How to Be a New Yorker

Terribly useful rules for life

That day in the cab, in a silly sort of way, I learned that I had resources to rely on when the usual methods failed me and that a New Yorker doesn't give up, even if he or she is more than a bit mortified. Just as there's always someone smarter, richer, better-looking, or more successful in this town, there's also someone who has done something far more embarrassing. There's a certain comfort in that.

Have a purpose. I didn't come to New York to be a writer, though, happily, that happened. I came to New York to come to New York, and, in the long run, I came to stay. You, too, came here for a reason, whether the move to the city was initiated by you, your parents, a spouse or friend, or maybe a person you were dating and broke up with upon arrival, replacing that lost love with affection for your new town. Maybe ancestors you never knew immigrated here, leading eventually to you. Why are you here? In the words of Milton Glaser, 82-year New York resident and the creator of the "I Love New York" logo: "This is the place it happens. For the last 100 years, maybe more, it has been the place of greatest opportunity for those who want something deeply in their lives."

If you don't have a reason to stay in New York, you'd be well-advised to decamp for less challenging shores and leave your apartment to someone who really needs it. But for those who remain: On the terrible days that will happen, and to a greater degree than anywhere else—who hasn't been pooped on by a pigeon while late to a meeting, and then spilled piping-hot coffee on her new white shirt to boot?—it's helpful to remember that the New York City currently making a mockery of you will, perhaps as soon as 15 minutes from now, give in generous and unexpected quantities, especially when you know what you're asking for. Also, dry cleaners are plentiful.

Be who you are. This is the place where the kooks and misfits we've been planning to grow up and become since we were youngsters can finally come to fruition. So wear a Russian ushanka in all seasons, dye your hair green, adopt a pet goat, and walk it down Broadway while reading aloud from John Locke's Second Treatise of Civil Government. Or be a banker with a secret, scintillating sex life. Conquer the world you've decided to live in head-on, because you can.

Whatever your odd penchant, it does not mean you will be alone. "You will find companions, and you will have the possibility for finding an audience here that you couldn't find elsewhere," Glaser says. "Where you'd be just an eccentric in another town, here, you're one of millions. However peculiar you are, you're still normal by New York standards."

Note: Halloween, New Year's Eve, and Marathon Sunday are the bizarro-world holidays of New York City, when that which is appealingly unusual becomes completely and totally average, and you should really just hide out in your apartment, wear footie pajamas, and shout "Boo!" at the pizza delivery guy when he arrives with your pie.

Have the city's back. You love New York, but it drives you crazy, and you wish it would hush up sometimes and leave you in peace. You have a conflicted relationship with New York: it never telling you that you were pretty, or smart, or that you could accomplish anything you set your mind to. New York spanked you when you were little. You think New York might have something to do with your issues with men. Honestly, all New York thinks about is itself! Speaking of families, the city is one of your own. Which means you can complain about it all you want, and frequently do, but if someone else starts talking shit about it, you'll defend it with every resource in your arsenal. And when you go away, you'll miss it like there's a hole in your blackened, sooty, calloused old heart.

In "My Home Town," an essay published in McCall's Magazine in January 1928, Dorothy Parker writes: "It occurs to me that there are other towns. It occurs to me so violently that I say, at intervals, 'Very well, if New York is going to be like this, I'm going to live somewhere else.' And I do — that's the funny part of it. But then one day there comes to me the sharp picture of New York at its best, on a shiny blue-and-white Autumn day with its buildings cut diagonally in halves of light and shadow, with its straight neat avenues colored with quick throngs, like confetti in a breeze. . . . So I go back. And it is always better than I thought it would be . . ."

It is certain that at some, or many, times in your life here, someone who is not part of the family will helpfully point out: "It's so dirty! It's so hectic! Everything is so expensive!" and look at you wide-eyed and innocent and not a little bit self-righteous and query, "How can you live there?"

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31 comments
J_O_R
J_O_R

Being an alcoholic slut in New York does not make you a New Yorker. It just makes you an alcoholic slut. Nice to have mommy and daddy funding your stay in New York. You're here to stay, I wish you didn't. Thanks for ruining the EV, NYC, and the Village Voice with your annoying presence. Now you're off to jump ship, much like a rat and the locusts that have invaded NYC. You calling yourself a New Yorker is an insult to New Yorkers.

