Love Conquers all … Maybe!
Living on the Upper West Side, I’ve found that I tend to dread and avoid shopping, running errands, or socializing east of 6th avenue, and certainly only venture south of Houston in situations of grave necessity. On days when the New York wind chill forbids a scenic walk across the park, the very idea of taking the snail-paced cross-town bus, or, worse, disembarking the 1 at Times Square and battling the crowds towards the shuttle, depresses and debilitates me to the point of inertia. If escaping the task is an option, I duck into some cozy coffeeshop on Columbus and thank heaven. There are other deterrents to trekking outside one’s familiar neighborhood. Descending from the tony uptown into bohemian downtown, one might feel overdressed and underpierced. Accustomed to judgmental stares from Gold Coast and Park Avenue snobs, one now meets judgmental stares from literarier-than-thou university students loitering at the Strand or on the grass at Union Square. The roaches are different: bigger, bolder, more plentiful, more likely to charge at you.
But what happens when one has a task for which one feels obligated and even enthusiastic, to make the trek, to infiltrate foreign and sometimes hostile territory? What is the only topic on which the most jaded New Yorkers wax ever optimistic, for which they are willing to disrupt their stony routines and subject themselves to the hazards and inconveniences of travel? That’s right. Love.
Picture this: A well-mannered young Radcliffe-type has struck out on her own (with a little trust-fund help from her old-money ‘rents), won a job at a chic gallery in Chelsea, or as a handbag designer or couturier to small dogs (or whatever occupation is the current favorite career-of the month with upper set youth), and taken a modest studio somewhere in the lkzxdnvkljxbSlkCFNn b 80’s. She wears twin sets and pearls and kitten heels and fancies herself an edgier, modern Audrey Hepburn. She definitely “fits in” with the general ethos of her neighborhood—clean, upwardly-mobile, classically elegant,…posh.
He is an artist, or a playwright, or an activist, and of course he waits tables to pay his bills and buy his supplies. He wears second-hand duds in black and urban camouflage and allows his hair, which is greasy enough to make him look sexy in that gallic-philosopher way but not so greasy as to be gross, grow a little too long for him to ever get a job at Brooks Brothers or the Bear Stern building. He attends readings at the Bowery Poetry Club and has never seen the inside of the Plaza.
This unlikely pair meets at relatively neutral ground, say, Shakespeare in the Park or the steps of the Public Library. They seem the poster children for opposite attraction: he loves her class, she loves his bohemianism. Sparks fly, yada, yada.. When they are alone together, all is bliss.
It’s negotiating how to get together, and alone, which presents the problem. They start to bicker over at whose apartment they will spend nights. Her studio can be named, “that than which nothing smaller may be conceived;” he rents the living room of a two-bedroom inhabited by two or even three other dubiously clean guys. Neither place conduces the sweetly private atmosphere necessary to romance. Furthermore, it takes at least two subway trains for one to visit the other, requiring struggling through the morass at the dreaded Times Square station. To resume one’s daily routine after a night spent at the other’s pad requires at least an extra hour head start.
Furthermore, it’s difficult for them to adjust to each other’s friends. Hers are sleek, coiffed, sorority-ish; they go to club openings and mourn the demise of Sex and the City. His carry placards in war protests and compare tatts. In other words, the friends are much like the stars of our story, only without the acute mutual attraction, and thus misunderstand and despise each other. Our hero and heroine spend a lot of time justifying their relationship to their respective buddies, who insist such a union is unwise and gauche. This isolates and irritates them both; they resent their friends’ astuteness and snap at each other when they make it home and can finally be alone together. Each secretly wonders if all the differences and incompatibilities are signs from Fate that they should cleave their bond in twain (well, he wonders if they’re signs from Fate, she wonders if she’s unconsciously sought out the opposite of what she needs out of a fear of intimacy and a revulsion at the prospect of actually pleasing her parents with a more appropriate match—she was a psychology minor)
But, ahhhhh…..how trivial these concerns seem when the noise of the city and the nay-sayers clears and each realizes that something rare and perfect has been found. What are long subway rides, sceptical friends, and horrified parents compared to finding someone whose inner aspects harmonize so perfectly with one’s own? And shouldn’t one blanche to admit that one had almost thrown that harmony away over such petty differences? Considering the vastness of the world, and the tinyness of this island, does the term “long-distance relationship” really apply to Manhattan?
