How To Be a Public Embarrassment

A fundamental facet of living in the city is a lack of privacy; most of our daily lives unfold in public spaces. We’re constantly glimpsing moments both splendid and picayune, always alternating between anonymous actor and apathetic audience.

When you spend such a large percentage of your daily life surrounded by others, it’s inevitable that you’ll both witness and commit some social faux pas. As the human brain has the superior ability to keep us up at night with memories of minor humiliations from years long ago, facing the reality of frequent public embarrassment might cause you a bit of stress.

To that point, I offer two incontrovertible truths.

One: none of us are paying attention to each other. Sure, I remember the guy I saw get so comically tangled up after swiping his Metrocard that he somehow ended upside down, with both legs wrapped around the turnstile, but only because, as a fellow Unfortunately Coordinated Person, I could deeply relate to his predicament! Most people will forget that you did something embarrassing ten seconds after it happens.

Two: the best way to deal with feeling embarrassed by your own silliness, naivete, or general awkwardness, is by leaning all the way into it. Nobody can laugh at you if you’re already laughing. And there’s no place easier to laugh at your goofs than in New York City.

As proof, I present four distinct cases of public embarrassment, written in the second person but all perpetrated by yours truly.

  1. If you visit the lady’s room at a play and it’s not until you’re up two full flights of stairs that you realize the front of your dress is actually tucked inside of your tights, you might be embarrassed! You might think you’ve unlocked an entirely new level of clothing gaffs– doesn’t the dress-in-tights snafu only happen with the back of your dress? How have you possibly tucked the front of your dress into your tights and waded through throngs of playgoers without noticing? Surely this is some kind of achievement in humiliation. But as a New Yorker, at a fancy Broadway play, you’re just going to laugh, shrug, and put yourself to rights without so much as a blush. So what if you just inadvertently displayed your underthings to the room? That can’t possibly crack even the top five most shocking things this room of people saw today.
  2. Let’s say you’re running across the platform to get your train, and you attempt a gymnastic feat to slip through the doors before they close… but only your foot gets in the door. And those train doors are not like elevator doors; they don’t pop open just because your foot is in the way. You have to squeeze your hands into the tiny crack between the doors and yank for all you’re worth, and they still don’t open. So, you tug your foot out of the door and stare forlornly into the car full of successfully-boarded commuters as they slip away down the track. You turn around to find a platform full of people observing the spectacle you’ve made of yourself. You could feel embarrassed in that moment. Or, you could just grin at them and consider spending more time cultivating your upper body strength.
  3. Maybe you’re standing on a crowded train, just a few more stops until you get home. The doors close, the car lurches, and you feel a man’s hand caress the back of your neck. As a seasoned Subway rider, all too familiar with obscene men on the C, you immediately fling your head back– hard. You knock that interloping hand all the way off of your person. You’re not about to be fondled! A moment too late, you realize it was just a poor tourist weighted down by a few suitcases, trying to grab a handhold, clearly without an untoward thought in his mind. Oops. You might feel very embarrassed about your assumption and about so thoroughly dislodging his hand from the pole. He might feel embarrassed about accidentally groping your neck. You could both stand there feeling embarrassed, or you could just laugh in each other’s faces and scooch around to share the pole.
  4. Finally, you may have cultivated the less than ideal habit of informally communicating with your dog through kissing noises. Say, you want her to come sit by you on the couch. You make a little kiss at her! You want to redirect her attention from her toy– a little kiss in the air. The light at the crosswalk has turned and you’re ready for her to stand up and walk… a few loud kisses for her. Except you do those kisses at the exact moment a shirtless, sweaty guy runs past you, and he gives you a big wink, as if you were kissing at him and not, clearly, at your dog. You might be very embarrassed as you have to shout, “Not YOU! Her. The dog! I’m married.” Or, you could just– actually, that one was a little embarrassing for me. But it was also very funny in retrospect.

And that’s really all you have to do: focus on the funny. Nobody who witnesses your little goofs cares or is likely to even recall them. It doesn’t make sense to waste your time feeling bad for being a public dork when you could be spinning those stories into open mic fodder. Because if there’s one thing this city needs more of, it’s definitely aspiring comedians.

How to Be Grateful in NYC

It’s Thanksgiving! While it’s always good to remember Jake Peralta’s astute observation that, “The pilgrims were murderers and turkey tastes like napkins.” it’s also generally a good idea to practice mindful gratitude when you can. Without the side of colonialism.

"The pilgrims were murderers and turkey tastes like napkins." - Jake Peralta, Brooklyn 99
Image: Brooklyn 99, Season 2 Episode 7

Some days it is very hard to feel actively grateful in New York. Some days, you’ve been away from home for 12 hours and just want to stop working, you navigate the labyrinthine station, round the corner for the last set of stairs down to your platform… and walk straight into a huge pile of vomit and a family of rats noshing on it.

Some days, every stranger seems mean or at least indifferent, and you miss the comfort of having your friends and family close to you. Some days the dishwasher and the clothes washer both inexplicably gush gallons of water on the floor. The line at the grocery store wraps around the entire building, and you just want to order takeout and go home, but the heater in your apartment doesn’t turn off so home feels like an actual pit of hell.

My friend Sam, a former New Yorker, once said of her time here, “New York makes people deeply selfish.” I’ve thought about that a lot since moving. I haven’t done a great job of forming new relationships or maintaining the ones I have, beyond Dan and Marcy, and I feel guilty about it constantly. Am I selfish because I don’t schedule more FaceTime calls with my distant friends and coffee hangs with my local friends? But every day, I find myself exhausted in the bone-deep way I was in those gloomy years before I started taking (those sweet, sweet) antidepressants. Too exhausted to do more than get myself to work and back home again. So am I just dealing with a little flare-up of depression brought on by all these major life changes… or has NYC already turned me into an absolute narcissist? I mean, my god, I have started a blog, like, how much more navel gazing could I do??

Either way, it always helps to find very small things to be thankful for in this life. With all that set up out of the way, here it is, a list of things I’m grateful for right here in NYC:

  1. Every day I successfully ride the Subway without being pushed onto the tracks by a passing maniac (my #1 NYC fear) is a day I am grateful for.
  2. Charming curmudgeons is one of my greatest skills in life. Give me an hour with a grump and I guarantee I will win them over. There are so many grouches waiting for me to befriend them in this city! And the last one I met (and charmed, thank you very much) was a colleague and lifelong New Yorker who took me to a little place where I had the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. Grateful for that!
  3. Scum Pond (aka The Pool) in Central Park finally lost all of its summer fungi and no longer smells like a pool of rotting flesh. That would have been enough, but the water cleared right as the leaves turned and, um, hello gorgeous, who knew you were waiting to pull an Ugly Duckling on me? (Everyone who’s isn’t experiencing this transformation for the first time probably knew that. #BrandNewYorker)
  4. Speaking of those leaves… I knew East Coast Autumns = Peak Autumns, but living through it day to day has been utterly magical.
  5. Renter’s Insurance, because my Worst Day just will not end.

How to Go To a Spooky Club

So you want to get spooky in the city? Can do!

  1. Find a Cool Friend who knows about Cool Events. My Cool Friend is Vani, a Gal Pal from Grad School, the smartest person I’ve ever met in my life, and an NYC resident tapped into Cool Culture. (I know that this step is a bit of a stretch if you do not have access to a Cool Friend, but just roll with me on this one.) Pick a Spooky Halloween DJ Party!
  2. Get your costume together. If you forget about this, you can make like me and borrow your dog’s costume! The devil cape that both Dylan and Marcy hated wearing was the perfect last-minute solution. Throw it on top of a tight LBD, layer on a ton of smoky eyeshadow, blood-red lipstick, and serpentine accessories, and you are Ready To Go.
  3. Board a Brooklyn-bound train.
  4. Revel in the extreme weirdness of the costume-clad commuters. This is what you thought New York City would be like all the time. In fact, most of the time the residents of NYC look like perfectly regular folks going to perfectly regular jobs. So enjoy this moment! There will be glitter. There will be mythical creatures and comic book creatures and sexy professionals, and full-body makeup, and a lot of weapons that will make your heart skip a beat until you realize the crossbow is part of the costume and not the start of a massacre. (You can never be 100% certain about impending massacres in these deeply troubling times.) You will see people participating in Cultural Appropriation and other people telling them to stop being racist. It is the magical NYC of your dreams.
  5. Find a dance club hosting a queer/feminist/neo-liberal party. This is TRULY the most magical part of NYC– there are places you can go dancing without ever once being grabbed, groped, or nonconsensually grinded upon. God bless.
  6. Pop your Made-for-Concerts ear plugs in, because you already have hearing loss and don’t need to further damage your little eardrums just to get your Spooky Dance on.
  7. Dance it out, you spooky devil!
  8. Leave before midnight. Nothing good happens after midnight.
  9. Stop at a bodega for some rehydrating.
  10. Go home, wash your face, and snuggle with your Anti-Clubbing Husband.

