‘You can take the girl out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest out of the girl.’
Even though I’ve lived in New York longer than I have existed anywhere else, I am often mistaken for a tourist. (Maybe it’s my ‘Honest Face’.)
I can be swathed in head-to-toe black, topped off with the intimidating authentic motorcycle jacket I bought at the intimidating authentic motorcycle shop in L.A., and still get asked if I’m enjoying my stay.
Once when I had a freelance gig at Ogilvy, which was then located in Midtown West, I swear I got asked every single day on my way to work if I wanted to ride one of those double-decker tourist buses in Times Square. And it was the same guy who asked me, too. When the gig ended, I kind of missed him.
This stuff happens even when I’m wearing my fiercest no-nonsense ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ face. I’m often asked by real tourists/visitors about this face — why it is that New Yorkers all look so, well, unfriendly. ‘I asked this lady for directions today, and she was really nice!‘ they’ll say with great surprise.
Well. Think about it. In other cities, people get to hide in their cars. Here, when we commute, we’re out there on the street. We’re thinking about what to say in the meeting, or what to fix for supper, or why the heck our husbands didn’t kiss us good-bye. So, naturally, our faces say we don’t want to be messed with. When actually we’re all just big softies underneath. Well, um, maybe not all of us. And maybe not softies.
Before I get carried away, here’s another example (among many, trust me) of my being mistaken for a Visitor From The Hinterland. On this particular occasion, I was walking home from Midtown when a young man came up to me on the corner of Park and 57th. ‘Miss,’ he said, using a pitiful tone of voice. ‘I’m trying to get home to Illinois, but I’ve lost my ticket. Do you think you could help me out?’
Well. I adjusted my don’t-mess-with-me face, and strode on. Fast forward to the next day. Same corner, same young man, same pitiful tone. ‘Miss, I’m trying to get home to Indiana, but I’ve lost my ticket. Do you think you could help me out?’
Me: ‘I thought you lived in Illinois.’
One more thing. I may look like a tourist, but I know how to talk like a New Yorker. It’s something I picked up, oh, about a week after I moved here. You take any normal, benign sentence, like ‘Do you want to have lunch?’, and stick a ‘so’ on the front and an ‘or what?‘ on the end: ‘So, do you want to have lunch, or what?‘
See? It’s fun. Go ahead and try it. Any sentence. ‘Is your boyfriend coming over?’ becomes ‘So, is your boyfriend coming over, or what?‘ ‘Do you like avocados?’ becomes ‘So, do you like avocados, or what?‘
I could do this all day. But it’s time to get a wiggle on. Now where did I put my don’t-mess-with-me face?
New York City. April 2016