Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about the whole thing was that it wasn’t that noteworthy at all: another Tuesday. Another billionaire businessman paying to catapult himself into space.
Yet the sight of Jeff Bezos, in his beige cowboy hat and blue spacesuit (wearing a custom Omega Speedmaster over the sleeve as if he were Buzz Aldrin), high-fiving astronauts and then waxing profound about the experience afterward, resonated in ways that Sir Richard Branson’s wild ride did not.
It has taken Amazon just 27 years to become a $1.8 trillion company. Depending on the oscillations of the stock market, Mr. Bezos is either the richest or the second richest man in the world. Yet he has become this without achieving commensurate mystique.
He has not, like Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, hosted “Saturday Night Live” and managed to do a surprisingly good job at it. He has not, like Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs, shown Americans the power of a minimalist mock neck. He did not, like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, spend a pandemic quarantining with Jay-Z.
All those guys inspire enmity, especially Mr. Musk and (even posthumously) Mr. Jobs. But the lines for their products reveal the emotional connection people have to them. They invented FOMO. Mr. Bezos merely capitalized on it and embodies it.
We watched as he went to the gym, got biceps and bought motorcycle jackets. The problem was never the fit. It was that they seemed to accomplish the opposite of their intended purpose, which is to telegraph the chicness of indifference.
We read about the end of his marriage to MacKenzie Scott, a novelist turned mega-philanthropist, and the beginning of his romance with Lauren Sanchez, a former correspondent on the tabloid entertainment show “Extra!”
It seemed like a cliché.
We gasped at the intimate text messages he sent her.
They were just so goofy, as if he’d consulted Siri for sexting advice.
We looked at the pictures of his four-story $96 million real estate investment in the Flatiron district.
It seemed soulless, like something that would be designed by Marriott should it build its version of an André Balazs hotel.
Yet by being worth around $200 billion and having few people who are likely to tell him the truth about, say, how he looks in a cowboy hat riding his phallic rocket, he has become the Dorian Gray of dorkiness, a locus classicus and fun-house mirror through which a sizable contingent of usually white men, approaching middle age and unpossessed of Ryan Gosling’s looks, should see ourselves, if we become honest enough to admit the errors of spending our way into regrettable stylistic choices.
There’s an onomatopoetic quality to Mr. Bezos’ name.
A dentist with a Lamborghini is a Bezos. So is anyone in commercial real estate who, having just embarked on his first extramarital affair, starts shaving areas of himself that should not be shaved.
I turned into a Bezos the day I decided to try and pull off a fanny pack and a pair of bootleg Dior shorts.
Pretending to be an oenophile makes a Bezos of many a man. So does deciding that it is not enough of an accomplishment to run a financial services company; that what one really needs is a side job on the weekends as a tropical house and EDM D.J.
If you returned from your first trip to Burning Man at 50, you are treading dangerously close to Bezos territory.
If you have made attempts to book a singer like Jennifer Lopez, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Patti LaBelle or Christina Aguilera at your wedding, birthday party or child’s religious gathering, you are a Bezos.
Bezoses are more likely to be rich than poor, but using Affirm at checkout has helped many less fortunate types achieve Bezosdom.
It’s hard, but not impossible, for a movie star to be a Bezos.
Mark Wahlberg, sporting a diamond encrusted Patek Phillipe sports watch that would be a joke in a Paul Thomas Anderson movie starring Mark Wahlberg, is most certainly a Bezos. So is Ben Affleck anytime he has his shirt off, and we can see the enormous phoenix he had permanently etched onto his back.
Bezoses want to believe that the time spent on Pelotons over the last year is enough to justify ordering a Speedo over Amazon. Or that with a few good years left for our knees, we could still take up skateboarding or fly off in a rocket ship and become a Butch Cassidy for the skies, with a hat (and boots) to match.
Here’s the problem: Butch Cassidy became Butch Cassidy by stealing. A Bezos compensates with a credit card.
Shortly after descending to earth, Mr. Bezos went and did a news conference where he said: “I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this. Seriously.”
It was a curious admission coming from a guy whose underlings are protesting their working conditions and meager delivery salaries. But what did everyone expect of a space cowboy in blue satin? He’s the world’s biggest Bezos.