When does one officially become a New Yorker? The barriers of entry to the city are pretty low, as evidenced by Kim Kardashian’s recent move to the city in the wake of many California reality stars, but there is something to be said for longevity in this town. Whether or not you are a true New Yorker is as divisive as which shop you visit for the best New York pizza, burger and bagel, and perhaps merely having an opinion on such eateries earns you a spot in New Yorkerhood—depending on who you talk to, of course.
There are the lifers. These are the old people you help across the street, or shall I say attempt to help until they exclaim they’ve been just fine without your service for 90-some years. They’ll tell you about the time they organized a rally for JFK or when Frank Sinatra played a gig with only 15 people at some extinct hole-in-the-wall in Midtown. They have a 3-bedroom rent controlled apartment for $350 per month and still manage to complain. They have achieved some elusive state of angry-contentment and every time you talk to one you think, “Is that going to be me someday?”
The more common way to go about determining New York status is the hierarchical years of service metric. Some newbies tend to think that five years in the city means you’ve earned your stripes. The most common answer is 7 to 8 years. Given that everyone always asks if Sex And The City is an accurate portrayal of city life and it ran for six seasons plus two movies, I suppose that qualifies the number 8 as a reasonable barometer.
Then there are the cutthroat people that claim New Yorkership is attained if you’ve lived here longer than where you grew up. Assuming you moved right after high school, that is age 36. (Age 40 if after college.) By this time, everyone else in the country has 2.5 kids and a retirement home in Florida.
There is also a theory that living in NYC when disaster strikes creates an instant bond and respect to other residents. Though a bit grim, those who have survived blackouts, blizzards, strikes of varying sorts and even 9/11 tend to walk around with a little more gusto than those who have not experienced such events.
Which of these are the most accurate? Your guess is as good as mine. Someone once told me that you know you’re a New Yorker when you reach this breaking point: As much as you may hate the city on any given day, you hate the thought of living elsewhere even more.
I know that there are certain things that lead to the jaded, New Yorker mentality. You stop questioning the cost of rent. You’re on a first-name basis with the neighborhood bartender, coffee guy and dry cleaner. You give cabbies specific directions. You stop to argue with delivery cyclists and cabbies when they nearly-hit you in a cross-walks. You say “hi” to routine street performers and homeless people. You pre-walk the subway platform to the car that will be nearest your exit when you arrive at the next subway platform. You can’t help but smile and feeling resentfully cheesy whenever Empire State of Mind plays. These are the things that develop over time and make one a New Yorker.
Where do I fall? That’s up to you. I will tell you, however, that the best NYC-style pizza is from Patsy’s, the best burger is 5 Napkin and best bagel is from H&H. And that I’d love to argue with you about it.