The year I first moved to Manhattan, was the year Gossip Girl premiered on television. I was infatuated with this fabricated lifestyle, that I would be able to run around the city eating at amazing restaurants and wearing the very best in designer clothes, all while getting good grades in school and dating the city's most eligible men. So when I got into a graduate program in the village, I was city bound. It took only about three months for my illusions to get shattered. That was four years ago, and my life still isn't as glamorous as those privileged 16-year-olds' were. But that wasn't the only misleading piece of pop culture I came across. Countless television shows, movies, and novels have been released over the years glorifying New York City, without any indication of how difficult it is to live there.
They simultaneously elated and disillusioned me. I began to notice, whenever a character has a small, dingy studio apartment, it's usually the "wacky friend" or the character getting back on their feet. What they don't tell you is that even those dingy studio apartments, can cost over $2,000 dollars a month. Also, one trip to Barney's and you could be eating Ramen for the next six weeks. I also quickly realized that dating in Manhattan, is not always as much fun as it looks.
So why do we all live here? Simple, because it's enthralling and albeit even a little magical. When I first moved to the city, after attending college in New Jersey, I had two roommates. My bedroom in my new apartment was smaller than my college dorm. I survived on English muffins, peanut butter, and the "Three Buck Chuck" Cabernet I picked up at Trader Joe's once a week. The years I spent eating in the college dining hall were a trip to Morton's Steakhouse compared to the Cap'n Crunch I ate for dinner in the East Village. Suffice it to say, I was 23 years old and I loved every minute of it. However, I'm a little older now and I still don't make anywhere near enough money to be able to afford to live on my own. I will also probably never afford to be able to eat at Per Se or Pastis like the propitious Blair Waldorf. But at least when I look out my window, I have a view of the iconic Manhattan skyline that people across the world move here to see (my fiancé being one of them).
Not to sound like a commercial, but I find new places I like all of the time. Mostly, by accident. I'll admit, I hadn't been down to Battery Park since I was a child because a lot of people told me it was too touristy. I stumbled down there two weeks ago and found it to be downright gorgeous. There were restaurants on the water in a quiet tucked away part of the city that ignorantly enough, I never knew existed. So now, I don't always take people's advice, or criticism. Lesson learned. And I'll probably never have the life I saw in the movies, but I definitely don't regret ever living here.
The most accurate portrayal I've read, of being a young woman trying to make it, is Lauren Weisberger's Everyone Worth Knowing. If you're a woman in the city just starting out here, or even a hard and true New Yorker, I highly recommend picking up a copy.