Thoughts on Dating, and Celebrity Mingling, in New York

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.

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14 Comments

Filed under Love Life

14 responses to “Thoughts on Dating, and Celebrity Mingling, in New York

  1. Anna

    Hey you – hope it’s okay I’m following. I completely feel you on this (and to be 100% honest it is the main reason I could never live in New York).
    Love that you are blogging again, also. Hugs from Minneapolis.

    • Anna I am thrilled that you’re following – of course it’s more than okay!! And glad you hear me on the New York perspective. I don’t think we’re alone 🙂 Just got back from a party full of Macalester folks, though, which is something I can’t often experience back in NM! Hope to see you at the reunion!?!

  2. Greg Brock

    Hi Elizabeth, I enjoy your work and your voice. I teach a mate selection course at the Univ of Kentucky in which students evaluate the dating websites.

    They report the same mixed feelings as you described in your essay on The Story.

    Could you write on The Back Story and let me know where to find it if and when you do? -Greg

  3. NYC girl

    I am going to try your Golden Rule out for size tonight in NYC. Also another strategy–we seem to spend countless hours imagining the perfect man, handsome, smart, funny, etc. So sometimes I try to imagine that I am my own Perfect Man. and I ask myself how would i envision the perfect woman?And that is the woman I try to be.

  4. hello elizabeth,
    i saw your blog on the npr website clicked and read a few entries. then a few more. i work as a psychologist and psychotherapist in oakland, california (and also write a blog). i have seen an increasing number of clients, both women and men, ages 20ish through 30ish, who are struggling with dating. i enjoyed reading your posts. they are humorous, poignant, and well-written, so i plan to suggest your blog to some of my clients who can benefit from a new perspective. thank you for your enjoyable blog.
    dr. john nickens

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Dr. Nickens – I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed reading and hope very much that my stories can be of some comfort to your clients as well!
      Cheers,
      Elizabeth

  5. Anna

    Elizabeth: of course I’ll be at reunion! We’ll still be in Mpls (I think) and a certain seattle-ite will be staying at my house. I can’t wait to see you.

  6. james

    hi elizabeth

    enjoying the blog! very frank and fun… keep it up! must be hard to be frank when your parents are reading your blog!!

  7. James! Thanks for reading! The parents are pretty used to it by now…and for the moment, my life is pretty G rated, so it’s not too wierd 🙂 Hope you keep reading!

  8. Christine

    Hi Anna,

    I read your blog on NPR and am thoroughly enjoying your blog posts. I grew up in NYC (Brooklyn!) as well and haven’t been really living in the city since high school. I was just back this past weekend to visit my parents and can totally relate to the intimidation vibe that the city gives off. I miss it a lot now that I’m living in DC, but at the same time, the pace and the standards are incredibly scary sometimes.

    • I’m glad you can relate! I’ve basically accepted that I have a constant love/hate relationship with New York, though I am still unsure which will win out in the end! I must admit to some jealousy that you are now in DC: I did nothing but whine about it for the three years I lived there, and now miss it terribly. Hope you’re enjoying the snow…
      Elizabeth

  9. Pingback: On Haircuts, Confidence and Compliments « Dating in the Odyssey Years

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