Let romance fail for greater things; if you find love outside your neighborhood (or even, ohmigod—borough!!), embrace those little obstacles as Fate’s way of making you appreciate that perfect love you found all the more. Let your friends scratch their heads, and leave your parents to their apoplexy, and read a damn book in your extra time on the train! Vive la Difference!
Brad, Writer, Hell’s Kitchen
“Wedding Bell Blooo…hoos”
Ok. You know that super aggressive chick at every wedding who bodychecks people to catch the bouquet? Yea. That’s me. I’m that girl. Call me superstitious, but I consider the throwing of the bouquet to be a serious business. Which is why mothers need to stop letting their little girls compete in this event. Tradition states that the woman who catches the bouquet will be the next to get married. I can’t compete with a 4 year old! If your little brat catches it, I won’t get married for another 14 years AT LEAST. I’m 32! By that time I’ll be 46, and I’m telling you, I’m not going to have the money to cosmetically keep everything as perky and youthful as it is right now. Because right now it’s great, but it takes a lot of work. So get your spawn out of the way, and let me catch those damn flowers, I only have a few more years left in me before I give up and start raising cats.
Maxine, Editor, Midtown
“All By Myself .. I wanna be…”
During my undergraduate years I made the salutary discovery that traveling alone has so many advantages over the much safer yet infinitely more boring alternative of group activity. My brother bought me a ticket to Brazil as a birthday present; my brother the adventuring wanderer wanted me to face my fear. Having been backpacking before in groups, I packed my things, received my shots, bought my malaria pills, and, of course, got a new colorful bikini. Finally the day before I was scheduled to leave I was all ready (and to be honest) a little scared.
I loved it. Traveling alone gave me a sense of freedom I had never experienced before. I could do whatever I wanted whenever. More than that being alone allowed me to truly enjoy the place I was. If I had been with my friends, I would have met Brazilians but spent most of my time with people I already knew. It was in being alone that I met, and really spent time with, natives. I had to speak some Portugese everyday, I had to be truly in Brazil. Unlike the foreigners who go to Club Med for vacations (which allows you to be at home somewhere else, a place where the new country becomes simply the backdrop for a photo), being alone lets you step straight into the frame. And, then, a month into the trip, I learnt what traveling alone can really be like.
Sick to the bone with influenza, I stepped off the bus in Salvador feeling like death. Right next to me, in the most colorful bikini tops and shorter-than-short shorts, was a group of Brazilian students on vacation, girls with huge sunglasses and tiny bags, giggling at each other’s pointless (or so it seemed to me) jokes. Noticing me crouching by the side of the bus leafing through my Lonely Planet guide to Brazil, one of them leaned down, awash with fruity fragrance, and asked, “Are you ok? Would you like some help?”
Thirty minutes later I sat on a ferry, doped up on some Brazilian headache medicine one of them was carrying, heading out to an island I had never heard of before. Sitting listening to them chatter in the background, I kept thinking back to all the things I had planned for Salvador, all the seemingly wonderful things I had left back on the mainland. But the moment we pulled up to island Morro de Sao Paulo, I realized I had inadvertently entered paradise. Following them to a little Bed and Breakfast near Beach One (surprisingly, the actual name of the beach), I felt my illness miraculously melting away.
Situated off the coast of Salvador, the island is a tiny utopia tucked away from wandering eyes. With no cars but the noisy garbage truck which appeared out of nowhere and disappeared full of trash back into nothingness, and most people bikinied and barefoot, I barely noticed as the days wound into each other at a dangerously beautiful pace. Waking up at ten o’clock, I would dine with my new-found friends (medical students, as it turned out) on varieties of fruit hard to find back in my college city of Montreal. Melons, mangos, and coconut water swam in limitless quantities of fresh cream. Bellies full of juicy fruit and sunshine, we would head to a beach where gorgeous men and women (with me in the background) would lie working on tans and Frisbee games. Vendors walked by selling us new bikinis (which these doctors-to-be would buy almost daily to wear the next) and cheese grilled to gooey perfection.
As the sun went down we would head home and nap, tired from the beach and the eating. Come twilight the island awoke, filling the main street’s bars and restaurants like a carnival of party-goers. Under a moon-filled sky we would all head back to Beach One to dance and drink, where vendors would sell everyone drinks made from fresh fruit and alcohol. By the time you were drunk, your body was too sugared up to care. At this point my new friends would find cute boys to dance with, pushing me towards them with glee. “It’s ok if you have a boyfriend back home. We are on vacation, yes? Let’s party!” In those moments of morality I would feel boring and immediately have another drink. Finally, I would head home to sleep it all off, anticipating my big breakfast of the morning.
After a few days had turned into a week, and a week into almost two, I ended up in a conversation with another tourist one day. “I got here and loved it so much, I thought I would stay for a few weeks to really enjoy it,” he said.
“I like it too… it’s easy to get lost here. How long have you been here now?” I asked him.
That afternoon I went back to my room and packed my things. As much as I loved utopia, I had the real Brazil to see and much more to do. As much as making friends and going with the flow was fun, I wanted to be able to say that I had done more than lose myself on this wonderful island. On the ferry to the mainland, after the goodbyes and the pleas of my new-found friends to stay were all over, I looked back at the island and took a long deep breath. Fantasy is good, but leaving can be even better.
John, Exec assistant, Gramercy
“Out of the Mouths of Babes and Sucklings…”
Why has the world gone completely mad. Why does every country seem to be self immolating at exactly the same time in history. There must be a common denominator in the mix that is affecting the human race regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, political hue etc., etc. All populations seem to be divided right down the middle: 50% left leaning and 50% for the right. And if one side says shit, the others say sugar. Have we reached a stage in our development from animals into humans (and yes I believe our brain capacity for reason and debate and our ability to think about thinking really does separate us from other animals) where we can no longer contain the dichotomy within our selves. We have always had a conflict in our individual psyche between good and bad; a choice between self indulgence and doing the right thing. In today’s world however we seem to have given ourselves over to abandoning that ongoing and constant choosing for a full blown “fuck it” And it shows. Even the most concientious and concerned citizen from either side who loves their mom and the family dog dig their toes in in the most stubborn and unreasonable fashion when faced with the same from the other side. Understandable? Yes. Sustainable? Er no. Somethings gotta give and the worry is it won’t be civil or civilized. My own mother used to intervene in intransigent family arguments with the threat, “I’ll knock all your silly heads together in a minute.” The threat usually did the trick. She’s been dead for 25 years now and there might well be a hint for us in that loss of common sense. We can only hope (in light of recent activities; climate strikes, gun control marches etc.) that we will come full circle when today’s kids are in charge and we again move forward in our humanity.
Harry, Accountant, UES
“a little ole wine drinker, me”
If you’re having a BYOB wedding I’m not coming. Period. This isn’t a frat party, bro, you’re getting married. Look, I’m not stupid, I know the economy sucks. But aren’t there other things you could get rid of in place of an open bar. Lighting? Flowers? FOOD? Anything?! Please, God, I’m traveling to the middle of nowhere Ohio, I bought you some stupid Norwegian cutlery from Bloomingdales, and I’m stuck sitting with your fiance’s old sorority sisters. Please do me the common courtesy of getting me properly tanked. Thanks.
Max, (Maxine’s other half), Editor, Midtown