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Your five favorite posts

30 Oct

1. Your first NYC winter: Are you pumped or what?

2. Don’t move to Brooklyn

3. Frugal Find #2: An apartment in Manhattan

4. Stuff that’s cheaper in NYC than where you live now

5. We are all at summer camp

Did you favorite not make the list? Which was it?

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“It’s only 98?”

23 Oct

Those three words — spoken in the West Village by a girl I barely knew — will echo in my head forever, my first New York lesson in pride and humility.

Krista* and I met by way of an e-mail introduction, a result of one of those good-natured “I have a coworker your age; you would love her!” things a family friend had orchestrated. A week after Krista sent me a long, helpful e-mail about her favorite city hot spots, she invited me to brunch.

She chose the restaurant at Clinton and Houston, and my stomach sank at seeing the cheapest item on the menu was $18. I became feverish and uneasy. “Is this place ok?” Krista asked. I fibbed and said yes as voices in my head had a go at me.

“You don’t belong here. You know you can’t afford this. You have no business being here.”

After the meal, I somehow agreed to go shopping with her. We were four pricy boutiques, two sundresses and two pairs of $150 shoes into the excursion when she came upon a necklace: “It’s only 98?” she said to the saleswoman. No “98 dollars.” Just “98.” “Only” 98.

How unthinkable it seemed that she had 100 extra dollars to spend…on a necklace! I didn’t feel judgmental, just embarrassed.  I now realize a $98 piece of jewelry is not all that extravagant, but for someone who, that day, was new to the city unemployed and panicking about rent, I felt I was out of place in a world I would never belong to.

Krista asked why I wasn’t buying anything. “Oh,” I said sheepishly. “I can’t really afford to shop right now.” I welled up beneath my sunglasses, feeling about thisbig.

“God,” she said. “This must be killing you!” She didn’t mean it the way it sounded.

Krista didn’t buy the necklace, and I cried on my subway ride home. She had no idea about the cash-strapped world I lived in, and I believe she meant no harm. She merely made an assumption, and I’m sure most people in her world wouldn’t flinch at a $98 necklace, ever.

“You won’t always be poor,” my dad said to me as I teared up again on the phone, wishing I’d been more good-humored about my financial woes instead of shameful. Two years later, if I could have reasoned with myself on that day, I’d have said: “Hey, look. Things are tight right now, but don’t forget you’re doing this all on your own. That independence is something to celebrate, even if it feels like crap right now.”

So take heart, new New Yorkers. You won’t always be poor.

Even after a few years…

21 Oct

When you’re brand new here, it’s ridiculous to expect yourself not to make mistakes — yet somehow they irritate you more when you’re a newcomer, probably because you don’t already know better. When you do know better, you can get a kick out of the fact that you did it anyway. You can laugh at yourself.

Unless you’re late for a job interview. That’s probably never going to be funny.

Every now and again, you will probably still:

• Get lost. But then again, this begs the existential question: If you have an iPhone, are you every truly lost?

• Lose your bearings. After lunch with a new New Yorker last spring, we parted ways and I began to walk towards work (or so I thought). This girl, who had been in the city for all of 20 days, was all, “Um, don’t you need to be going THAT way?” It was pretty awesome.

• Get on the wrong train. It happens. To me. Last Saturday. Woops. The good news is, the better you get at navigating the subway, the faster you can correct yourself, get off at the next stop and turn right back around.

• Still not know quite how to dress for the fall. When there’s a 20-degree span between the daily high and low, you’re pretty much SOL. You will be hot on your walk to work, and frozen on your way home. Welcome to winter in NYC.

• Show up for a concert on the wrong night. I’m not sure I have personally done this yet, but one time a friend was meeting me for a show only to discover she’d bought a ticket for the same show happening the next night. Can you believe they wouldn’t let her in anyway? Highline Ballroom, you’re on my list.

• You’ll STILL be living with roommates. Does the age where it’s no longer OK to have roommates skew higher in New York City? I’m still telling myself it does. But I can’t wait for the day when the reason nobody takes out the trash but me is because I’m the only one living there.