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Mr. Sexsmith's Other Girlfriend: How to Survive Your First Year in New York City

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Immediately in the city everything is just as hard as you’ve always heard it is: the disgusting humid summers. Finding an apartment. Getting a job. Locating friends. But the subways become easy, once you get the hang of it, and Manhattan is comprehensible, once you orient yourself. Be careful not to over-orient: you will change.

  II: Fall

When the leaves start to become undone and summer’s oppression begins to unravel and the tourists leave, go to the park. Buy a skateboard or roller blades or a bike or a Frisbee. Borrow a dog. Promenade the West Village with a pretty girl, any pretty girl. Fall in love, that’ll help. Best if she knows the city better than you and can take you to her favorite Mexican restaurant, dive bar, dance club.

This is good. Keep yourself occupied. But be careful not to get too comfortable in her world: you won’t be there long. Do not assume you will get to keep anything from her, other than the memories. You are still making your own New York. Join some organizations, make some friends, make some art, take up time. There is much to be done here.

Try to figure out what you’re doing here. Once you figure out what you’re doing here, you will know how long it will take to do it, and then you’ll know when you can leave.

  III: Winter

By the time the first snow falls, you will have an idea of what your own New York looks like. Re-read Colson Whitehead’s book The Colossus of New York and remember that it is only after your favorite Thai restaurant becomes a coffee shop that the city will begin to show you its ghost.

This is a good thing. But winter is unrelenting, and you will lose two of the four of the following: your job, your apartment, your community, love. It is hard to hold more than two for very long in this city. Watch those who call themselves New Yorkers, they have these four balls in the air constantly but rarely touch more than two at a time.

You may lose the girl. The one whose hair swirls, whose breath you feel all the way to your toes. This will hurt. That’s okay. Feel it.

The girl you want isn’t in New York anyway; the girl you want wouldn’t live in New York. She’s too tender, too sensitive to the overstimulation, just like you. But you can take it, for a little while. You can learn to put the armor on, and you can learn to take it off.

This is how New York makes you strong.

  IV: Spring

When you’ve finally given up on the trees, they will start greening again. It is time for a few more things to skitter into place. You’ll get some friends, suddenly, an instant connection, people you call when something big happens, people who are usually free for beers at the pub on the weekends. You will get a job you do not hate. You will begin to learn how to pick up pretty girls in bars and even take them home with you. You will polish your New York armor every weekend and hang it on the back of your bedroom door, keep it tucked in your commute like your Metro card. You will practice making hearts out of red construction paper again.

You will realize you have been meeting the right people all along and they will begin to come through with tea parties and prosecco and white wine sangria and you will throw your own Brooklyn rooftop parties, and everyone will come and you will give your own advice about survival, and you will begin to feel comfortable here.

You will realize there are so many ways to become yourself in this city. And though New York may exhaust you, you will never exhaust it.


Contributor: Ilya

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