Why I May Never Leave New York

When one happens to be a female holed up in New York, such as, say, our beloved narrator, one must inevitably utter (or get an eardrum full of) the age-old adage, “What the hell is up with the men in New York?” The type of people who live in New York, and therefore the type of people you date in New York, really do feel particular to this city. Of course, this point has been editorialized ad nauseam. Men suck, women suck, everyone who identifies in any other way sucks as well, big whoop, what else is new, you’re thinking? Fair enough, dear reader. But this goes beyond the garbage that’s out there on gender—whether it’s bad biology (men have a cheating gene!) or cultural constructions (men will be men and men sometimes cheat!) or shareable listicles (the top 10 boyfriends who will cheat on you before you’re 30 and the 15 cats you will subsequently own before finding the love of your life due to this one secret no one is telling you about!). It feels at times like there are concentric circles billowing outwards of New York and men and my own pre-conceived notions of love and dating and (dare I write romance? Well, I for one am fine if I have to chuck that out with the patriarchal bathwater—and simultaneously, may I add, giving that proverbial baby a whole other slew of analyses to mull over).

I realize one of the worst things a New Yorker can do is talk about what makes New York so different from everywhere else. But I’m having a nugget of a worry! I fear New York is potentially de facto wrapping my wrists in invisible chains. I say this because every other human in every other city in the U.S. is tying the knot (according to my Facebook feed, at least). In NYC, that pressure just doesn’t exist for 20-somethings in the same way. The only reason marriage has even come up on my radar is because of Facebook, which leads me to the conclusion that everyone else in the country must look at New York like a playground for people delaying adulthood to perverted extremes and throwing Monopoly money around. It feels like that sometimes! Which is why it’s shocking to me that my peers have apparently gotten their lives together. Or, at least, together to the point that they’ve found it a feasible and even desirable prospect to join their own lives with another person’s life. Marriage is for people who understand how credit scores work and have an interest in learning seasonally-inspired pancake recipes and things of that nature. Truly another echelon of existence from the typical New Yorker I associate with, people who say things like, “I will be Seamlessing burritos for the next three days and also I don’t have a 401K and also I just puked on the steps of Trash and Vaudeville.”

If I had to guess, I’d say that the rest of the country’s wedding bells hit a sonic peak around age 25, then crescendo to bachelor parties in Montreal at age 28, and on and on until the last cacophony of hashtags (#HappilyEverSteinenberg), maybe around age 32, are finally put to bed (somewhere in Bali or Croatia, according to the honeymoon Instagrams). Meanwhile, back in New York, we tend to go out not with a bang or a whimper but rather a middle finger, and not until age 45+ for men and unknown if ever for women (shout out to the UES facelift and the male-female ratio imbalance, respectively).

But who gives a shit if someone in Wichita got hitched last Saturday? Good for them! Go Wichita. Well, I agree! None of this would actually be a problem for me, esteemed reader, if I didn’t think that someday, maybe, I’d like to try living in a different city. I love it here, of course, the way one loves a mole you can’t seem to save up enough money of to remove. But sometimes I think life is too short to not try a few metropolises on for size. And anyway, as should be obvious, living in NYC is basically just forking over your entire life’s savings to go to a continuous party that other people are writing about and profiting off of while you’re simultaneously developing a panic disorder on a G train that’s stuck underground.

So if I ever do go to a different city, let’s say when I’m 37 and single and doing grown woman things, well, I might arrive only to find myself an insta-leper. Mid-30s seems to be around the the time in the average New Yorker’s life cycle when a person such as myself might start to think about marriage. But it is not so in other cities. Men in Chicago will have punched out a few kids who are old enough to rattle off the Cubs’ lineup by that point. Men in LA will be well into Holy Matrimony Round 2, and already seeing returns off their children’s robust probiotic yogurt commercial reels. And I can only imagine what grandfatherly state men anywhere below the Mason-Dixon line will be in. Thus, I may find myself having to return, by default, to New York, just so I can continue to go on dates with single men who, too, would be considered boorish or alien in any other setting. For all the festering cesspools of garbage one has to deal with while living here, and believe me, there are many (garbage here is a metaphor for piles and piles of more actual piles of garbage on the sidewalk), it is kind of nice to be reminded that no matter what, you aren’t a freak.

Let’s be real: it’s pretty damn hard to be a leper in New York. The other day I saw a man in a Wall Street suit and a clown wig with a gigantic flute in one hand and a book on Nietzsche in the other, and he was blasting Naughty By Nature, and his face was totally deadpan, and no one even looked twice at him!! It was awesome! Even this man blends! Why I think that bodes well for the dating scene is probably how I wound up here in the first place.

A related thought: It’s unfortunate that a byproduct of dating men here is that one has to resist the urge to categorize the ridiculous people you find yourself going out with (the digital strategist who’s into Sun Tzu, caffeine, and feet; the RoR developer with a penchant for fair trade turkey jerky and barbiturates, etc.)—the kind of groups I’d be quick to deem as misogynistic if the gender roles were reversed, and that is a place I don’t want to go to. Even for humor! Of course, humor is a natural impulse when dealing with the dating world, as humor often serves as our attempt to one-up the horrors of the human condition (among which is the dating world). But you know, it is also what makes living and dating in New York as a (relatively) young person so fun. There are so many ridiculous people and wonderful nights and stories to have while single here—like a man on the C train drawing your portrait on a napkin, or going to a 5-course dinner in Meatpacking with a banker one night and eating tuna from the can with a Bushwick painter the next, or having a first kiss on the bridge from Greenpoint to Long Island City, or having a first kiss anywhere— it’s kind of hard to imagine giving all of that up. Particularly when you still don’t care about making seasonal pancakes for someone else.

I don’t want my love life to read as a bad Elite Daily article, though as a writer, the impulse is at times to sell one’s love life. The fodder is deep and rich in New York, and internet blogging vacuums tend to pay a few pennies for “women’s lifestyle” drivel. I’m ashamed that there have been times that I’ve thought of my experiences with men as packageable article headlines. Because as a writer, I’m supposed to be good at making headlines out of life. And because it’s easier to make sense of  “likes” than love. But I like to think well of people, and people includes men, and when I tell stories about them I want them to be stories that conclude with how terrific they are, because I want men to think women are terrific, too, and I want to consider holistically the good and bad in humanity, and come out on the side of it being alright. Maybe it sounds extreme to go from dating to your stance on the human race, but if you want to commit “til death do you part” to someone else, it seems to me that you should have a few solid ideas about what “someone else” even means to you and the kinds of things you want out of life. Of course, this isn’t the first thing you want to probe about when you’ve had seven vodka sodas and you’re dancing with a dude you just met to “Bitch Better Have My Money.”

When you live here, even for a year, you get good at the New York dating thing (or the, he’s not my boyfriend but we’re kind of together but it’s also open millenial thing). I’m good at meeting the men of New York where they’re at, even if where they’re at is a place that seems insane to the rest of the world, or if they’re workaholics, or if they’re wonderful but they want to travel the world to build a yoga startup, or if they have the tendency to swallow up as many women as they can until one sticks in their baleen, despite their most aggressive filtering, despite the fact that they were only able to do so by casting out as many women as possible to always be floating nearby.

I’m less good at finding men who can meet me where I’m at. Maybe it’s because it’s hard in life to really know where you’re at. And when you’re on Facebook and you see people in Wichita get married and that feels so foreign from where you are, and when you read about people’s impressive promotions, and see an e-map of their staggering 5am long-distance runs, and their impossibly free and soulful decision to give up their day job and travel around South America to learn about coffee farming—well, it’s hard to be a univocal protagonist, knowing what you want and where you’re going and even just where you stand. But you suspect your friends are going through it, too. And you see all your friends on these dating apps, and it’s like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Love and Boning. Tinder at the bottom, a date for oysters in the East Village in the middle, and at the top I don’t know if it’s marriage and kids or just being able to afford your apartment and look at yourself in the mirror and know that you are trying to be a good person.


The Eat Village

There are major perks to living in the East Village for a young person. Namely, it’s filled with other young people, and this means a perpetual influx of new bars and restaurants. Yet unlike some other trendy Manhattan neighborhoods, the East Village retains traces of the seediness of NYC yore. This is what many outsiders imagine to be “the real New York” (for some reason, “the real New York” people tend to nostalgically lament is linked to bombed out architecture, drug fiends, and a general feeling that terror is about to befall you just around the corner). I realize how special it is that the neighborhood has recently boomed with foodstuffs, and yet it has somehow miraculously retained its vibe. Now that I’ve been here over a year, I’ve discovered some seriously drool-worthy spots worth sharing. Because as we all know, the best tours are ones done through taste buds.

Back Forty

If you want pork jowl nuggets and want to know where the pork jowl nuggets came from, this is the place for you. Their menu is seasonal, and that can be hit or miss in my experience (never again, experimental cheese platter). But the dishes are always innovative, and when they’re good, they’re great. This summer they featured a cucumber gazpacho, and I found myself craving it in a way that’s usually only reserved for ice cream or peanut butter. If you want to be safe, stick to ordering the menu staples, like the herb crusted Amish chicken or the grass-fed burger, and you will leave more than satiated. Particularly if you get a side of yucca fries. And in case you’re as cluelessly urban as me, “back forty” refers to the back forty acres of land on a farm, which explains the rakes and tools hanging from the walls. Oh, and there is a lot of beer if you’re into that, too.

Northern Spy is similar to Back Forty in that you don’t have to worry about your food being poisoned by toxic pesticides. If you want to be that person you can ask the waiter where your eggs came from and they can tell you when the truck arrived and from which local farm. But you can taste how fresh the food is here. I’m partial to their brunches, as the eggs are done to perfection, I’ve never had better polenta (I don’t even know if I’d tried polenta before this), and their corned beef is everything corned beef should be (awesome).This place has something for everyone: the kale salad with cheddar, almonds, pecorino and baked eggs ould satisfy even the staunchest of the anti-kale crowd. And if greens aren’t your thing, duck fat fries savants are most welcome here. Like most New York restaurants, if you go at a busy time, you may end up eating on top of you neighbors. But the picnicky, friendly decor sort of makes that okay. Also they have this awesome green vintage tree wallpaper, and the fact that I noticed wallpaper means something.

It’s like Murray’s Cheese Shop, but 1/8 the size and not swarming with tourists. Maybe that’s because it’s on Avenue C, which is still a largely overlooked resource in the East Village. (Resource=food, drink.) Barnyard specializes in artisanal meats and cheeses, and has a nice little display of pre-packaged fresh foods. But I go here for the sandwiches, which are made on the spot with love and care and piles of cured deli meats.

So although you may run into an overfed rat or 17 in Thompkins Square Park, the East Village has a lot to offer at least culinarily speaking. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but that will get you started if you’re looking for local deliciousness of the American cuisine variety. Please note there are also things like breakfast, lunch, dessert, and maybe even a bar or two in the East Village that did not appear here. But presenting just a little taste at a time seems much more digestible.

I’m Still Alive

Despite the fact that this blog has, as of late, been a desolate corner within the humble world of digital infrastructure, I am pleased to announce that I am still alive.  As the Happy Wok delivery man can attest to, I have been more than active these past few months, and thus have not properly groomed this site the way I should have (more than active = sedentary, ordering Chinese delivery).  But important things actually have happened in my life.  For example, I started a new job.  And I really should be counting my lucky stars at this juncture because it is a job that I actually really enjoy, which I am told is as rare as watching an episode of “Game of Thrones” without this line: “I am Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, of the blood of old Valyria!” Indeed, I should count my lucky stars.  But I won’t, since I live in Manhattan and seeing a star here is as rare as watching an episode of “Game of Thrones” without this line: “I am Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, of the blood of old Valyria!”

Another important occurrence is that I’ve discovered my teeth are definitely shifting around my gums/jaw/skull.  At this point it is not noticeable, but I keep having horrible flashbacks to the acting extras from the movie “Wild Wild West” whose sole purpose in the film was to terrify children when they flashed they’re rotten miles.  I mean literally rotten smiles because no one knew anything about dentistry in the Wild West, and also most people just don’t naturally have a smile as charming as Will Smith’s.  I’d like to just throw it out there that if you saw “Wild Wild West”, I’m really genuinely sorry, even though I had nothing to do with that movie being brought forth unto this planet. But back to the point: my retainer hasn’t fit into my mouth since I was 16, but I am telling my parents that it is a recent, inexplicable phenomena.  This is an important lie because it makes my parents think I’m not a horrible person.  I don’t want to think about how much money they spent on braces.  Instead I’d like to think about how much money I can potentially beg and plead for under false pretenses (confirmed answer: they are giving me none).

