So despite feeling a little lost these days, as I'm not on track with any of my goals in life, I do have to say that I'm glad to be living in NYC. I have ALWAYS wanted to live in New York. To me, living in NYC meant unequivocal success and triumph. Living in NY meant you had made it in the world, well, at least you were a step up from everyone else in America.
See, I grew up in suburbia. I went to a very white, WASPY preparatory school, one of 'the best' in the country. Really, my high school has a notorious reputation for churning out politicians, poets, playwrights, artists and leaders of society. However, never wanting to subscribe to the young Republicans, I was always left out in the cold. I never liked wearing ties and sports coats (our strict dress code). I was not part of a blue blood family and I did not belong to a country club. That and my family have a multi-million dollar house in Ladue (La-doo). This was the name of the suburb my school was in. And yes, it is actually just as pretentious as it sounds. Some days, I went to school and I felt like I was going to throw up or run away to the desert. And that feeling never went away for the thirteen years I went to that school. I just never felt that I fit in. I was Jewish and I did not care to become 'part of society'.
Funny, however, that my mother always dreamed of not only 'keeping up with the Jonses' but in being the Jonses. She wanted to live in Ladue with an estate on the country club grounds (despite most of the people who lived there being anti-Semitic and racist). She made me do cotillion and take dance/social etiquette lessons to train me. I thought it creepy to go to a country club where stuffed animal's heads were on each wall, where I had to converse with peers who I abhorred and resented (the feelings were mutual). When I told her I wanted to quit, just before high school where we would have to wear a tux and learn the place settings, I told her I wanted absolutely no interest in 'being part of society', at least the society of white gloves and black tie. I never wanted to go to a debutante ball, let alone marry an actual debutante (even if they did let Jews attend). What I wanted was to live in a society where I defined what success and well being were.
My idea of success and living life was not the same as my peers. I never cared about money or popularity as a means to life. I also never saw it vital to my being to drink massive amounts of alcohol on weekends or play sports. My school was big on both of these. Every student HAD to play a sport for two seasons, and I chose PE. I did not like team sports, though I could have easily done track or soccer. I just didn't care. Also, being part of the jock culture meant that you went to a lot of parties (just like in every John Hughes film). Every weekend, some guy or girl would have a party at his/her house and yes, most often the parents were home. They preferred to have their precious babies and their friends drinking under their own roof. Sometimes, and I kid you not, the parents would pay off local cops to circle around their street so that if other police officers showed up, it wouldn't put a dampening spirit on the party. If the parents weren't home, and off on a cruise in the Caribbean or skiing in Europe, then an older 'responsible' sibling was left in charge. However, that sibling was usually busy trying to get into the pants of some high school hotty, that or getting high in the basement (or both).
Don't get me wrong. I'm not bitter or regretful about what I did or didn't do in high school. I'm really glad I never ran with the popular crowd. Anyway, most of them are either fat or gay (or both). Believe me, my school had a raging case of homophobia but what's more is that many of the football and basketball jocks were gay and used their gay bashing as a mask. I still remember when a senior came out in the literary magazine when I was a freshman. I also remember him being tossed into lockers and called 'fag'. I don't remember any teachers or staff batting an eyelash. Or anyone doing anything when the word 'nigger' was written on a Jet magazine in the library. At least there was no public forum or assembly to address the topic (not that I remember anyway).
What I do remember, however, was that two of my classmates called people out on their homophobia. One girl, Katie wrote an article in the paper about the use of the words like 'fag' and 'gay'. Another girl, Susan made a speech about it in assembly. That made some people think, but most of the student population didn't care. And believe me, I also had friends who called others out on their racism too. Though, bigotry was running in the water, mostly due to naivety and blissful ignorance. I asked a friend of mine once what her views on homosexuality were. She just said 'My religion doesn't agree that it's okay.' When I repeated to her, 'What do YOU think'. She just repeated what her religion and parents thought. I knew how lame that was. I knew that most of the students at my school had little capacity for humanitarianism and culture. Yes, they were book smart but being asked to think outside of their box, confused and scared many.
See, most of the kids I went to school with believed things only because their peers believed them or their parents told them to think those things. We had very few kids who could actually think for themselves. That's why I hung out with the uncool, artsy, theater kids. The kids who everyone thought were all gay or vampires, or both. The kids who chose to create art over throwing a football. The kids who were intellectual and kept a black book filled with poetry and art. Other people sneered at our group and made fun of us. I purposefully did not give two shits. At one point, the principal (who was a major dickhead) locked the female bathroom in the area my friends hung out in because there was a 'rumor' that lesbian sex was going on in there. However, the heterosexual oral sex that was going on in the chapel (where we had secular assembly) was never challenged. I saw through all of it!
I was even asked, at one point, by a peer to stop hanging out with certain people to increase my coolness status. Of course I refused. No one told me who my friends were and none of the bullying and taunting could stop me from being myself. I did what I did; I lived my life the way I wanted to and could care less what others said or thought. In fact, a lot of kids, who I later became friends with, were at first scared of me. That's because in ninth grade I pretended to be a vampire and actually did things like cut myself with a protractor during study hall to keep people away. My shield was my weirdness because since I was a fish out of water, why not accentuate it and play the part everyone expected? It's funny too, because a lot of people thought I did drugs (heroine chic), had multiple piercings and tattoos, and went to bondage clubs and raves on the weekend. None of those things were true. But, I let people make up their own stories because it was easier that way.
I was very well aware of the stratification of popularity and the rules my peers abided by. I took a shit all over those very same rules. I have a feeling that a lot of my teachers like me purely because I was a rogue, a rebel. I raged against the night. We had a strict dress code, but I chose to get clothes from Salvation Army and Goodwill rather than Brooks Brothers and J. Crew. What's funny is that now I love J. Crew and Brooks Brothers and abhor Goodwill. But, seriously, I had to wear collared shirts, okay I would wear snapping cowboy shirts and work shirts with name tags of names like Biff and Bubba. I also began dying my hair; My hair has been every single shade in the rainbow. By senior year, I had bleach blond hair and would spike it with glue (yes glue). I rebelled full throttle. I made people accept me because they knew that I saw through all the bullshit. And my plan always was to get the hell outta dodge (Missouri) and get my ass to New York, where I truly belong.
I've always had a good bullshit detector and have always had little tolerance for people being fake and flaky. I've always told people, what you see is what you get and if you don't like it, then fuck off. That's why I love New York. You can run naked down the street here and no one cares (no, I haven't done that). There's the annual Santa Con where people dress up in Santa suits and go from bar to pub until you see thousands of Santa's puking in alleyways. Of course, New York has fashion week twice a year, in September and February. So that brings out the eccentric and bizarre as well. Of course there's Halloween and New Year's where all the freaks come out at night. New York is live and let live. You can be anybody here. And, if you're not anybody, you can reinvent yourself again and again and again. However, New York is very critical about people's persona, in that you have to contain a lot of talent and passion to impress anyone. Egos will be checked at the door. New York is unforgiving in first impressions which is why I always dress for a part when I walk out the door.
So yes, New York is not judgemental. At the same time, though, you never know who you will meet and so you have to expect anything. You don't want to walk around in sweats or pajama pants, not event when doing errands. Something that I learned very quickly being out of the Midwest. Though people have a blase attitude about just about everything, you are being watched and judged here. The city that never sleeps have eyes out everywhere. And you know what, I like that. On one hand you can be anything and anyone, but at the same time there is no tolerance for mediocre. Living in New York, you have to aspire for greatness and shoot for the stars. Otherwise, why move here? Go to some more laid back place like Colorado or Oregon. New York is NOT for the faint of heart, and that's why I love this city. I feel like it truly is MY city. And I'm a New Yorker! Thank goodness!
Reinvented and Renewed,