1. Be grateful.
When throngs of paparazzi initiate high-speed chases down the PCH, tell yourself that it’s an adventure. If tour groups wearing fanny packs and sun visors lurk just outside your front gate, smile for their cameras. Remember that there is no such thing as father-son time. Content yourself with the brief interludes in between autograph signings in the park, or at the grocery store, on the beach, everyplace you go. Remember always that you are lucky. You live in a mansion. The garage cannot hold all the family cars. An Olympian would be proud to swim in your pool. Professional skiers envy your cabin in Vail. The mostly-empty penthouse in New York once belonged to Robert Downey, Jr. You owe each and every one of these things to the nosy photographers, the interfering tourists, and the rabid fans. When you see them coming, murmur a silent thank you for all the luxuries you never asked for. Money compensates for everything, after all.
2. Pretend nothing is wrong until you believe it.
Your mother is not an alcoholic. She is not a drug addict. She suffers chronic neck pain due to a car accident in her youth; she was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at the age of twenty-eight after being shepherded into the psychiatrist’s office by her loving husband. Both of those conditions require treatment with prescription drugs, which may be dispensed by a variety of pharmacies and medical practitioners. And no, officer, having a container of thirty-seven mixed pills is not a crime.
Your father is as kind and loving in private as he is when the cameras are rolling. He dispenses only the discipline that you deserve, ungrateful son that you are. He has no mistresses and does not engage in one night stands. Occasionally allegations of sexual harassment by opportunist starlets are, sadly, part of the job.
When your eighth grade English teacher asks nosy questions about the cigarette burns on your arm, assure him that you know what a mandated reporter is, but you do not need one: those burns are your own fault, the result of a childish dare and nothing more. Promise that you know that cigarettes are dangerous and fire is not a toy. Agree to meet with the counselor if it will appease him. Try not to look too desperate when you say please do not call Child Protective Services. Your home life is idyllic; your parents dote on you, and you want for nothing.
Smile and say it again, until you both believe it.
Trust no one. Actually, trust only those who have something to lose.
Accept early on that some people will look at you and see only a dollar sign. Don’t get too attached to the help; they’ll get fired when a brooch goes missing or a rumor of divorce is leaked to TMZ. Watch out for the girl who lingers on the periphery of the cool crowd in last season’s Cole Haan loafers, or the kid who’s already agonizing over how to pay for college at the age of twelve. They’re the ones who’ll sell you out, and there’ll be hell to pay if a rumor is traced back to you. (No, actually, remember rule #2: Your father will tell you kindly to be more careful whom you trust.)
The people you trust live in multi-million dollar estates, and their lives look like the pages of a glossy magazine -- on the surface, anyway. Their families are not exactly like yours: maybe their fathers snort coke, maybe their mothers have the affairs. Some of the parents wield words instead of belts. Some of their little brothers are the pool boy’s sons (which everyone knows, but nobody says. Refer again to rule #2.)
The variations don’t matter. What matters is that they have nothing to gain from selling you out to the tabloids. Money means nothing to them, and reputation is their currency. They will protect yours, so long as you protect theirs. Maybe you don’t like all of them but friends are like family: you don’t get to choose, and sometimes you have to make do with what you have.
4. Remember that everyone is always watching.
Constant surveillance is not the sole domain of the tinfoil hat brigade. It is the price of stardom, and every member of the family pays their due. Know you can be photographed at school, on the beach, at the mall -- everywhere there are people. Welcome to celebrity in the age of the internet and the camera phone. Do nothing scandalous, at least not where anyone can see it. Behind closed doors, in the pool house, at the Casablancas mansion, do what you will. Drink, fuck, fight, cry: it’s all fair game. The image matters, not reality. (Refer again to rule #2.)
5. You deserve all of this.
Every last penny. Every vacation. Every X-box, every car, every party that trashes the house. You paid for it with every fake smile and every stroke of the belt. Accept privilege as your rightful due. Lord it over the throngs of worshippers stupid enough to envy it. Maybe then you believe what everyone else says is true: you are the luckiest kid in the whole wide world.