I keep not publishing this piece because it’s really just a big list and I’m a little embarrassed that I wrote it. But I wrote it anyway, and now I’m sharing it, because it’s the new year, which is about change, and I want to know how wherever you live changed you and didn’t change you.
Things that people apparently do a lot in NYC, and I still don’t:
See celebrities on the street (This is supposed to happen to people all the time. It happens to people even when they don’t live here and are just visiting for the day. I have lived here for over four years and I only JUST FINALLY saw Anne Hathaway in my grocery store. And that’s only because I go there a lot and so it was probably only a matter of time.)
Go to clubs where there are celebrities (I went to a club when I was 21 and I danced with a guy who was there with his parole officer. I told him my name was Ari Gold, because I thought that was the sexiest name a hot Jewish girl could have. Or, you know, a fifty-year-old Jewish guy. I think the hot clubs in NYC might be in the meatpacking district, but that’s only because one person told me she went to a club there. That’s how much I know)
Know the names of chefs (I will get there. And then I will be cultured, at last. As far as I can tell most of them start with “Daniel” or “David.”)
(one of them founded Shake Shack and changed my culinary life forever in doing so. I should know. source)
(I basically just take every opportunity to post this picture. source)
Work out a lot and maybe even have a personal trainer (Yeah, that just doesn’t seem to happen for me. Here’s a post about it.)
Go to lots of parties, sometimes in some really rich person’s penthouse, sometimes where there are models (Maybe I just don’t get invited….Although I was once at a book party looking really out of place I’m sure and like halfway through this group of models came in and then they stood in the corner together looking uncomfortable and tall and shiny. I think that someone maybe paid them to come? Or something? But that was the only time. I actually ended up talking with one of them, and she had this thick accent– Swedish? Danish?– and she had to bend down to talk to me. She was nice.)
Get hit on on the subway (Once a guy on the subway said to me, “You Jewish?” and I said “Yes,” and then he said that he was Puerto Rican but his sister married a Jew, and he was OK with it, and we nodded to each other in kinship. But I don’t think he was hitting on me)
(I am so uncool. Just looking at beer reminds me. source)
Be a part of a “scene.” (You know, where everyone is like you, but also cutting edge, or maybe you are cutting edge, too, and you all talk about your work together, because you’re all changing the world in the same way, and you just “get” each other. And you drink microbrews together and like the same vegan appetizers. Like that. I think that really happens a lot here. But I don’t know exactly where it happens. Probably Williamsburg.)
Find their way around the Village without too much effort (This is deeply embarrassing to me. I should be able to. I look like a tourist in the Village. Once when I was in the Village someone who lived there rolled her eyes and said, “Tourists…” to her friends, about me. And I feel like that is the worst thing that you can look like in NYC. It’s so humiliating I can’t even let myself think about it anymore so I have to go on to the next thing on the list.)
Get awesome furniture from the street (are the garbage collectors in my neighborhood just more on top of things?)
Play an instrument/recite poetry at an open mic (I think they’re happening everywhere around me, but they sound seriously scary, especially since I played at an open mic in NJ once, which can’t be nearly as critical a crowd, and people actually left the room as I was playing. I mean, like, most of the people there left the room. And then it was just me and this one really drunk girl and this one guy who later asked me to touch his penis. That was a bad night.)
Go to hip bars with ironic names (I now laugh knowingly whenever someone tells me the name of their favorite bar, because I am sure it’s supposed to be ironic, even when I don’t get the irony. I just never go to bars. They’re loud and I am tired in the evening and I feel like I’ll just be standing there awkwardly and the last time I was in a bar, when my friend was reciting a story there at a non-open mic event, I asked for a Cosmo because I panicked because the bartender was this cute, worldly-looking guy, and I could only think Cosmo, because of all the Sex And the City I watched as a freshman in college, and he looked at me for a long time and then asked if he could see some ID. Even though I am 26. Because I should know how to order a drink and clearly I don’t for some reason, but it’s freakish, because I am in NYC supposedly being an adult)
Be in a book club (I was! I was in a book club. Briefly. I think everyone was happier when I stopped coming, especially since the time before I left I accidentally flashed them because my dress came unsnapped while I was gesturing emphatically. Now book club is like a club I just can’t seem to get into. I am probably missing out on a lot of great conversations about books I will find out about a year later.)
