I resolved, not too long ago, not to resort to ad hominem attacks on the subjects of New York Times articles that I find to be…of questionable value. After all, David Brooks and Tom Friedman and Ross Douthat and Bill Keller and Alex Williams (and ohmygod there’s so many terrible middle-aged white male writers at the Times) are all fair game and it’s fine to judge them and judge them harshly by the things they knowingly spew into the public sphere, contaminating said sphere with words like “hipsturbia” and “man-bun” and “bobo,” and committing the type of journalistic war crimes that should not ever, ever be tolerated.
But so, while op-ed columnists and style writers are not off-limits, I am hesitant to go after the people profiled, no matter how idiotic the article is in which they’re featured. But sometimes? The Times makes it very, VERY hard. The latest example of this is a real estate story about a third year NYU theater major, Vanessa Csordas-Jenkins, who just couldn’t handle living in the dorms anymore. Which, dorm life is terrible! Even if your dorm is in SoHo and costs your parents over $6,000 a semester, it could still be terrible because maybe you have a diagnosed sleep disorder, and even “earplugs combined with a white-noise machine [are] not enough” to help you be “a healthy person.” So, what do you do? Well, you get your parents to agree to pay $2,000 a month to get you your own apartment in Manhattan and then you…get the Times to write about it? Sure! That sounds about right.
The Times runs the column The Hunt as a way to help New Yorkers realize that they are not alone in experiencing hellish difficulty when looking for an apartment, and that it’s just a rite of passage that all city-dwellers experience. Or, well, that’s why I think the Times runs that column, but who knows really, because the experience of reading The Hunt is less like a bonding exercise with our fellow, real estate-obsessed New Yorkers, and more like a chance to collectively roll our eyes at the rarified lifestyles of some people whose parents are willing to not only shell out for NYU’s tuition, but also pay a ton of money in rent for an apartment the size of a shoebox near Union Square. So relatable, right? I mean, thank god Csordas-Jenkins found that little, tiny studio in the neighborhood she wanted, because imagine how horrible it would be if she had to live ten blocks farther away from campus. That would have been prohibitively hard because, Csordas-Jenkins tells the Times, “she knew she would fret about rising early enough for class.” Oh no! She continues,“It seemed like the potential for a really stressful situation for me if I woke up late and had to wait for the train.” That does sound stressful! It’s a good thing her parents went $300/month over budget to get her a place really near NYU, because if there’s one thing that every New Yorker can relate to, it’s the desire to live close to NYU.
I know, I know. There’s no real point in getting upset that the Times writes about these wealthy, out-of-touch transplants as if their experiences are relatable for the majority of New Yorkers. But still, is it too much to want more from the Times? This isn’t an issue of not wanting to learn about the real estate hunts of wealthy people. That shit would be fascinating! Instead we get a story about someone whose parents in San Diego splurge on a 240-square-foot studio because apparently sleep disorders are real. At first I thought my problem with this might be that the Times doesn’t know its audience, and is just writing for middle-aged people far outside of the city who care about things like pied-à-terres and apartments for their kids, but then I realized that the real problem is that the Times DOES know its audience, and that its audience is middle-aged people far outside of the city who care about things like pied-à-terres and apartments for their kids. And then I audibly sighed. Happy Friday, everyone. Go football!
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen