Before I moved here, when I spent many free hours devouring all the NYC information I could find, I often came across articles discussing how long you had to live here to actually count as a real New Yorker, or just what had to happen to you as a sort of christening before you could claim the title. Obviously, all these opinions are subjective, but ever a fan of lists, I have my own theories- my own sort of mental checklist I’ve been going through as I work on becoming a “Real New Yorker”, whatever that may mean.
Here you go- this is what I think you must accomplish to be a proper New Yorker:
- You have to cry in public. The subway is the optimal place, as everyone is staring at their phones and won’t see you, and even if they do, they’ll kindly ignore you and let you cry in peace. Have I done this? Yup. It’s oddly cathartic.
- You must have a crazy roommate story. Living with strangers is always a risk, and when you’re in a city with as much variety as we have, well, it’s simply a matter of time before you end up in the same house with someone truly…unusual. Last year, smack in the middle of the pandemic when I was in North Carolina, I got a call from one roommate saying an unfortunate situation had arisen and she had asked the other one to “repent or move out”. So I gathered my wits and scrambled to find a lovely replacement, a friend from the choir actually, only to have the ejected roommate then choose to tell me that she refused to eject. So I was left with an extra person on my hands who had no place to live, and gray hairs sprouting like weeds. In the end God provided a short term option for my friend, and the ejectee eventually ejected, leaving sooner than she had threatened. But my gray hairs are here to stay, I’m afraid. I think that counts as a check on the list.
- You also need to live in a crummy apartment for a while, scraping by because the rent is cheap and you don’t make much. If your apartment has a kitchen that’s a symphony in seventies brown and yellow, and has cupboard doors which are held shut by Velcro, or which might actually fall upon your head when you open them, I think you get to count that. And if the bathroom sink explodes in the middle of the night, that counts too. Check.
- Unless you’re one of those lucky (?)/unlucky (?) people who has a car here, you must take the train everywhere and hardly ever cabs, unlike all the movies show. The exception is the ocasional Uber home from the airport when you just can’t bear hauling fifty pounds of luggage up and down so many subway stairs and blocks. I did take a picturesque yellow cab that one time, when there was a curfew and a pandemic and riots and I didn’t know how else to get to my own bed, and it was a very un-movie-like experience, seeing how I had caught a stomach bug and rode the cab feeling worse and worse, and just barely made it up my house’s stairs before getting sick. Actually, that does sound sort of like a movie- the part where the character’s life is falling apart and she’s about to lie in bed and eat chocolates out of the box. Anyway, that was exciting. Check?
- In the same vein, you have to complain constantly about the MTA. You gotta regularly sigh about how the trains are so messed up on weekends, and you must always join social gatherings with some tale of how bad the L or the F was this time, and how sorry you are to be late. I try to avoid complaining as a general rule, but I admit the MTA has beaten me more than once. Check.
- You must have encountered some train crazies. Of course there have been the unavoidable inappropriate men, but I think my best instance to date is the stranger that spit on me repeatedly, for reasons still unknown to me. Definitely check.
- You should probably also have some disgusting rat or cockroach story. I’m lucky enough mine is not in my apartment, but I have been accosted by an excessively large rodent running directly across my path as I innocently tramped down the sidewalk. If I weren’t such a stolid German I might admit to yelping a bit. There’s actually a spot of sidewalk just down from my house that I assiduously avoid because of the colony of rats happily residing in my neighbor’s seemingly ever-present pile of garbage. They just run so fast, ya know? Sorta check.
- You’re not allowed to like Times Square. If you ever have to pass by it, you push your way doggedly through the crowds with your eyes on the sidewalk ahead, wishing fervently that all the tourists had stayed home, and trying to avoid the Elmos and cowboys angling for not-free photos with you. In general, you’re rather cross with all the tourists in the city, crowding around all the attractions and clogging the sidewalk. Nope, I’m not there yet. Tourists had gotten under my skin a time or two prior to 2020, but these days, although I seldom have a reason to hit up Times Square, I’m still mostly just happy to see out-of-towners after having such an empty city for so long.
- You have to kind of hate New York City, and be rather vocal about it. But at the end of the day, you can’t quite imagine anywhere else being home. Nope, I can’t quite hate it yet. Guess I’m still working on my “Real New Yorker” status after all.
Hey New Yorkers, what other hazing can I expect from the city before I’m properly in the club?