Back when I was still pretending I wanted to finish out my Upper East Side lease and stay in NYC until March, I was being considered for a temp position at a real estate company and part-time nannying gig. After interviewing with a mother at Coffee Bean, I emailed the parents of the little boy I babysat in between jobs last year, hoping they’d recommend me for the new nannying gig. They said they’d be happy to sing my praises and expressed sympathy over my shaky employment situation.
When I asked what they were up to, the mom said they’d recently moved to the South, which is an adjustment for the little kids but ultimately a better place for the family. The mother had lived in NYC for more than a decade and described the change as a major relief, stating:
“I have found the transition to the ‘burbs (after 16 years in Manhattan and 20 in NY) to be like suddenly going to a spa…my worst problem is occasional nostalgia and boredom. Manhattanites are so proud of the tribulations we endure, we wear it like a badge…like having served a tour of duty. And now the war is over and I am enjoying the peace…NYC is like an abusive boyfriend, it can make you toxic in your outlook on everything from people’s intentions to enjoying the moment (without worrying about the competition or affording the next moment).”
I totally see what she means. I’ve only been back in California for a day, but the differences between the West Coast and New York are obvious everywhere. As soon as I got home yesterday, I took my dog for a walk so she could get used to me again. I passed a couple of my mom’s neighbors, all of whom waved at me and asked how I was doing, and the friendliness was sincere. There aren’t any expectations behind the unconditional (but perhaps empty) candor of the West. Unlike DC or NYC, strangers here don’t act nice to suck you in and take something from you. They’re just pleasant.
There’s not a ton of insanity on the roads up here, but I know that won’t be the case in LA. I just need to remain calm behind the wheel, particularly when folks around me are honking, throwing up the finger, screaming, tailgating, and, as we say on the internets, trollin’. As embarrassing as this is to admit, I actually got lost in Santa Cruz this morning, and I lived in the area for many years before going off to college. I’m going to have to take a new approach to driving in LA.
Public places are more relaxed over here. This morning, I met my buddy Nikita, her husband, and her two boys at Coffee Cat. Before they arrived, I noticed a whole team of fourth grade soccer players at the register, and that’s when it hit me that I was out of Manhattan and in the ‘burbs. The younguns were welcome there, and that wouldn’t have been the case at any NYC coffee shop.
At one point in the day, Nikita’s son Brandon stood near the coffee condiments table for a short while, blocking one or two adults. In NYC, Nikita would have had to immediately pull him out of the way to avoid getting shamed by impatient New Yorkers. It’s just not and never will be a child-friendly city. That’s another reason I’m glad I left before starting a family — I don’t want my own kids to be raised where they’re not wanted and viewed as a cancer to society, at least while they’re still clogging sidewalks and subway cars with strollers.
The barista complimented my signature pink heart-shaped sunglasses (Fred Flare, I can’t tell you how much love I’ve gotten for this amazing and reasonably priced product — you sure know how to bring positive energy into the world with your items). I told her I bought the glasses online, prompting her to deliver a speech about why internet shopping is the way to go. You don’t get that level of give and take with random people in New York, and sure it’s small talk, but I like establishing a relationship with everyone I talk to, and I can promise you that a little friendliness here and there goes a long way for your sanity and state of mind.
As I mentioned earlier, I know LA is going to be another story. Lots of car drama, lots of fakes, lots of crazies, lots of wannabes snorting crack of their friends’ butts, but on top of all that, there will also be lots of sunshine, lots of great food, lots of creative types, and lots of heart. Like the former Manhattanites for whom I used to work, I am enjoying the peace after the war. And it’s been more than freeing — it has restored my soul, which truly couldn’t have survived much longer on the East Coast.