Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Defining "New Yorkers"

“I like pretty girls,” he says, smoke pouring from his mouth.

“I wish I could take both of you back to my place,” he adds. “But I guess that’s rape—ha!”

Washington Square Park 
The ragged man squatting in front of my friend Alivia and me isn’t threatening, despite his unsettling choice of words. We’re lounging on the grass in Washington Square Park at nightfall with plenty of people around us. We laugh awkwardly, glance at each other, and just as quickly as he approached us, the man (I never caught his name) shakes Alivia’s hand and slinks off into a nearby bush to pee.

I’ve lived in cities before,
but in my three weeks here I’ve learned that no city breeds confidence and brazenness quite like New York does. Subway performers cajole passengers to tip them, pedestrians cross streets heedless of traffic, and people strut the streets in daring—often questionable—fashion choices, sporting everything from the latest Kate Spade dress, to too-tight zebra-print jumpsuits.

Bryant Park, Pre-rush hour
I’m adapting, but I’m still nowhere close to becoming a New Yorker. When I hurry out the door at 9:00 a.m. every morning and dart to the corner Starbucks—I’m a mess. Coffee drips down my hand, my sweater dangles haphazardly across my bag, and my hair sticks in clumps to my forehead. Through the haze, I see perfectly groomed girls strolling down the street in heels—no blisters, sunburn, or sweat in sight. Men in tailored suits hail cabs with the flick of a wrist. They have a poise that comes only with living in New York.

On the street, I still make the novice mistake of accepting flyers from hopeful employees, which always leads to an aggressive line of questioning. Do you want a haircut right now? Ill do it now. What about your eyebrows? Your nails? A massage?

When I finally stumble into my office, I remind myself that someday I won’t be the sloppy out-of-towner that I am today. Someday, Ill no longer fumble for my metro card amidst the rumble of rush hour. I won’t huddle under the remains of my $1 umbrella in the summer downpour. I’ll never, ever get on the subway going the wrong direction. Someday Ill have that unique New York boldness. But I’m not a New Yorker—yet. 

By Caroline Hatano, Boston University, Food & Wine
Edited by Kayla Becker, Florida State University, This Old House

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