How to Make an Enemy

A simple guide to recreating Lydia’s Worst NYC Day Ever:

  1. Take your new dog, the one you haven’t fully established top-notch communication skills with yet, for an after-work walk, right at Peak Commuter time.
  2. Disregard the warnings about Raccoons riddled with Distemper and proceed into Central Park.
  3. Spot a raccoon.
  4. Realize a raccoon should not be out and about in this sunshiney time of day.
  5. Notice the raccoon is acting like it’s a bit drunk.
  6. Realize the raccoon has Distemper.
  7. Notice your dog noticing the raccoon.
  8. Scream as your dog yanks her leash out of your hand, taking quite a bit of your skin with her.
  9. Scream more as your dog charges the raccoon.
  10. Into the bike lane.
  11. Everything is moving in slow motion.
  12. You are screaming.
  13. Your dog has just tackled a bicyclist.
  14. You rush to the bicyclist.
  15. This is the worst moment of your entire life.
  16. The damn Distemper Raccoon meanders over a fence.
  17. Your dog pants after it.
  18. A crowd forms and begins berating you.
  19. You exchange contact information with the man who skinned his elbow in the fall.
  20. Strangers continue yelling at you.
  21. You must accept their criticisms and admonishments on your character, because you are Responsible for this Event.
  22. Go home and cry.
  23. Feel miserable and cry more when the dog who caused this whole mess tries to comfort you.
  24. Regret ever moving to New York.
  25. Spend the next several months dreading the messages that keep coming from The Bicyclist, with updates about his various ailments.
  26. Feel like a horrible person every time you get those texts.
  27. Contemplate what will happen if the texts keep coming. JAIL?
  28. Give the stress ulcer you’ve formed a name, maybe Distemp-Ulcer.
  29. Begin to feel better as quiet weeks pass.
  30. Ding! Another text. Distemp-Ulcer awakens.

How to Adopt a Dog in NYC

No family is complete without a canine, and New York is a great place to be a dog owner.

  1. We all know pitbulls are the greatest dogs. They are snuggly nannies who have been slandered in the media. Such slander has led to these sleepy goobers being banned from many apartment buildings. If you are adopting a pitbull, it is your moral and ethical responsibility to only ever live in buildings that accept pitties. You may never adopt a pitbull and then abandon it because you want to move somewhere that doesn’t take pits. That’s the first rule, and it applies to all dogs who are typically breed discriminated. Never adopting a dog is better than adopting and abandoning a dog. Don’t be a jackass to your dog.
  2. Adopt, don’t shop! New Yorkers love to adopt dogs, and there are innumerable awesome rescue organizations. We used Hearts and Bones to find our pup. You can learn more about them in “Second Chances” the sixth episode of the Netflix docuseries Dogs.
  3. Peruse your chosen rescue org’s website while drinking wine. The dog that makes you cry the most is the dog you’re meant to adopt. Probably.
  4. Attend an adoption event. The scared dog that won’t look anyone in the eye but crawls into your lap is definitely the dog you’re meant to adopt.
  5. Pay an absolutely insane amount of money for your new best friend!
  6. If your new pal is too big to ride the Subway with you (ie: doesn’t fit in a bag) you’ll need to request a ride, then call your driver until you find one who doesn’t mind dogs in their car. Keep requesting, calling, and repeating until someone agrees.
  7. Brace yourself for many delightful encounters with Central Park Dog Moms.

Congrats on living your best life, you brand new dog owner!

How to Move to New York City

So you want to move to New York City! Your vagabond shoes are longing to stray to the concrete jungle where dreams are made of– the greatest city in the world? Queue up that Frank Sinatra/Jay-Z/Lin-Manuel Miranda playlist and let’s get you here.

  1. Start telling everyone you’re moving to Manhattan. Jump right into this. Speak it into reality. Most people will assume you are moving to Manhattan, Kansas.
  2. Schedule a tour of your local sewage facilities. There’s no better way to begin acclimating to life in NYC than to get yourself used to the acrid pungency of human excrement. Hey, everybody poops. Some people do it in public.
  3. To be successful in New York, you need to master the art of looking professional in sticky heat. Wear your work clothes into a sauna. Practice delivering an important presentation with your outfit plastered to your skin. Nailed it!
  4. Begin Rat Desensitization. Shrieking at rats is the fastest way to out yourself as a non-native. Attempt to watch the documentary Rats based on the excellent book of the same name.
  5. To prepare for the Chilly Months, put on your puffiest coat, fill two large bags with various books, electronics, and food items, then attempt to walk down several sets of stairs, through a narrow turnstile, and into an extremely crowded room in your most slippery pair of socks. This will simulate the experience of getting on a train on any given Winter workday.
  6. Recruit some of your friends to yell unexpected obscenities at you. Attempt to perfect your best, “I have cotton in my ears and love in my heart” face. Do not engage.
  7. Think about your finances, because it’s all fun and games until you realize living here is unfathomably, ludicrously, untenably expensive.

You’re probably ready to do this!