Naturally, I'm proud that I was born and raised in Manhattan. I gladly carry the title "native New Yorker" with quiet dignity, but apart from my quiet dignity, I'm afraid the title doesn't give me much edge over a New Yorker who moved here from somewhere else. Well... besides not having to qualify being a snob... and the exemption of harsh judgements of Americans by our sisters Paris and London. Other than that, the title only lets me skip the obstacle course of a person's "first year" to prove they're the real deal. I was born into real.
If you are considering birthing authentic NY children, be aware of the difference their conversations and status will be if they are born in Manhattan. Of course, there lovely natives of other burroughs, each rich with pride and history, and I give them respect. (Props!) But they're B&T. Bridge and Tunnel. A variation of the New Yorker. I don't make the rules.
Par example, this is an actual conversation I have all the time with aspiring New Yorkers:
THEM: So, where are you from?
ME: I was born here.
THEM: Oh! So you're a real New Yorker. Brooklyn....or...?
ME: No, Manhattan.
THEM: Ohhh! So you're a REAL New Yorker. You guys are rare.
ME: (nodding with quiet dignity)
It is what it is.
2. Move here, and you're half way.
In other places, like small fixed towns, or New Orleans, or England, acceptance into the community is by birthright only. An exclusive possession of the native. Not so in New York. She offers acceptance (or at least the oppurtunity) to anyone who has the guts to move here with their goals. And I gotta hand it to them, it's a big deal to move here. I have a great deal of respect for the chutzpah it takes to uproot and blow up your life for a chance to succeed (or not) in a place as daunting as New York City. (I mean, I've never done it.) Moving here alone is enough of an accomplishment to move you to half way to becoming a REAL NYer.
If someone calls you a New Yorker in the beginning, it is our version of hospitality. Who said New Yorkers aren't nice? Calling someone a New Yorker keeps in step with the accessible spirit of the City. If we're in the mood, aren't in a hurry, then making a person feel included is a good deed for the day. I know full well that look in a newbie's face when they move here and that they feel isolated, scared, bullied, desperate, misty-eyed, excited, and that they're in for a truckload of life lessons. Some that might send them packing. Why not call them a New Yorker so they feel included. Just please, sweat a little blood with the rest of us first before you go capitalizing your titles.
3. The 10 year mark
Here it is folks.... the 10 year evolution of a real NYer...
Everything is new and you love, love, love the stimulation, OR you're terrorized and run for your innocent uncalloused life.
This is where most people move away. You begin to experience how hard it is to live here. The average transplant has begun living hand-to-mouth for the first time in their lives. Your starter job is killing you, but your goal drives you on. If you leave you most likely say something like "Oh I love New York, but I could never live there." It's ok, we're pretty crowded.
If you leave now, then you've accomplished some of what you came here for. You were never interested in really being a New Yorker. You lived here long enough to brag, and even offer life wisdom to your future children who you will raise in a very sheltered house. It's too hard to find a descent person to settle down with here anyway, right? Well...boogah-boogah! If you stayed, you got that joke.
You're weirder than when you first arrived. Perhaps wiser. Definitely harder. Might as well keep going. If not, well no one will argue with you if you insist on calling yourself a New Yorker. Especially if you've got a great apartment we'd like to take off your hands. But if you gave up right before the glory. Well that's not very New Yorky, is it?
This is where we all face the pivotol question: do I stay or do I go? It's the pendulum swing from appreciating New York to taking her for granted - and unless you are able to rekindle gratitude and appreciation, you will leave. Even the toughest, even the natives, all come to our wits ends at around year 10. We find ourselves utterly sick and tired of the pushing, the noise, the hussle, the smell, the heat, the frigidity, the competition....everything negative is intensified. Things you once found exciting are soul draining and annoying. Perhaps your dreams have been dashed. Perhaps you're devastated you wasted your youth for the thrill. Perhaps you've decided after 10 years that NOW the smog is killing you. You've might even be announcing that you will soon be moving to your dream-like "somewhere else" just to psych yourself into doing it. Somewhere that offers everything NY refuses to. (Mine was Colorado.)
If you stay: Congratulations. This is the REAL New Yorker marker for you. You're pretty much ruined for everywhere else by now anyway. You've lost your attention span, in some instances, money. No where in the world will ever be able accomodate your inflated sense of entitlement and freedom. Your brain would probably atrophy at that other more peaceful place since you've propped it up for so long with stimuli.
If you go... I don't blame you. No truly, I understand. Send me a postcard. 10023.