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Thursday, May 31, 2007

On Being a New Yorker

I was browsing some blogs last night, after doing a search on 'New York'. Then I read an interesting post about being a New Yorker.

Reading the Addie's post got me thinking: Would I consider someone a ‘New Yorker’ if he's lived in the city for a year? Anyone who’s lived here much longer than that would heave a resounding NO...are you kidding? One-year newbies are pretenders. They’d like to wear the mantle without earning it. It’s like buying a pair of Prada pants and thinking you are automatically fashionable.

Sure, someone who's lived here a year will have found an apartment, found a job, gotten through the cold, cold wind that comes off the Hudson at wintertime, and the intense heat on the subway platforms during the summer….but a year is nothing. Zero.

There are various stages of living in New York and if you’re further along the path, it’s hard to be around anyone less enlightened. Example: when you first move in, you skip around in disbelief over your luck. You go out every night with the stamina of a teenager on Red Bull. You keep a celebrity sighting list. You go to all the hip places and have opinions about everything. 'Butter? Really photogenic, excellent food, but so two years ago.'

Soon, ecstatic joy is eclipsed by fear. The thought being, ‘New York is by far the most amazing, beautiful, vibrant place to live. How could I possibly live anywhere else? Oh no, what will I do?’ Like an addict aware of his dependency, the fear only makes you hang on more tightly. Every other city is poo-poohed. There can be nowhere else. Yes, you might tolerate Paris or London if you absolutely had to, but where could you experience such cultural diversity? How could you leave your favorite Afghani place? And what about the Ethiopian place?

Somewhere along the way, reality checks in. Your landlord collects your money, yet avoids your calls. You realize the guy upstairs is a heavy-footed ogre. Does he have to wake up at 6 am to do jumping jacks? You find yourself going to parties and comparing kitchen counterspace with complete strangers. And what you’d budgeted for rent and living has become completely impossible. You wonder how people here get by.

You ease up on the festivities, to start. You feel lonely, despite being in a crowd all the time. You realize that New Yorkers are workaholics, and that more is expected of you here than anywhere else. You go through a stage of paranoia, where every cab driver is a potential thief. You realize there will always be someone who has a nicer apartment, a better job and better fashion sense. All these are signs that point to your needing time away from paradise.

You venture to the country and realize that a one-room studio is kind of small for a grown adult. You attend loft parties, possibly even in Brooklyn (this rarely happens until your fifth year, unless you already live there). Your friends purchase houses in the suburbs or apartments in the city. Time passes. Your apartment remains tiny. You are still single. Suddenly, New York doesn’t seem so great a place.

Then, one of a few things happen. You might move out of the New York completely, for quality of life reasons. Or you might move out to Brooklyn, Queens, or Jersey for a bit more space. Sure the commute is longer, but you don’t need to live in the middle of mayhem. In the rarest cases, you stay in Manhattan.

Whether it’s in Manhattan or the other boroughs, it's only after some time that you call yourself a New Yorker. It's a mystery what keeps you here. Perhaps you’re young at heart, or you don’t mind living with roommates, or you have a well-paying job, or you don’t mind the compromises that city life brings.

You could certainly live anywhere else if you had to, but you deliberately choose not to. New York, after all, is your home.


Columbia said...

Beautifully written post. It brought me back to drinking a beer in my first apartment echoing with emptiness, sleeping on the bare floor with a grin from ear to ear, and the looming realization that my spiral staircase is a baby-death-trap. This is a spot-on description of "what is a new yorker?"

Addie said...

hey ..

i can see the difference from a new yorker's point of view now!

so when did u become a new yorker :D?

Addie said...

It's a very interesting point of view.... that from a grown new yorker ;)

I enjoyed reading it!

- Addie

Kitty said...

Hi Addie!
I lived on the Upper West Side for 10+ years and moved out to Brooklyn last summer.
I look forward to reading your blog soon!