, over and over again. She'll be missed, but definitely not forgotten.

[Photo credit: W Magazine, from a 2008 story about the 50th anniversary of Lilly's dresses.]

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