One final thing I’ll leave with you is that I have a perpetual build up of clothes that need to be washed. I do laundry, I fold my clothes, I put them away.  But then I wear my clothes and I have to do the whole process over again.  You’d think by now humans would have progressed beyond this menial and completely inefficient system of laundering. I just wish we could go back to the good old days, where people wore one loincloth until death and then that tattered shred was passed on as a hand-me-down to the runt of the family litter. If I had to guess, I’d bet entire clans could subsist on about 3 loincloths for at least a few hundred years.  They say technology is a positive force that propels society forward, but I think you see my completely oppositional point.  Also, I think forcing everyone to wear loincloths against their will would offset peer pressure to buy “cool” clothes at school, which has always been a major concern of mine, and is also loosely tied to every practice ACT exam question, “Should schools enforce a uniform dress code? Why or Why not?” The answer is yes for the reasons I explained above. As far as I can tell, if we’d simply regress to loincloths, we’d be but a mere hop away to world peace, the reinvigoration of the housing market, a stabilized economy, and getting “Dance Moms” renewed for another season – aka, utopia.

Sick Child with a New Blog

Yesterday I greeted the end of my work day on a subway platform with a slew of other Manhattanites, all shoving each other like pinballs in designer suits.  Just as a man’s elbow nearly took out my face, a wave of sickness came over me.  This is nothing new as far as New York subway experiences go.  Particularly in the summer.  Waiting for a subway in August is essentially spending time on a hostile, inhabitable planet.  A dense, humid atmosphere replaces breathable oxygen, overheating occurs at an aggressive rate, water spontaneously evaporates, society loses all morality as children and the elderly are pushed aside in order to obtain a neon orange plastic seat, etc.  However, the sickness that came upon me went went beyond the customary feelings of subway eradication which we’ve all grown accustomed to.  I didn’t quite feel like I had to vomit, and I didn’t think I would pass out, but I knew if I got on that train I would regret it because of the severity of the illness I felt.

I ran out of the station and hailed a cab, which takes a lot of gumption considering I was on the Upper West Side heading towards the Lower East Side, which is basically a week’s worth of groceries.  I may not have spent that money in fact if I hadn’t been so ill and therefore slightly delusional (impacting even my monetary sense).  When I finally made it back to my apartment, I discovered I had a temperature of 100.6.

The ensuing scene was a frightening one.  The sick body is one of contradiction: simultanously hot and cold, shaky and aching.  This leaves a person with some very strange options.  I went and grabbed my winter blanket as well as my standing fan and wrapped myself like a cocoon while blasting cold air in my face.  My cheeks were ruddy and palms sweaty, my hair thrown up into a ratty ponytail.  I put on purple sweatpants and a stained Bar Mitzvah shirt that I’ve had since I was 12.    The whole thing felt like a bad Jewish spoof of “28 Days Later.”

When one reaches this state, there is only one real course of action.  And we all know what that action is.  “Seinfeld” on DVR.  Thus, I promptly began an impressive marathon of built-up episodes.  DVRing that show is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  Because when you’re in a bind, ie, you’re ill and can’t do much else except rot in a lump on the couch and watch TV, much of live TV just won’t cut it.  There is nothing that makes a fever worse than seeing a commercial for “Bad Girl’s Club” where women in too-tight dresses shout obscenities and throw china plates at each other for no discernible reason.

Today has been much of the same.  I finished “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and have listened to bad indie mixes on 8tracks created by 18 year olds in the Midwest.  Thus, my first experience with fever in New York has gone as well as could be expected.  The plan for tonight involves more ingesting of fever-reducers and continuing to read Anne Sexton’s completed poems, which I suspect is the perfect antidote for keeping myself mentally downtrodden just in case I start to physically perk up.

And also, here is my new blog, weeahoooo!