New York City is not for everybody. The rent is ridiculous, the apartments are tiny, and with the crowds, it's not exactly a place for the claustrophobic. Yet here we are, the most populated city in the United States. Literally millions are willing to pay seven dollars for a box of cereal. These facts seem to be universally well known, but one price of being a New Yorker that perhaps isn't as obvious is the price of singledom.
You can't really blame people here for not wanting to devote themselves to just one person. This small island is crawling with beautiful people. There aren't many places in the world where you can sit next to the woman who was just on the cover of Vogue in a bar. According to the New York State Department of Health, most people in New York City get married between the ages of 30-34, which is older than any other city in the U.S. This can only mean one thing: people here are taking their time.
The harsh reality is that you're far more expendable here than you would be somewhere less populated. If someone decides they don't love something about you, they can throw a rock and hit ten more just as fantastic. Also, let's not forget this place is bursting with ambition and a hunger for success. Most people come here to be something, and that career focus usually takes precedence for a long time (if not forever) in their lives. So I suppose one might come to the conclusion that when you live somewhere where it seems options are endless, no one wants to make a choice, and New Yorkers are notorious for living unconventional lives anyway. So what's the rush to get serious with anyone? But after sacrificing most of our money, our space, and our sanity, does deciding to be a New Yorker mean we are also giving up a chance at finding a stable relationship too?
Years ago, I met my first love in New York City while he was on vacation with his friend's family. Even though I was very young, and thinking about the typical New York man hadn't even entered my mind yet, I loved the fact that he was a simple guy from a small town. After quickly falling in love and his deciding to go to college in New York, it seemed I had hit the jackpot: a handsome, doting, and wholesome boy from the Midwest. All that, and he moved all the way to the East Coast so we could be together (cue the romantic music and montage of our future marriage). I was sure he would love New York, and we'd live happily ever after. But as I soon learned, a bird may love a fish, but where would they build a home together?
As expected of puppy love, it didn't work out. We were simply from different worlds, and it effected our relationship tremendously. At first I'd just laugh it off when he would comment on how he wanted us to have kids by 24. But after months of being together, I started to realize he wasn't kidding. One night after dinner, I got annoyed. "I can't even imagine having children by 24," I snapped. He would insist on wanting to get married, getting a house somewhere in the suburbs, and having children. I realize some women might have found this to be romantic, but it only made me feel a little nauseous. That just wasn't the life I ever really saw for myself, and even if it were, certainly not in my early to mid twenties. Towards the end of our relationship, I said to him, "If that is really what you want, I don't even know why you want me."
But it wasn't just the fact that our ideas of family and married life were different. He didn't like New York. It's funny because to this day I've heard him say he loved it here, but we both know that's not really true. He detested the noise and how expensive everything was. In fact, most of the time we never even left the dorms. As time went on I saw him really begin to hate it, and in turn, that made him resent me, his reason for coming. It was heartbreaking to see our relationship fall apart, but it did. He wound up leaving the city and transferring to Denver after only one year.
It's been about five years since then, and I'm two months shy of turning 24. A month ago, thanks to Facebook, I learned that he is engaged to be married. While it's been far too long to mind because of emotional attachment, something about it bothered me. Sure, I called my close friends and we spoke in disbelief that he was getting married at 23. We would talk over dinner about how strange it is that we're getting older and people are getting more serious. But even when that was over and it became old news, it was still on my mind. How is it the guy I used to eat ice cream with on the subway as a teenager is getting married? How is he tying the knot and I'm in a place where leaving a toothbrush in someone's bathroom is considered a serious step?
Recently when I was walking to work one morning, I passed the pizza place he and I used to eat at almost every Friday. I walk past it so often that I've become desensitized to the nostalgia associated with it. However, this particular morning, I peered through the window. The tablecloths were faded, the interior was exactly the same, and it looked sort of sad considering it was a quarter to nine in the morning. As I was about to walk off, I caught my reflection. There I was, phone in my left hand checking my e-mail, coffee in my right, computer in my bag, thinking of six hundred things at once. It hit me what was bothering me all this time; I felt guilty for not wanting a conventional sort of life. And for all I hate about dating here, the elusiveness, the promiscuity, the disappointment, I am, in fact, a New Yorker. The clues were there from the day we started dating. I am one of those strange creatures that embrace this hectic life, and I can't feel bad about that, or judge him because he didn't.
Ending up alone isn't a guarantee in being here, but maybe it is a stronger possibility. Maybe we're not too enthralled by the city to make a choice, but cautiously waiting for when we're ready. Despite all the bad dates and funny stories I've encountered here, I knew that morning as I walked past our old stomping ground that we were both exactly where we were supposed to be. While I only wish nothing but happiness for him and his future wife, I know that spot was never meant to be mine. And until I am ready to fill such a role, I feel nothing but grateful to be in New York. Loud, expensive, perhaps romantically hopeless, and a place I'll always be proud to call home.