I met my boyfriend last year on a flight from Miami to New York during spring break of my senior year of college. (Why I was flying from the beaches to the snow for spring break is still unknown). He charmingly made his way into my airspace by inquiring about the book I was reading at the moment, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in a Time of Cholera,” a book I recently began rereading. I never picked it back up after I scribbled his list of suggested Brooklyn restaurants on the back cover.
An NYU-alumnus, Miami native, and world traveler unafraid to converse with a stranger on an airplane — he had me locked in pretty quickly. He seemed like he had his shit together, except for the mess of curly locks he wore atop his head. I, being the anxiety-ridden and severely-underprepared-almost-graduate, made sure my resume made its way into his hands before the wheels hit the ground at LaGuardia Airport. This, ladies, was my way of avoiding the whole awkward phone number exchange scenario as 1) I was dating someone else at the time, and 2) I knew he’d notice my phone number printed on the top and would inevitably text me “about my resume.”
Fast-forward one year, a couple of failed romances, and three apartments– I now pay taxes to the city and state of New York thanks to his commitment and promise to help me out (or due to the spell I casted on him on that fateful day?). We also now date. That part of the story we’ll save for another time. To the point.
My boyfriend is only three years older than me. He’s just shy of 27, I’m just shy of 24, and we co-exist in a Virgo-on-Virgo relationship. He went to college in New York and has lived there for seven years, so in New York-doggy years he’s practically an abuelo compared to me. Through this short relationship I’ve learned that though time teaches one how to better deal with the stresses New York graces one with, the stresses don’t necessarily go away. If anything, time sometimes numbs one into forgetting why it’s worth it to deal with the stresses (and the beauties) in the first place.
My boyfriend, like me or you or the ugly naked guy you watch from your fire escape, has been stressing about work, his dormant creativity, and the evolution he’s watched Williamsburg experience since he moved there five years ago — as if reminiscing about how empty the L train once was doesn’t age him even more.
So for his 27th birthday present I decided to give him time. I know I am answering all your metaphysical wonders right now. I decided to give him time for himself to do all the things he’s been too busy to do lately: time to walk, time to sit, time to write, time to read, time to talk to strangers, time to look at New York, time to remember New York, time to thank New York completely alone. Because what is a birthday but a celebration of one’s time spent on this planet?
P.S. If you— a 20something in New York City — currently find yourself in a rut, the below adventure may be a useful tool in planning a scavenger hunt for yourself. Rediscover the reasons why the heck you put up with this place! You deserve it, girlfriend.
My gift of time arrived to him in the form of six letters, sneakily tucked in the bottom drawer of his dresser, that would lead him from his apartment, to Bagel Smith, to Blue Bottle Coffee, to the East River lighthouse on Grand St., to the South Williamsburg ferry terminal, down the river to DUMBO, to a shady spot under a tree in Brooklyn Bridge Park, over the bridge, through lower Manhattan and the West Village and finally to the entrance of Chelsea Market, where he was instructed to meet me at 3:30 p.m. sharp. He arrived five minutes late.
I’ll skip ahead through the oysters and rosé we enjoyed at Chelsea Market, the room at The Standard Hotel High Line I surprised him with (highly recommend the One Night Standard app), the burgers we devoured at Minetta Tavern, and our encounter with Jaden Smith in the elevator, to share with you what I learned about being a 20something in New York City from his shining, smiling 27-year-old face as it approached me on Ninth Avenue that afternoon.
1. Get to know your neighborhood bagel and coffee shop employees.
They will help you plan an elaborate and cheesy scavenger hunt for
your significant other without making fun of you. They’ll let you pre-order and pre-pay
for their bagel and coffee order which you know by heart because you love your
significant other very much. They may make you tell them to use the word “queef” as a
password in exchange for their order, but they’ll help you nonetheless.
2. There will always be a street performer you haven’t seen yet.
3. Not every New Yorker has walked the Brooklyn Bridge.
Planning this scavenger hunt I feared that I’d take my boyfriend through too many
familiar places, places a seasoned New Yorker would say “been there, done that” to. To my dismay, one of the first things he told me after his adventure was that in seven years he’d actually never walked the entirety of the Brooklyn Bridge. Who’d have thunk? Go me!
4. Sometimes you have to leave in order to realize why you even came.
As Fort Minor once beautifully sang, You don’t really know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.
We’ve all been there, wanting to escape the city for “cleaner air” or “more space”; but whether it’s a place, a person, or an argument, it’s not a bad idea to take a step back from it for a moment, reassess and return; and as Chuck Klosterman once said, you’ll return because “This is the only place where it’s not bizarre to have steak at two in the morning.”
5. Neighborhoods change, so avoid growing bitter by contributing to the growth you want to see happen.
We’re living in a conflicting time as 20somethings trying to find our place in the many neighborhoods of New York City. As we move in, we inevitably move others out. It’s a difficult subject to write about, but what I can say is that the only way to become a member of these communities is by getting to know the people and becoming part of the growth and change. Volunteer, talk to your local bodega owner, talk to your neighbors, I don’t know — get crazy!
6. Minetta Tavern has the best burger in New York City.
If you’re a vegetarian then…sucks for you. This burger has THREE types of meat in it. This Greenwich Village staple makes you feel like you walked into the dictionary definition of New York City, a definition will remain unchanged no matter how the city grows and changes.
6a. Eat bone marrow at Minetta Tavern and take a shot of mezcal using the remaining piece of skeleton as a shot glass (this was his birthday shot).
I’ll say no more. Just ask your waiter.
7. Schedule time for yourself. Your friends and significant others will understand.
There’s this weird feeling we get when we move here which makes us feel that if we don’t get drinks after work with a colleague, make brunch plans with another crew, or get coffee with a long, lost camp friend that we’re bad friends or anti-social; but if this entire experience has taught us anything it’s that in stretching ourselves too thin out of “obligation” we become depressed and out of touch with ourselves. Take yourself on a scavenger hunt.
8. Document your time here.
This is self-explanatory. Write in corners of your books, photograph strangers, keep movie tickets, or in 21st century terms — Instagram the shit out of your experiences here. Find a way to remember.
9. Age doesn’t mean things get easier. Age means experience in learning how to deal when things get harder.
We learned this when we turned 13, 16, 18, 21, etc.. We’ll learn this lesson with every year we grow older. Each age brings its own set of responsibilities, stresses, ups and downs; but that’s age. That’s growing up.
10. Max out your credit card and steal snacks from your office for two weeks in order to afford the gift of time (and of The Standard Hotel) for your significant other.
My boyfriend got upset at me as he read the draft of this piece for “maxing out my credit card.” I didn’t max out my credit card . . . but I came close. Be smart, but money is made to spend on things that make you and those around you happy. Coffee, books, concerts, and even fancy hotel rooms — invest in them all if they bring love and light into the hearts of those you love. Who knows if you can afford to do this when you’re a 30-something?