There are many reasons to be annoyed with the trend pieces the New York Times runs (not the least of which is that most of these stories are apparently knowingly fabricated), but chief among them is the fact that—even if these trends were actual things that actually existed in the real world, rather than just being things that some Times intern had dreamed up after a night of hard partying at the McKibbin Lofts—the lifestyle that the Times is trying to sell is really, really expensive and therefore out of the reach of most New Yorkers. But just how expensive is it? Just how rich would you need to be to live the Times lifestyle? Well, we decided to do a little bit of math and find out.
First off, you need a place to live, don’t you? As defined by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, shelter (along with food, sex, breathing, etc) is a basic need. And while you might not think that your basic needs have trend-based requirements, well, then you’re just not thinking hard enough. Because if you’ve spent any time at all reading the New York Times real estate section, you’d know that there are all sorts of trends going on, from Upper East Siders moving below 14th Street (“downtown is livelier“) to hipsters moving to the suburbs (“hipsturbia“) to the latest trend of young millionaires (“they have a completely different DNA from the rest of us“) who “eschew Park Avenue for Canal Street.” What does it cost to get in on that trend? Well, the apartments mentioned in the Times article range everywhere from $4 million to $17 million. But don’t worry if you can’t quite swing that. There’s another trendy way of living that will cost you absolutely nothing: having your parents “gift” you an apartment. (Which, can we please stop using “gift” as a verb? It’s not a verb. Thanks.) So, basically, according to Times trend pieces, it’s either free to live in New York (if, that is, you come from a wealthy family, and who among us doesn’t?) or it costs $17 million. Well, you can’t say they don’t provide readers with a decent range of prices.
But even if you don’t have wealthy parents or $17 million (what have you been doing with your life?) and thus can’t possibly afford to live in Manhattan or one of the neighborhoods in Brooklyn the Times recognizes, the paper still has you covered. How? Well, instead of springing for a real home, what about inhabiting a child’s play home? Instead of the millions of dollars you’d need to buy a townhouse in Cobble Hill, you could get a luxury tree house for as little as $248,000. Or, you know, just go “glamping” and treat Prospect Park like your very own backyard while you sleep in a cozy tent that will only set you back about $1,100. That’s practically free!
Once you’re settled in your home, you’re going to want to have a party, right? You’re going to want to serve food and drinks (also at the foundational level of Maslow’s pyramid), but it’s not cool to do that yourself. And you want the Times to think you’re cool, right? So how about hiring your own bartender? Everybody’s doing it! At $100-200/hour (plus tip), that means that having a low-key gathering at your apartment for the evening will run you about $1,000. Totally reasonable, right? Wrong. In fact, suddenly, those $50 monocles that
nobody everybody is wearing seem like a steal. Lest you think no trends are cost-efficient, though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the latest trend is body hair—forgoing the monthly bikini wax—will actually save women money. And the trend of the man-bun saves money once spent at SuperCuts, and could actually, maybe eventually be a tax write-off should the man-bun havers decide to lop off all the hair and donate it to an organization like Locks of Love. Trendy and altruistic? That’s called having it all, kids.
Trends aren’t just for the young, though. The Times has been very careful to stay on top of what older, wealthier people are doing as well, and so things like sending your kids to sleep away camp—a seemingly trend-free ritual—has gotten the Times Styles treatment, with the paper noting that the popular thing for parents is to charter a private jet (approximately $3,800) in order to get their kids up to Maine and out of their hair for a few weeks. And what do the parents do when the kids are away? They look for a second New York apartment, because living together as a couple is just so 2012. But how much would that cost? Well, New York real estate being what it is, so it’s going to cost a lot. Or, you know, you could just be someone who has a rent-stabilized apartment that you’ve lived in since 1965 and then everything will be just fine. Seriously, though, it’s crazy how much the New York Times seems to share Woody Allen’s incredibly skewed worldview of who lives in New York City today and how they get by (white people, inherited wealth and real estate). Next the Times will probably start quoting 25-year-olds referring to sex as “making love.” Ugh.
To sum up, it would cost about $17 million and change to live like the people that the New York Times identifies as trendsetters. Or, maybe it would cost nothing, because you could just let your pubic hair grow wild and head out to Fort Tilden this summer in a very skimpy bathing suit to show everyone what style really is. The choice is up to you. Just remember that none of this really matters if you don’t die in an appropriately on-trend, eco-friendly manner. Never forget: living well means nothing if you have a gauche funeral. Start saving now.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen