It is the Hollywood way to paint the portrait of postgrad life as something extravagant and steeped in exclusive parties. From the perspective of my parents’ couch nearly two years ago, where I rotted for weeks after finally having received my undergrad degree, I can tell you it is simply not the case. Eventually, though, I managed to ween myself off of a free five-bowls-a-day Berry Berry Kix diet, put on a pair of slacks and land on my entry-level feet with a full-time gig in New York. But it was pretty evident after setting my things down in a windowless apartment that featured a collection of bendy straws as plumbing that things weren’t exactly what I expected they might be.
Last spring, when it came to fashioning myself into a real New Yorker, I took notes on proper mutation strategies from wherever I could–magazines, billboards, surly diner cooks. And when “I Just Want My Pants Back” hit airwaves a bunch of months into my tenure, when I thought I’d made some headway, I discovered I still had a lot to learn from Jason, Tina, Stacey, Eric and even bodega-fronting Bobby. I can’t say these are the hard-and-fast takeaways, but here are five things I learned from the Brooklyn quintet.
Be a friendly neighbor, but consider a dinner party before any inter-tenant sex: It’s not a Manhattan mandate to be the Mr. Rogers equivalent to your five-story walk-up’s population, but exchanging pleasantries is certainly useful if you ever need someone to dog-sit or expel the demons from your prewar studio space. Say hi, talk about the weather and even consider a friendly night out with the tenants down the hall, but leave it at that. Should they invite you to participate in group sex, as Stacey and Eric’s neighbors once proposed, politely decline and pretend you aren’t feeling well or have a deadline looming. Ron Ron Cocktails don’t write about themselves, after all.
You’re not allowed to make your own coffee: You’ll hear the order-out battle cry from every conceivable source: “I use my stove for storage!” “There’s a film growing over the garbage disposal.” “What’s a blender?” When you move to Manhattan, admission that you like to bake, boil or stir-fry will leave you a verifiable culinary leper. The rules say you can only buy what you consume, and anything self-made is subject to scorn and ridicule. So hide that “Top Chef” anthology you got for graduation beneath your bed, hammer the sh** out of your novelty Easy Bake oven and get ready to shell out fistfuls of cash for French Drip that tastes like dried-out driftwood. Remember, the mantra was so ingrained in Jason that he was still inclined to order Thai from the place Jane used to fake-number him.
Old friends make good pen pals: You know that girl from high school who thought Scout Finch was Atticus’ talking dog? She was good for chitchat on the walk to gym, but there’s a chance, at 23, you might consider leaving her on your teenage memories’ cutting room floor. When Jason’s adolescent crush Katie came out of the woodwork for a New York reunion, the guy got a crash course in dealing with little town desperation in a big city, and when Stacey’s and Tina’s old sorority friend made her way to town, her penis piñata-themed bachelorette party turned into a nightmare. Making a move is about self-reinvention, so just pretend your phone is out of commission next time you get the “Hey! I’m in town!” call from the kid who petitioned for the “Best Car” yearbook superlative.
Open yourself up to most new things: Half of the appeal of urban life is giving something different a shot–that new restaurant down the street, hot yoga after work or shouting obscenities at a bartender that won’t accept credit. Always be on the lookout for something exciting, but still exercise your suburban humility when a drug dealer wants you to rub ointment on his back, or a girl wants you to do it next to cold cut decay in the deli drawer. Be that bold New Yorker, but make sure that bold New Yorker doesn’t subsist on dressing as a cake slice in public parks.
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