Everybody is leaving New York. We know this. It’s expensive here, almost prohibitively so. And even those who stay in New York are having a pretty tough go of it because… something about riding the sea foam on a wave of gentrification on a blow-up dolphin from Disney World. Yeah, I don’t know either. Recently, following the musician Moby’s farewell letter to New York, my colleague Henry Stewart wrote an excellent essay reminding everyone that if they don’t like this city, they don’t have to stay here. Stewart acknowledges that there are legitimate reasons for wanting—or even needing—to leave, including the “homelessness problem,” the “income disparity problem,” and the fact that it “can be very difficult to pay your rent here, especially if you’re also trying to raise a family,” but he concludes by mentioning the merits of living here—”the unparalleled access to film and theater and music and literature, for example”—and by noting that New York is ultimately a place “where millions of people live like they do anywhere else.”
Would that Stewart were granted the final word on the topic, but this whole “New York is a hard and terrible place to live” thing is just not going away. (Again, see Alec Baldwin. Or, you know, don’t. He wants his privacy!) The latest example of this is a BuzzFeed quiz which asks “Should You Move to NYC?” Which, obviously the answer is a resounding “no,” because if you are using BuzzFeed quizzes to determine where you should live, then you are not ready to live in New York or anywhere that is not your middle school bedroom. (Although, I won’t deny that I am seriously contemplating a move, or at least a vacation, to Finland.) But so, despite being skeptical, I am (like most people) incredibly susceptible to BuzzFeed quizzes because, yes, I do want to know what classic author is my love match (Langston Hughes!), and so I took this one as well, albeit with one eyebrow raised. Or, raised-ish. That’s a hard expression to maintain over an extended period of time.
Anyway, the questions are pretty much what you’d expect—all about how you eat your pizza (with your hands, naturally), what to do when you see something weird going on in the streets (don’t stare, obviously), what terrible smells you can best handle (if you can’t deal with the scent of hot garbage, things might be rough for you)—but they all seemed so, well, specific to some general idea of New York that has nothing to do with the reality of New York that it was depressing. Obviously, BuzzFeed quizzes (and most BuzzFeed posts in general) are not meant to do anything more than traffic in generalities so that the largest possible number of people can feel validated by finding out that they would be Daenerys Targaryen if they were really a Game of Thrones character. But this quiz—especially directly following New York’s admittedly anecdotal mass exodus—feels like a particularly egregious example of the kind of things that New Yorkers who don’t really care about being New Yorkers complain about all the time, collectively wallowing in the narcissistic “poor me” mentality that is the motivating factor behind all those people who bitch at the MTA on twitter because their F train hit a person and now they’re late for yoga.
All of which is to say, stop. Stop pretending that the things which make New Yorkers tough are qualities like the ability to walk up lots of stairs or the desire to drop $60 on two bags of groceries. Other than maybe—maybe—the act of passing on the knife and fork when it comes to eating a slice, none of this stuff is that particular to New York—not even the bad smells. But even if these things were specific to this city, are they what makes life here difficult? No. Not at all. If anything, these are the things that can make things easier for new residents because after experiencing them, residents have something to bond over with each other. And who doesn’t want to bond with their neighbors? I’ll tell you who. New Yorkers don’t want to. Or, at least, some of them don’t. And some of them do. It’s a big fucking city and it can’t be contained in a BuzzFeed quiz, because multitudes. Pretending that it’s the most minor of quality of life issues that make life in New York hard is dangerous for the same reason that it’s a bad idea to pay more attention to de Blasio’s jaywalking hypocrisy when there are much more important things going on politically. Because while some people take a ton of pleasure in commiserating over what a huge percentage of their paycheck goes toward rent (but are still handily able to pay), other people are getting evicted from the homes that they’ve lived in for decades. So maybe the next time you find yourself complaining about the people who stand still instead of walking up the escalator out of the subway station, you’ll at least be able to acknowledge to yourself that most of the things we complain about here aren’t such a big deal at all. Nothing that can be encapsulated in a BuzzFeed quiz is that big of a deal at all. New York is a difficult place to live, but so—I would assume—is a small town in Arizona. And then you’d be in Arizona, which would be terrible. So let’s all stop complaining about the tiny quality of life issues in New York for a little while, at least until the bigger ones are properly addressed.
Or, like, move to Finland. Seriously. It seems like the only requirement for living there is that you enjoy cardamom.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen