Life in New York

I tend to get the same response in New York (and really, most places) when I tell people I grew up in Iowa.

“Wow, that must have been some kind of culture shock, huh?”

“Iowa? IO-wa? So you grew up on a farm?

“Where is Iowa?”

In general, I shrug, duck my head with a Midwestern humility, and reply, “Well, it’s different, of course, but not as different as you would think.”

Because, really, I’m from Iowa, but I didn’t grow up even close to a farm. Unless you count the research powerhouse DuPont Pioneer, which did technically grow acres of corn a stone’s throw from my front door and high school. (I, obviously, do not.)

To their credit, though, these curious non-Midwesterners do have a point: Life in New York is pretty different from life in Iowa. But probably not for the reasons they think.

Here, in no particular order, are the things I miss the most about my Iowa life:

1. Drive-through Starbucks
Drive-throughs in general are much harder to come by in the city, most likely because only the certifiably insane (and/or taxi drivers) bother with cars in the city. I do, though, wish the drive-through coffee shop would make its way to the outer boroughs.

If you’ve never experiences the utter euphoria of getting to stay in your warm car during the dead of winter while you scoop up a latte, all I can tell you is that it makes you feel like you’ve done something right with your life.

2. Big parking lots
If I go the rest of my life without ever circling for street parking, a blaring brigade of cars barreling up behind me, only to break into a cold sweat as I try to maneuver into a parallel parking spot just a couple of inches too small for my car, it will be too soon.

You know how we handle those situations in the Midwest? WE DON’T. We just swoop into the entrance of the nearest sprawling parking lot and take our pick of spots. Our biggest stress? That we will have to walk and extra 20 feet because all the “good” spots are taken.

Here’s something I’ve learned in New York: ANY parking lot spot is a “good” spot when the alternative is a parallel parking spot next to a heap of yesterday’s trash.

3. A convenient Target
Now, we do have Target in New York. You just have to trek to Brooklyn or Long Island or a distant mall in Queens to get to it.

Do you want to know how far I had to travel to get to Target from my parents’ house in Iowa? Five minutes. It was literally on the same street as their neighborhood. In fact, you had to pass a few OTHER superstores to even get to the Target. (But we all know the Target was what you were really after anyway.)

And once you got there? You just cruised into the giant parking lot, found a spot, and grabbed a latte from Starbucks on your way in the door.

What I’m saying is, yes, moving to New York was a lifestyle change. But I’m not always sure which city is winning.

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Don’t talk to me.

Living in New York has had a variety of effects on who I am as a person.

On the brighter side of things, I think I’m tougher, braver, and more likely to stick up for myself than I was before I lived here.

I’m (slightly) less directionally challenged. (Provided I’m operating on a grid system of streets.) I can navigate any subway system in the world. (Because there’s no way it’s more complicated than the one I tackle on the daily here.) I can speak somewhat intelligently about almost every culture of cuisine. I have been exposed to a wealth of the arts. I’ve gotten much better at operating within a specific budget.

Like I said, pros.

Unfortunately, lately I’ve noticed a host of bad habits this city seems to have instilled in me as well. And they are…unflattering, to say the least.

1. Interrupting.
For most of my life, my mother has struggled to craminspire in me a love of the mannerly. And while I am a stickler for “please,” “thank you,” and not texting whilst at dinner with others, I can’t help but notice that I tend to cut people off mid-sentence a lot more than I used to.

I promise I’m not passing the buck, but the fact is, if you don’t interrupt New Yorkers, you might never get a word in edgewise. I’ve actually noticed that, when I make a firm attempt to not interrupt, there are people I know who have forgotten how to end stories and even sentences. They sort of trail off like an actor whose stage partner has forgotten their cue.

“So that’s…pretty much…what happened…”

It’s even worse when you encounter someone who could literally just keep talking for days, weeks, months. Then you might as well slip out of your heels and grab a snack because you’re going to be there for a while. Hope you didn’t have anything important to mention.

2. Ignoring.
This is especially bad when I’m out and about. Look, it’s no secret that the streets of NYC are a harrowing place sometimes. While I have only a couple of times ever felt actually unsafe, there are near constant opportunities to be accosted as you make your 1-and-a-half-block commute from the subway to the office.

As a result, I find myself tuning out more often than I like to admit. And not just tuning out — it’s like I have literally placed blinders on my eyes. I will sort of shuffle into people because I didn’t even notice they were standing there. And I’m not the only one. Pretty much every New Yorker will tell you the ignoring happens out of a sense of self-preservation, but the fact is, it’s pretty rude to pretend like you are the only person on the sidewalk trying to get from point A to point B.

Basically, New York is making me really inconsiderate.

3. Impatience.
Okay, okay, I was never the most patient person even when I lived in the Midwest. But, you guys? My fuse feels infinitely shorter these days.

Remember Commuter Justine? Well, now she doesn’t only come out when there are issues on the train or when there’s an angry letter that needs writing. Maybe it’s a result of the aforementioned increased likeliness to stick up for myself, but I find myself having a harder and harder time tolerating people who make my life harder the longer I live here.

I mean, I’m obviously not hauling off and socking someone in the face. But I feel my brain reaching a rolling boil more often than it used to. And New Yorkers en general aren’t exactly known for their patience with humanity.

So there you have it: the not-so-subtle ways New York is turning me into a jerk. But you guys still like me…right?

Has your locale inspired a few bad habits in you? Dish in the comments.

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I love summer, but I don’t think it could ever be my favorite season. Mostly because, while it is packed with loads of fun things to do, it always comes with a certain amount of stress.

A side effect of being a planner is that, often times, I tend to overplan my life. Besides social engagements, I also plan my workouts, when I clean my apartment, when I run errands, and virtually all of my recreation. (Yes, I have actually set aside time in my calendar for “chilling out.” I have a problem, I know.)

Lately, I feel like my calendar is stuffed to the brim, and when a friend asks if I can hang, I’m wracked with guilt when I can’t find a time slot. This only ever seems to happen to me in the summer time.

Plus, everything feels more stressful when you’re sweating out an 85-degree day, amiright?

When I started writing this post, I had the idea that I was going to commit to more relaxation — less planning. But there’s a part of me that resists that reasoning. After all, I’m young and only have a few serious obligations in life (AKA, no children yet). Shouldn’t this be the time that I cram my schedule with the things I enjoy doing? Because I do enjoy all of my plans when they’re happening. And if everything is getting done, is there really any harm in feeling busy?

Maybe it’s the previously mentioned guilt that is throwing a wrench in the machinery. It’s probably not possible to do everything for everyone, no matter how much I wish I could.

So basically, this is a story of me being a good little Midwestern girl who wants to please everyone.

Sigh. I’m such a cliche.

I heard a quote on a show one time that was basically: “You need to change your dialogue. Instead of ‘I’m so overwhelmed,’ say, ‘My cup runneth over.'” So essentially, I need to think positively about the fact that I’m busy to make it easier to handle.

And wait patiently for fall.

Is there a season where you feel like you’re just barely keeping it together? Would you rather overfill your life with happy things or risk missing out but keep your sanity?

When you tell people you are thinking about getting a dog, there are a lot of things they will warn you about.

It’s a lot of work. They will inevitably destroy your stuff. (Remind me to tell you about the new ink stain on our couch, courtesy of a certain fuzzy-faced culprit.) They have expensive medical bills. They need training. They bark. They pee on things.

The list goes on.

One thing no one warns you about? You’re going to have to get over any social anxiety you have about chatting up strangers.

Because, here’s the thing: My dog? My dog may not always love new people, but he loves new dogs.

Bogey thinks every other four-legged thing is his best friend. He tries to play with other dogs, but also cats and even squirrels. The only animal he shows an ounce of aggression toward is birds. (Seriously, he seems convinced he could catch one if I would just let him try.)

This is great because I don’t have to worry about him inflicting harm on another living thing (unless it tweets). This is sometimes annoying because we have to stop and meet every. Single. Other. Dog.

In the month we’ve had the Bogster, Joey and I have spoken to more people in our neighborhood than we had in the entire first year we lived here. Sometimes (and I’m doing the momma humblebrag thing here) it’s just people telling me how cute he is. Seriously. He’s that adorable.

"Oh, hi. Just sitting here. Being the cutest freaking thing you've ever seen."

“Oh, hi. Just sitting here. Being the cutest freaking thing you’ve ever seen.”

The rest of the time, though, they also have a dog and Bogey wants to be their best friend.

I mean, it’s fine. These encounters rarely last more than a few minutes. There’s always some awkwardness as the dogs immediately start to tangle their leashes. And the conversations are usually some (slight) variation of this:

{Bogey spots a dog and immediately starts straining toward them}
Me: Oh! Is he friendly? (indicating the other dog)
Them: He’s friendly!
{dogs sniff noses and then IMMEDIATELY butts}
Me: They’re so shy, right?
Them: (polite laughter) I know!
{pause for sniffing}
Them: What kind of dog is he?
Me: Cavalier/cocker spaniel mix.
Them: Oh, I love his coloring. (ed note: This is not me bragging. Literally everyone says this.)(Okay, bragging just a little.)
Me: What’s yours?
Them: [insert breed]. How old is he?
Me: Eight months.
Them: Oh, he’s a baby!
Me: Yeah…how old is yours?
Them: [insert age]
Me: Oh, that’s great. (ed note: What, Justine? Why is that great? Shut up.)
{more leash shuffling and sniffing, possible dog tussling}
Me: Oooookay, Boges, let’s go. (Literally DRAG Bogey away from his new soul mate like the heartless wench I am. But, dude, life must go on. Especially if I’m holding a bag full of your poo and just want to get to the nearest trash can without interruption.)

Hand to God, I have had that exact conversation no fewer than 12 times since we got the dog. Bogey always acts mildly traumatized when it’s time to say good-bye, but it’s nothing compared to when he meets an unfriendly dog. He’ll do his usual choking-himself-with-the-leash-to-get-to-the-other-dog-quicker routine, and then if the dog snaps at him or barks aggressively, he immediately regrets his life choices and backs up until he’s sitting on my shoe. He’ll glace up at me with this incredibly concerned look like, “What the heck, Mom?”

But he’s young. Eventually he’ll learn the world is not full of best friends like he thinks it is.

Honestly, I don’t mind having 2-minute conversations with fellow dog owners. It’s cute when Bogey and another pup bond immediately. It’s the people who use the dogs as an opener for an actual chat that I get testy with.  (Which is probably the most cynical, New Yorker-esque thing I’ve ever said. But what do you expect? I’ve been here half a decade now.) Or the people who want you to continue to chat like nothing is happening while you juggle leash handles and try not to act nervous about their 50-pound dog who “isn’t mean, he’s just playing when he barks and growls like that!” Riiiiight.

There will probably come a day when I don’t feel at all weird chatting someone up while our dogs stick their faces in each others’ rear ends, but I’m not quite there yet. The point is, if you’re thinking about getting a dog, prepare to make a lot of friends. A LOT. Like, all the friends.

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“Let’s go find some pals.”

Today is the fifth anniversary of my move to New York.

First NY apartment

First NY apartment

When I used to talk about moving here, I would always add that the official plan was to move here for ten years, and then probably head west to California.

Now that I’ve made it halfway through that timeline, I’m less confident in my ability to stick it out the full ten years (it’s hard living here, yo), but I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.

My sister and I on one of my first trips to the city.

New York is the city where I met, dated, and married my husband. It’s the first place I lived entirely separate from my family. It’s where I’ve made some of my dearest friendships. It’s where I had my first (and second, third, fourth, and fifth) real, grown-up jobs. It’s where we started our life with the Boges.

ahhh the dating days

ahhh the dating days

New York City is a city like no other in the world. Where “only in New York!” moments happen literally every day. I mean, yesterday during work, there were Broadway show previews happening in the alley behind my building. Just because they can.

In this place, I’ve almost been hit by a car, encountered traumatizing wildlife, and survived a hurricane. I’ve eaten amazing food and celebrated anniversaries and gotten to do things I couldn’t done have pretty much anywhere else.

In short, as much as I rag on the NYC, this city has been pretty good to me.

And whether I’m here for another five years or not, it’s safe to say a part of me will always heart New York.

Today, while walking back to work from lunch, a man on the street tried to stop me to talk to me. He was one of those guys hawking bus tours around the city. His attempt was simple. He basically got in my way while shouting, “Hi, pretty! Excuse me, pretty! Excuse me, pretty!”

I swerved around him as I said, “No thank you” because I assumed he was trying to sell me a bus tour.

This is normally enough of a maneuver to get someone to stop trying to talk to me on the street.

Undeterred, the man continued to follow me shouting, “Excuse me, pretty! One minute, pretty!” I replied forcefully, “I live here.” But he didn’t stop. A bit unnerved, I ducked into the next deli and he finally went away.

Here’s the thing: I live in New York City. People are constantly talking to you in the streets, whether they’re selling you something or just asking you to take a picture of them (“with the building in the background!”). But for some reason, this encounter made me uncomfortable.

There’s no way to say this without sounding like a douche bag, but I struggle sometimes with how to respond to stranger compliments. On one hand, sure, some people are probably genuinely just trying to be nice. But on the other, I kind of just want to walk to work without being appraised. I especially want to walk to work without being accosted.

Calling me “pretty” does not give you the right to otherwise treat me however you please. Compliments do not make it okay for you to make me feel uncomfortable or ignore my polite request to keep moving.

These thoughts were all coursing around in my head as I sat back at my desk, and then I saw this article. The author articulately captured the frustration of being a female (fat, thin, whatever –simply being some kind of woman opens you up to these kinds of annoyances and threats) and simply trying to get around.

I think the most frustrating part is that there’s nothing we womenfolk can do to make this go away completely on our own. We can start the conversations, we can bring the problem to light, but we need the people shouting at us from cars and whistling from outside of bodegas to get on board. The people cat-calling need to decide they don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable before it will ever stop.

Because, as the author of that article points out, sticking up for ourselves can often put us in worse danger.

I like to give some people the benefit of the doubt. I know men who call women “sweetie” because they genuinely view it as a term of endearment. I’ve had men comment on my appearance in a way that I know they weren’t trying to pressure me into reacting any particular way or to make me feel uncomfortable. When it comes to defining harassment, sometimes I don’t even know if I can accurately point out where the line is.

But it’s there. And the more and more we talk about it, the better I think we’ll get at defining it.