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23 June 2011, 9:00 am One Comment

Not Your Average Prom Queen: When You Visit New York City

This post was submitted by Jean

Times Square

As the resident of a big city (Chicago) and the former resident of an extremely touristy city (DC) I think a lot about the qualities an Urban (with a capital U) person. I also think a lot about the types of conformity, crazy efforts to fit in, and downright stupidity that is often associated with this desire to be cool and to be a part of the city in which you live. Although pretty confident about my knowledge and street cred in both DC in Chicago, when I travel I often find myself feeling like its the first time I’ve ever seen a building taller than a barn.


A meditation on finding confidence in new environments:

When you visit New York City, you try your hardest to not look like a tourist. In the morning of your first day in this new (york) city, you pick your clothing piece by piece from your knock off Louis Vuitton suitcase, and whisper inside your head that no one can tell that it isn’t real. You search for an outfit that says “I live in Chelsea.” You return some items to the brown and brown bag, deciding that the sweater or shoes are too Midwestern.

Too comfortable for a Manhattanite.

Once you are on the street, starting your big day, you aren’t sure that you are walking toward Times Square. You can’t remember if it was left or right. You refuse to pull out your map. You hope that the direction you are walking, even if it is wrong, is not dangerous. You have seen your fair share of CSI episodes. As your heart begins to beat faster, you wish that you had looked up which neighborhoods in New York aren’t safe to walk alone. Scolding yourself, you think how typical this behavior is for you. To be so concerned about an outfit that you didn’t care to find out where you are most likely to be killed.

You begin to make a plan to turn around, to walk back the 6 or 8 or 10 blocks to the shineless doors of your budget hotel. You want to return to your room and double check your directions, to maybe ask someone at the hotel to help. You want to call your best friend and admit your stupidity. To admit you’ve been walking at least 15 minutes in what you think is the wrong direction. To be wrist slapped through the phone for almost getting yourself killed by wondering into a gang-infested neighborhood. For being too proud, or cool, or stubborn to pull out your map. You recognize that even being told that ignoring your helpful, colorful, fold-out map is stupid, you would rather be lost than look like a tourist. You might rather be mugged, too.

As you cross the street, the first step in your perfectly calculated plan to check your watch, glare at your phone, dig through your bag, look frustrated, and turn around in a huff (hopefully signifying the fault of someone else in your need to backtrack), you look up and into the visual cacophony of the Times Square billboards. You smile to yourself, silently congratulate yourself, and continue walking on in the direction that you knew was right all along.

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One Comment »

  • Angel Avaya said:

    It’s OKAY to be a tourist. It’s OKAY to visit NYC without pretending you live there.