Vasily Volkov
Vasily Volkov

Great text, really enjoyable reading... and so true! Thank you Jen!

George Vreeland Hill
George Vreeland Hill

I am a native New Yorker. I now live in Beverly Hills. I have had a lucky life.

George Vreeland Hill

Mmeshaj
Mmeshaj

For those of you with "negative" comments towards the realities of this article... CLEARLY you are not New Yorkers, you don't get it and no matter how long you rape and pillage our city, you never will!!

We thank you for passing through as it's wonderful entertainment to the true New Yorkers in this city ;)

Well done Jen, I couldn'tve said it better myself.

Malichi Daniels
Malichi Daniels

How To Be A White New Yorker. By Jen Doll, An Alabama Transplant.

This Article Illustrates How Privilege And Willful Ignorance Are Used To Whiten NYC. The Apartheid Culture That Has Been Created in New York Will Be Challenged. #DecolonizeNYC

telavivvacationapartment
telavivvacationapartment

New York is really a beautiful country i like to visit here lots of beautiful spots are in this place its great to spend vacation here

Spiderman
Spiderman

Cool. Thanks for the fuzzy. Yo rock NYC>

Rob
Rob

Essential top tips on how to be a New Yorker.You must:1. Massively overreact to any adverse situation no matter how minimal. You must engage in a spectacular public meltdown/freakout/rage at the lateness of the subway train, the person who accidentally bumps into you on the street, the quality of your sex life, etc.2. Be in about 10 bands, involved in 15 art projects, be a carpenter, run your own authentic pizzeria, grow a beard, have some shite tattoos, get a stall at Brooklyn Flea...all at the same time.3. Be able to send a glass eye ball to sleep with your tales of how NYC was best in the 80's/90's when homeless people shat in Tompkins Park and crack ravaged the city.4. Smoke crack and take steroids and ride your bike as fast as you can....into people.5. Talk absolute shite in an highly articulate/highfalutin manner.6. Masturbate in public.

redstone
redstone

If I moved to Alabama, I wouldn't be a Southerner. My kids wouldn't be Southerners except to my relatives back in the city. My grandkids might be accepted as Southerners by their peers; so your answer, Jen, is "no."

Jose
Jose

Christ, I vomited all over my new mac!

Obama
Obama

I'm a new yorker all my life and crap like this comes off as pretenscious and is why everyone hates us.

Samsaleh71
Samsaleh71

So the author moved here in 98 when alphabet city was dangerous she says, that's laughable!! By 98 the east village and LES had already gone through there very thorough ethnic cleansing and were completely gentrified.

You could say new york is always changing all you want but this time its very different. Whole swaths of the city are becoming accessible to only the monied crowd and this is all aided and abetted by the city, law enforcement and state agencies. Only someone who moved here in 98 would think NYC still has any character left

HarlemBrown
HarlemBrown

"After all, the country is where scary Children of the Corn–type shit happens. In the city, if you scream, someone will surely hear you and call 311 to complain."

Precisely the reason I have yet to move

Hmm268
Hmm268

I'm sorry but when you Manhattanites continue to say New York you guys seem to refer solely about that one particular boro. You forget that there are 4 other boros in the CITY! That's what makes it NEW YORK. One question to the writer of the article, have you ever gone to the Bronx (besides Yankee Stadium)? Or have been to Coney Island? Or the Rockaways? Or the north shore of Staten Island? Or Flushing? If you do you'll discover that New Yorkers have different ways and attitudes than what you find in Manhattan. But I do agree with the passage "know how to turn your shoulders sideways, so you don't bump shoulders when you're passing someone on the sidewalk" that is how you can tell someone is a real NY'er versus a transplant.

Matthew Bevilacqua
Matthew Bevilacqua

"In some ways, New York is the Madonna (Ciccone, not the Virgin) of cities..."

Missed pun opportunity: "In some ways, New York is the Madonna (not the Virgin, but LIKE a virgin!)"

