So, I went to a party in Manhattan last night with Josh Hartnett and Chloe Sevigny –or, rather, I was at a party where they also were–and I realized why it is that I may not be able to live in New York.
Allow me to explain. (Note: I am going to do my darndest to make this post appear more than a vehicle for writing that first line; it may or may not work.)
My freshman year of college, in Minnesota, my dorm room was on an all-women’s floor: it was nicknamed “The Virgin Isles,” and that nickname was extremely apt. For most of us. There were some exceptions, including the girl who lived next door to me. She was from Iowa: ruddy, spunky and just a little wild.
At some point during those first weeks she said something to me that has basically become my Golden Rule about dating: “Lizzie,” she said. “You just have to assume that every man you meet is attracted to you.”
I found this fascinating. I could see how it made sense for her: she was blond and athletic and indisputably attractive. But me?? I was dark and quirky and still, I thought, a little bit chubby. If I had understood one thing about the boys I went to high school with, it was that they did not want to kiss me.
But I decided to try it on, this theory of hers. I tried to take the position that most, if not every, guy I met was potentially interested. And I soon realized that she was right: when you act like men find you attractive, they generally do.
Ever since, I have held this rule close. I know, now, the value of confidence and how much the subtle signals we give off in courtship interactions govern their outcome. It also helps that I now have much higher self-esteem.
And yet, keeping faithful to this rule is not always easy. There are times when all of us feel, simply, undesirable. Many situations can trigger this condition: I have a hard time feeling good about myself when I’ve been dumped, for example, or eaten too much last night, or when I’ve been single for more than four years now…or, all of these things happening at once. I’m sure some of you feel similarly, and have other situations that make you feel lesss than attractive to the opposite sex.
But what I realized last night–being at this party that was so over-the-top ridiculous I felt like I was in a Strokes music video even when The Strokes weren’t playing–is that, for me, one of these things is being in New York. I know, surrounding oneself with celebrities and models is extreme. New York has infinite “scenes”–some of them more absurd than others–and the problem, for me, isn’t feeling bad about myself in some of them, it’s about not quite feeling comfortable in any of them.
Since graduating high school I haven’t spent more than a few months living in New York. And every time I come back I experience culture shock equivalent to what I imagine one feels traveling to Hawaii from Greenland. No matter that I grew up here and feel more comfortable in a subway than an SUV: this city is intense. And it is intimidating.
Looking around at the waifish models last night, even with my darling best-friend’s-brother assuring me of how unappealing they were, I simply could not look around and assume the men there wanted to sleep with me. I couldn’t. And I can’t, generally, whenever I’m here. I’m not sure if it’s because of how extreme the standards of beauty are, or the fact that I simply haven’t made myself comfortable in this place, or just that being home makes me immediately revert to the insecurities I felt in high school. Whatever it is, that Golden Rule I preach so vehemently is one that I haven’t learned to follow here.
Although, if I had found myself in a scene anything like the one I experienced last night eight years ago I probably would have shrunk to roughly the size of this keyboard and felt horrible about myself for weeks.
I do feel horrible this morning. But only because of the hangover.