I distinctly remember an afternoon in college, walking by the river with a friend, having one of those collegiate what-do-we-want-from-life conversations, and saying without a trace of irony, “After college, I really think we should all move to New York and do the whole ‘Sex and the City‘ thing for a few years.” I said this with the naivete of a 19 year old who genuinely believed the show was a blueprint for adult living, not realizing how wildly unrealistic the show was. This being 2005, I also did not realize that a few years later there would be a show exactly about the girls of my generation who thought the SATC lifestyle was a real thing they could live, and how very wrong they were.
While SATC fueled my obsession with New York, it wasn’t what started it. It started with rom coms: How To Lose A Guy, Maid in Manhattan, The Devil Wears Prada. As a kid, I believed that it was possible to afford a one bedroom apartment and endless designer clothes on an entry level salary. The fun and glamorous lifestyle, the fast paced city life, the endless buffet of man candy, I figured that was Manhattan living, and I wanted to be a part of it. It didn’t hurt that every time I visited New York, I always had an amazing time. My childhood visits were a whirlwind of Broadway shows, pizza, and black and white cookies. In high school and college, I feasted on still more musicals, brunches, and those Magnolia Bakery cupcakes. Everything felt like it had been taken from a scene of one of the shows and movies I loved so much.
If rom coms started my obsession and SATC fueled it, then Gossip Girl cemented my belief that Manhattan was a place I absolutely had to live. The show was in its heyday when I was feeling like a misfit in Los Angeles. When it got too frustrating to listen to another person ask why I was so ‘East Coast’ and uptight, it was comforting to come home and watch a television world where Blair’s type-A scheming was rewarded, instead of being dismissed for not being laid-back enough. When I got sent on an extended business trip to Long Island, I was thrilled, as the location afforded me the ability to visit Manhattan frequently, and dream of the day when I could have my own apartment there instead of having to ride in on the LIRR. I loved the restaurants, the shopping, the vibrancy of the city. I felt like I was killing it there; cab drivers called me witty, restaurant owners brought me free drinks. New York seemed to get me in a way the west coast just didn’t. Eventually I returned to LA where things felt as dismal as ever; every trip back to New York was like a breath of fresh air. “Don’t worry,” friends would tell me over drinks at some swanky, exclusive bar. “We’ll get you out here eventually.”
When I finally returned to the east coast, I figured it was just a stepping stone on my way to my ultimate destination. It was thus a bit of a shock that on my most recent trip to the city, it didn’t have the magical potency I remembered. The restaurants weren’t as amazing, the shopping was just okay. The city didn’t feel vibrant and alive to me; it felt dirty and overcrowded. It’s entirely possible that I was just having an off weekend, but it was enough to make me start questioning my devotion to New York. The more I think about it, the more I realize that New York was just a dream I needed to get me through. When things felt tough, I could just remind myself that New York was waiting for me. At the moment, I’m kind of loving my life, which makes New York feel exhausting and overpriced. It’s a fun dream, but an unrealistic one – my day job is one uncondusive to living in New York; the stories I hear from friends about apartments and real estate terrify me. I don’t come from Upper East Side money, and I realize now that newspaper columnists don’t make enough to keep them in Manolos. It’s possible I’m old enough now to not feel disappointed that my NYC rom-com dreams might never come true, and instead relief that it’s an item I no longer need to cross off my bucket list.
Please don’t get me wrong; I’m not knocking New York. It’s an incredible city and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I fully reserve the right to change my mind about living there if the right opportunity ever comes up. For now though, I’m content to appreciate Manhattan the same way I came to love it in the first place – through TV and movies (and the occasional visit).
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