Love the cover this week, by the way.

Ed Kollin
Ed Kollin

Went to LA in the late 1980s for a wedding at the height of the bad old days here. Was in this fast food yogurt place when I got the "how can you live there" statement from the places owner or manager. I am usually not one for Schadenfreude but in the years following my visit LA was hit by earthquakes, floods, fires and riots. Each time another disaster happened I kept on thinking of that guy and a smile crossed my face. I am smiling now just thinking about it.

Myster Baad
Myster Baad

Jeremiah Moss is part right and part wrong when he says the newcomer has "a seething hatred of urban life. They don't like the dirt or the smells. They don't like the kvetching and the neuroticism. They don't like the layers of history. They want to tear it all down and make it clean and new."

No one - besides Mr. Moss, I imagine - actually _likes_ dirt, smell, kvetching, and neuroticism. The difference between a New Yorker and the rest of us is that the New Yorker understands that they're not going away - and beyond that, they probably shouldn't. As Mr. Moss intuits, they nourish those precious layers of history. They are the fertile substrate for creative human freedom, just as good topsoil is for crops. (Feed _that_ to your dairy herds, Wisconsinites!)

A New Yorker is someone who knows that negative energy always accompanies positive energy, and opens themselves to it all.

justonpayne
justonpayne

Real New Yorkers don't mind being seen naked by people in the building across the way.

Ctienan
Ctienan

Anyone who calls themselves a New Yorker that was not born here is not a New Yorker in mind and thus we are left with the high-line, cup cakes etc and yes Wisconsin. I have been here for 35 yrs. and still a hick from the Midwest but I hated the mid west and do love NY but it is so hard to see now. New York City just seems to exit in photos and it is not in Brooklyn either but perhaps in Queens were no trend loving person would dare go to without the ok from fill in the blanks...of bourgeoisie papers or blog. I lived in the days of the Robert Christgau and Sylvia Plachy and the art for art sake of a seemly bygone era. Now it is just to much like all the other crap cities it is a cartoon version of some city has little substance to back it up.

Godardoverrated
Godardoverrated

I think New York is not as interesting as it thinks it is.I've lived here 14 years, and observed a city that is looking more and more like other cities. It attracts fewer creative people in favor of those in finance. Finally, so much of it has been corporatized...

What's interesting about being a New Yorker? Who cares?

Kiko Jones
Kiko Jones

You just described wannabes; not actual NYers.

Natalie
Natalie

Well that's the MASSIVE difference b/w the south and NYC. My moms' family has roots here from when the US wasn't even a country yet, and my dad moved here from Wisconsin to go to grad school. I thought that living here all my life could qualify me as a New Yorker, but apparently my blood is contaminated by my "foreign" dad.

Zoe, Magic Garden
Zoe, Magic Garden

While I enjoyed this article, and the many points I disagreed with, Jen, you are not a New Yorker. You might love New York, and live here, but the sentiments of someone who grew up here will never match those of someone who moved here after, say, age 13. I have been throwing a monthly party for native New Yorkers for almost 11 years, and it's amazing what a small town NYC really is. We are townies, through and through, and there's nowhere for us to go - nowhere is as good and interesting as NYC, and no one is as good and interesting as a native New Yorker. Check out my party at: www.nycmagicgarden.com

Suzinne
Suzinne

Exactly. Real New Yorkers were born here. Agree w/ all your sentiments and, of course, your nostalgia for The Village Voice in all its glory. Sadly, New York City has grown so homogenized, it's downright offensive. Give me the old Times Square and Greenwich Village any day.

peter
peter

Unfortunately, the ridiculous cost of living in NYC has driven a lot of creative people away. To pay the rents, you have to get a job that usually doesn't leave much time for creating. 30-35 years ago, it was easier for creative types to find really cheap housing (usually in the lower east side), get part time work, and do their art.

Also, the internet has leveled the playing field of culture and creativity--one person uploads an idea or ideas and the next day, thousands of people are regurgitating the same idea or ideas and that has resulted in much more homogeneity in the culture.

From a former new yorker.

 
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