Eight Honest Things About New York City

Everyone everywhere is lying, and I feel like the suburbs are where truth goes to give up, because no one needs that much space between themselves and the other side of their house. But sometimes there’s honesty in little things. These honest moments are easier to spot in a city like New York, because the lies here are huge, and I’m not part of them.

thieved directly from sarah p*lmer’s facebook

1. Getting cheese fries in your pajamas at 2 p.m.
In most places I’ve ever existed, you’re expected to get dressed before leaving the house, and certainly before 2 p.m., but not in New York. Occasionally, in my suburban cocoon, I want to get granola from Trader Joe’s in my pajamas, but I think/know that the employees and patrons wouldn’t appreciate it. So I lie to everyone by putting on clothes and pretending to have my shit together, and I buy my granola without any honesty whatsoever.

2. Cab drivers
Usually when people are in my car, I drive more carefully and try not to yell at the other drivers, even if I really want to. Cab drivers don’t care if their driving makes you nervous, they just want you to give them your money and get out of their cab.

Every now and then, though, a cab driver will sense that you’ve had an unpleasant evening and might decide to do something nice, like change the music. Sometimes, miraculously, when you’re having a meltdown in the middle of Times Square, a cab driver might hand you as many tissues as you need, then eventually the entire box. And when you give him your money, he might tell you that the boy you’re crying about isn’t worth it and you’ll say, “thank you,” (even though you weren’t crying about a boy) while you make sure not to leave any used tissues or your driver’s license in the back of his cab.

3. Rats
Email correspondence, Day 2:

“I saw my first rats last night! After sitting on the stoop long enough and [redacted] enough [redacted], I’d decided they were more or less the same as stray cats, and that I wouldn’t be opposed to petting one, should it come close to me, so I’m really glad that didn’t happen. Going to reevaluate how much [redacted] and [redacted] I can safely consume before becoming a danger to myself and others / rats.”

Rats aren’t here to gross you out — they have a job to do. That job is to eat your garbage. Big deal. Honesty.

4. Bodega and deli employees
These people don’t care about you, and they don’t pretend to. If a bodega or deli employee is nice or polite, you can rest assured that they do, in fact, care about you. No one’s lying here.

5. Taco Truck
The taco truck isn’t fucking around. What do you want? A taco? The people working in the taco truck want you to have that taco. This is a very simple, honest exchange. No big promises, no self-deprecating bullshit. Just tacos and some green sauce, unless you don’t want it (but I bet you do).

6. Riding the subway
If we all had money, we’d be in cabs or fancy cars instead of the subway. But we don’t have money and we’re not in cars; we’re broke and underground, and no one’s pretending to be any better off than the person sitting next to them.

7. Putting a box of water-soaked tampons in your bathroom window to dry
If you were to put a box of tampons in your open window in the suburbs, you’d get a letter from the HOA letting you know that at least three of your neighbors had anonymously filed complaints about it, because no one in the suburbs has anything better to do than make your life as miserable as theirs. In New York, no one cares what’s in your window. The people across the alley from Riese’s apartment have two empty peanut butter jars and a loofah in their window and I don’t give a shit.

8. Roofs
The only quiet spot in the city where you can be alone, besides your bedroom, I think, is a roof. You won’t find any propaganda or people who changed out of their pajamas before you did on the roof. As long as you’re not lying to yourself, the roof is an honest place.

One time, before I flew to New York and before you bookmarked www.autostraddle.com, Riese said, “the roof makes me feel alive because i’ve never jumped off it,” and I’ve loved her ever since.

Where do you live? Is it honest? Have you ever jumped off of anything? Do you like rats?


Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.

Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here. She's 37, has two kids, two dogs, one cat, one Megan, and some personal essays.

Laneia has written 880 articles for us.

81 Comments

  1. this is honestly the most beautiful thing i’ve read all day.

    once i was going somewhere in a cab kind of thing and a guy got in next to me and was trying real hard to be real good friends with me for a mile or two until the cab driver turned around, sized up the situation, and then turned up the radio so loud that the guy had to give up trying to talk. that was also very beautiful.

  2. #3 makes me wish to have had more time to get redacted with you

    also, how did you get to be so cute and smart and insightful. the cab driver was right, that boy isn’t worth it.

  3. i have lived and am currently living in the suburbs. it is not honest. it’s white people haven and is filled with high end condos and professional lawn services and two giant grocery stores that are “competing” because there’s nothing else to do. oh and did i mention it’s only white people?

    thankfully i’m living in a city apartment far, far away from here (2 hours) once august comes around. the homeless men are honest. if they tell you to get the fuck away, you get the fuck away. they will also smoke “things” with you.

  4. One of my favorite things to do is to take the 45 minute train ride from what are possibly the most dishonest suburbs on earth (Fairfield County, CT) to New York City, the most honest place I’ve been.

    You just wrote 8 reasons why. And you’re lovely.

    • Riese’s living room is the cab driver under honest living rooms. It’s a nice place to freak out/break down. It probably also is a nice place to get redacted or to pet rats with the pair of plyers used to turn the ac on and off.

  5. Are you all familiar with the phrase “Minnesota Nice”? Well, it basically means that people seem really nice but really aren’t nice at all. Makes life a bit hard.

    I’m not into rats but I feel like I need to add “Hang out on a roof in NY” as something to before I die. Maybe someone can loan me a roof when I come to NY in August for BlogHer.

  6. portland used to be honest. in the 90s and before it was a gritty, crack-filled town full of drunken sailors, drunken elliott smith and child prostitutes and it was what it was.

    now half of southern california and the east coast have moved here and it is no longer honest.

    i go to college in humboldt county though, which is a pretty honest place. professors will be honest with you about how much weed they smoked before class, and people will be honest about the fact that their garage is really a grow house and it sucks but that’s just the way it is in that part of the world.

      • Sure, the title is a paradox, but part of the fun is exploring the inherent contradictions in a city like this.

        Obviously the Real L word would not be part of it…encountering true honesty in LA is a bit like jumping into the Pacific Ocean in the middle of a heat wave (which we have yet to experience, what is going ON here? July gloom?)…anyway..I think digging for honesty here would be a very difficult project, which is why I intend to take it on.

        • i think you should definitely try. i’m going to try to find honest things in the suburbs. it’s going to be fucking hard, but i like a challenge.

          that’s probably untrue. i may hate challenges. but that’s what people say, right?

          • My parents live in the same city as you / I live in the same state as you…

            Honesty is so rare here…like…I can’t even be honest here. I hate it. I miss New York.

          • Thanks for the support as I attempt the near-impossible 🙂

            P.S. As much as everyone has been hating on the suburbs in these comments, I find them to be a very intriguing sociological breeding ground for all sorts of future- “deviant” behavior. It’s just all more under lock and key and garden hoses out there. For instance, I’m from the suburbs of the San Fran Bay Area and I’m gaygaygayyyy…and thanks to the magic of Facebook, I now know that at least 15 other people who grew up in my tiny town are big ‘ol queermos now too.

            Laneia…you should try to find and befriend all the cool/interesting/queer/totally-in-hiding gaymos in your new suburbian home. I bet there are way more than you think. 🙂

          • Oh I was deviant as *#($ in the suburbs. I’ve a. grown out of it now, b. am out on my own in a small town (aka a small city disguised as a town) kind of place and I’m old and boring now. (I’m not rly that old, I just feel old)

            For me it wasn’t really lack of gaymos. They were/are EVERYWHERE in Phoenix, but in Tucson they’re like a rare breed that only come out for Peaches and Tegan and Sara concerts. It’s just about wanting to be liked/being people pleasing etc etc. Everyone just wants to tell you what you want to hear here. Ha.

          • to katie: i agree that suburbanites are a critically interesting group. unfortunately, i worry that the only inhabitants with any sort of self-awareness are teenagers and middle-aged sads (both of which i could easily be, if not for the age discrepancy), but that’s also really intriguing. so i see what you’re saying – i do. for the record.

  7. Hanging around too many hipsters in Sydney and Melbourne has made me really appreciate Brisbane. More honest, laidback, and appreciative of its dagginess. Also, much better weather.

    (I’m coming to New York in September!! :D)

  8. I live in new york and yes, it’s honest (ESPECIALLY THE ROOFS) but the cabbies are nice to me all the time because I look more like hampton bays than potato farm in east hampton. And yes, I freakin love the rats (R.I.P. tiny baby rat run over by E train…)

  9. I <3 the bit about the roof because it is really true.

    I live in LA aka the hole of hell. I think honesty here is seen as more of a suggestion than an actuality. LA is a place you go to make bits and pieces of your life disappear, create your own reality, then do a lot of drugs/redacted and forget what you wanted to do with your life.

    • i just read less than zero (again) and imperial bedrooms (because crystal made me, and afterwards i wanted to throw it at the wall) and so that’s how i feel too. also, because i’ve been there

  10. love this. i spent all of last summer in nyc for an internship and miss every [redacted] moment. ever since i’ve been back in maryland, i’ve been dreaming of a way to get out.

  11. i’d reply to each of you individually, but that would feel obnoxious, so i’d just like to say that i really appreciate how much you all seem to have appreciated this. and i love you.

    and i’m glad i’m not the only person who understands rats and honest cab rides.

  12. i wish i could be honest, but sadly i am not. i’m kind of a terrible person and i am not honest b/c it really makes the world a better place for everyone else.

    that said, i honestly like this very much, laneia. it got me out of my morning feeling of never wanting to wake up.

    now i’ve got to find something honest in north carolina. this is my midnight mission for the week.

  13. This made me realize what I liked about Vancouver so much, it was intangible at the time but I now know.

    I mean… I could be out at 3 AM halfway between wasted and hungover watching my friends eat nachos and not have to pretend I was happy. I felt perfectly safe sitting there glaring at them and just being honest. Someone asked if they were as cool as my friends back home, I love them but I had to say no. I now know that what I meant to say was “I can be honest with you all like I don’t know how to do back in Arizona”.

  14. I’m going to NY for a couple days at the end of this month!
    Unfortunately, it’s a family vacation (aka my parents pretend i’m straight and conveniently forget that coming-out conversation we all had). I feel like this may cancel out some of NY-breed honesty. Also it’s a vacation which means lots of touristy-fake things like keychains and I <3 NY everything and very few honest rats/cab drivers/rooftop experiences.

    But i'll look out for that taco truck…I want a taco that doesn't fuck around, although i think i've had a couple of those in CA. (one dollar soft tacos, fuck yeah.)

      • I feel like subways might possibly retain their honesty even with family-brand awkwardness. Sort of like the taco truck. And I have to agree, I went to this fucking honest taco shack (cousin to the taco truck) in LA, and we’ve all been discussing the level on honesty in LA. but those were some honest tacos.

  15. The only thing roofs are good for is falling off while [redacted].

    Of course this is the suburbs so it’s either that or steal shopping trolleys.

  16. When I was a kid I hated NYC and now I seriously cannot imagine living anywhere else on earth. No joke, every time Carly and I go on a vacation whether its out of the country or to the country, after 3 days we are like… sooooo, uhhhhh….. when can we go home? NYC is the reason a sensitive kid like me grew up to have tough skin and ridiculous goals. I owe everything to this hard-working and hard playing city and the crazy crazy bitchy honest talented gorgeous insomniacs who live here. I’ve gotten scolded before for saying NYC is the best city on earth but um… NYC is the best city on earth.

  17. i appreciate this.

    all of my cats (i have 3, it’s weird i know) are former-strays i picked up off the street one day b/c they were so little and sad and hungry and i don’t feel like they are like rats. though ask me 2 hours from now once i am [redacted] and maybe i will get you.

    manila is not honest. it’s really nice. the people are really nice. but it’s not honest. but in 2 days i won’t live in manila anymore i will live in montreal and i hear it is honest. people actually tell me that. they say “this city is real, you will like it,” and real and honest are sort of the same thing right? right.

    • Unless you’re talking about the ‘Real’ L Word, because there is nothing honest about that.
      Montreal is a great place if you can speak passable French, which I don’t, so I felt kinda dumb. But you don’t look dumb, so you should be fine. Probably….

  18. I like when bodega and deli employees call me “sweetheart.” It reminds me of the two years I spent living in Nashville.

    My family lives in LA and I go back sometimes to visit, but I like people in NYC more. Also, I like not owning a car because it’s just another thing I’ll end up breaking.

    Grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Don’t know what else to say about that. It was a real struggle deciding whose bar and bat mitzvah I’d attend/turn down on any given weekend.

  19. I’ve had nothing but awful experiences when I’ve visited NYC. Perhaps it’s because I don’t know any people who live there, and therefore do not have roof access.

    I hand fed half of my sandwich to a DC rat once. I wasn’t even [redacted] or anything.

  20. i loved this. i am going to make sure to experience all of these things next time i visit NYC. last time my sister made me to the sex and the city tour, so i am goung to force her to do the laneia tour.

    my colleagues and i just had a 20 minutes debate on whether or not we think Glasgow is an honest city. and we decided it is, but probs because people drink a lot here, and alcohol brings out the truth.

  21. I just realized why I hated so much those three years I spent in beaumont, tx. It’s so dishonest. That’s also the reason why my mother loved it there.

    I really hate fake-smiles too.

  22. Awesome post, I loved this. All I keep thinking is that I in serious like with New York. And One more thing I was listening to Paramore when I read this – their cover of ‘My hero’, origionally a Foo Fighters song… Now NYC is definatly on the list. ^^,)
    B3B4LC4N

  23. Excellent quote by Riese…that one is up there with one of her rape jokes in my book. Laneia, I think you’d appreciate Pommes Frites if you haven’t indulged already.

  24. Gonna have to disagree with Intern Laura; Philadelphia is pretty real. I have witnessed a woman take a shit on the sidewalk outside of a nice hotel and use Starbucks napkins to wipe her ass/bush. There was a food cart not fifty feet away from where she took her shit. Not a single fuck was given by her that day.

    Also, as someone who has been street canvassing in Philly for over a year now, I would have to say that the people are alright. If they give no fucks, they tell you so. If they do, they stop. If they don’t want to, they don’t.

    I also don’t understand how Philly tries to be New York. Philadelphians have no fucks to give. South Philly girls just tryna party in small skirts with their dude-bro guido counterparts? Sure! Drunkenly shouting up a storm on South Street? No fucks to give- it’s time to party! Northern Liberties hipsters going fucking nuts at a warehouse show smelling like hella B.O. and PBR? No fucks to give except for the music and for the next ciggy they’re gonna roll. West Philly granola people just tryna get their local/co-op/organic grub on? No fucks to give for that corporate shit- it’s all about the DIY.

    I dunno, meng. Philly’s alright.

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