Silly me. I used to think I had to go all the way to New York or L.A. to feel inadequate. Now I know there's a world of snobbery and pretension right here in my own back yard. After only a few days in Scottsdale, Arizona, where shopping is a career and designer malls outnumber the palm trees, I had all the self-esteem of a tadpole in the food chain.

Anticipating a few carefree days of sunbathing and possibly a lizard sighting or two, my son Zack and I had eagerly tagged along with my husband while he attended a conference held at The Phoenician. Self-described in numerous pamphlets littering our suite as "one of the Southwest's most distinctive resorts," it may well be the last resort I ever visit.Several things were intimidating from the get-go. For starters, all the other resort guests were fabulously wealthy, which was immediately apparent from a cursory glance in the parking garage. Among the Jaguars, Mercedes and Porsches, our rented Buick Skylark was an eyesore. "Maybe we should have chosen the Taurus after all. What do you think?" I asked my husband. He answered with a bitter laugh as we parked in a dark corner, got out and ran.

Once safely inside ("Nowhere is the splendor of The Phoenician more prominent than in its exquisite lobby, where a stunning Italian marble entry and fountain are illuminated by magnificent crystal chandeliers"), we couldn't help noticing that the concierge, bellmen, desk clerks and chambermaids were dressed better than we were. I panicked, but reasoned that if I just wore a Phoenician-logo robe to the Mother-of-Pearl-lined pool and stayed put, my vintage wardrobe wouldn't blow our cover.

I was wrong. In a bathing suit, it was even more apparent that I was out of my league, since my one-piece Jantzen revealed the awful truth that I was packing prehistoric body parts. Bikinis were de rigueur, confirming my suspicion that most of the other female guests had lifted more than their suitcases before their arrival. The old ladies looked young and the young ladies - well, let's just say I finally understand the term "breast implants." (I'm not sure Zack does, since he asked, "Mom, what are those things?" All I could muster was, "Honey, don't point.")

While the men were away at the Golf Wars, the women killed time at "The Centre for Well-Being." I didn't, mostly because you had to reserve your well-being two weeks in advance, and I hadn't. If I had, I might have experienced firsthand one of the life-enhancing services available in exchange for a mere arm and a leg. Most intriguing was the EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), "an advanced technique to deal with emotional trauma and stress." Instead, I was forced to deal with the emotional trauma and stress of being there through repeated applications of my Sony Walkman and a Rolling Stones tape.

Mealtime offered its own trials, mostly in finding something acceptable to a 10-year-old, whose mantra for three days became "Yo quiero Taco Bell." One night at dinner Zack was hard-pressed to make a selection, even though the menu said "our culinary team creates masterpieces each day with a palette of fish and fowl," and encouraged him to "raise your fork and experience these works of art." He showed minor interest in the Spaghettini.

Exactly what is spaghettini?" I asked our waiter.

"Spaghetti, only thinner," he answered, looking as if I had to be the dumbest person in the world.

"Then why not just say spaghetti?" Zack wondered aloud.

Resembling a human saguaro cactus, the waiter impatiently sighed, "Well, do you want it or not?" We picked "not," and happily jumped bail to find a Taco Bell in the neighborhood real world. (I must admit the Veggie Fajita Wrap never tasted better.)

Nestled in our Skylark, as palm trees were swaying in the warm desert breeze, I finally achieved a sense of well-being and concluded that Scottsdale was pretty nice after all.

I might even go back someday - as a last resort.