Things that people apparently do in NYC that I have done more than once or for a long time even though they sort of surprise me:
Go to yoga (I went to yoga in Park Slope with a friend. I think I went five times. It was pretty good. But then my friend got lice and she thinks it was from a rented mat and I got humiliated by the teacher in front of the class on a day when my pants had a crotch hole in them. Still, since then I’ve been trying to convince myself to just buy a mat online so that I can go back, since I bought a ten class pass to motivate myself and I think it runs out after a year. It is also a goal of mine to one day be able to finally touch my toes.)
Get food at a weekend farmers market (Word of advice: sometimes different booths sell the same thing for different prices. I always buy strawberries at the first one, and then I realize my mistake a minute later. But overall, it’s still this very classic, fulfilling experience that makes you feel satisfied with the world and like things are going well in general and that people are probably reasonably smart.)
Live in a tiny, uncleanable apartment with an angry, elderly landlord and a super who has never taken a shower and who sometimes uses his master key to come into their apartment unannounced (This happens to everyone, right?)
Wait for an hour for the G train (I tell myself over and over than I’ll leave, and I just keep staying)
Become a writer (I am such a damn cliche!)
Run into pretty much all of their ex-boyfriends on the street at one point or another (It should be a bigger city than this. I ran into the worst one THREE times. And my hair only looked good one of those times, and I ducked behind a friend another one of those times, so as far as he knows, it was only two.)
Go on OKCupid (“But seriously, I have so many gorgeous, brilliant friends, and THEY are all on it!” Which is actually true for, I think, everyone now)
See independent films (There are only three other people in the theater! I’ve now been to maybe five. They usually make me cry at some point, because I pick the really moving ones that are trying to improve the world.)
Wonder why they want to stay in NYC so much even though places outside it are so quiet and peaceful and sweet-smelling (Why does my neighborhood smell so bad?! These fumes rise from under the street, like under there is literally hell, and the whole place is just balanced precariously above it, but if there’s even one more tiny earthquake, we’ll all be swallowed up for our urban promiscuity and our ironically named bars. But I actually can’t imagine leaving now, somehow. All of the best food trucks are here, too!)
(I bet this smells really good. source)
Perceive all houses as obscenely, wantonly large (What do you DO with all of those rooms? How creepy must it be at night, when they’re all empty and dark? What does an empty room even look like? Why aren’t you setting up a painting studio in there? You could be hosting open mics!)
Move to Brooklyn (I mean, if you didn’t start out in Brooklyn. When I moved here from the Upper West Side, everyone was like, “Finally!” And now I feel both cooler and a lot less original, and I have all these existential thoughts about that, which is also pretty standard for a writer in Brooklyn, I think, so then I have to think about that, too, while I’m walking to Trader Joes to wait in line for two hours to buy the whole milk ricotta that I have grown accustomed to.)
Be in a writers’ group (Best thing ever!)
There are a lot more things that could go on both of these lists, of course, but I think each category now has twelve things in it, so I’ll stop. What’s interesting to me is that there’s no one way to be a New Yorker, even though people keep writing movies and TV shows and books about what that looks like. You come to this city with so many expectations and outfits that you are positive are stylish, and you get here and realize that you don’t know what stylish is. And you have clearly watched too much TV. And people are friendlier than you expected. But there are some things that you can’t avoid and will stop remembering why you wanted to. Like Tasti D-lite. Their strawberry chocolate milkshake is otherworldly. And I think I invented it. And you can pretend you’re sort of being healthy because it’s not ice cream, it’s just ingenious chemicals that make it seem like ice cream. And yoga. It really makes you feel more limber, even if you’re not doing it in lululemon pants. Even if you swore you’d proudly remain the only woman in this damn city who still doesn’t do yoga. It’s OK to blend in a little. Or, like the woman in the wedding gown with the pink backpack and the dreads, who was wandering around 14th street the other day, it’s OK to just be yourself.
As long as you don’t ever order a Cosmo.
No, even if you do.
* * *
So happy new year, guys! And tell me! What don’t you do, still, even though people in your area are supposed to do those things? What do you do that you never thought you would?
Unroast: Today I love the way I look when everything I’m wearing is flowy.
And here is a reader cake pic! If you have one of yourself, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. This one is from a reader named Kate who says she usually photoshops pictures of herself, but is being brave and not doing that here, as she eats some delicious Carvel cake. You are gorgeous, Kate! Thank you for sharing!