Though I may have sometimes denied it, I went to New York City to fall in love. Consciously/unconsciously, I hoped to find my “Mr. Big” – a disarmingly handsome, abundantly wealthy, distinguished former playboy who’d finally be ready to settle down soon after meeting fabulously stylish, bubbly and petite, full of wonderment, literary me. After a whirlwind courtship of crème de la crème wining and dining, luxurious weekend getaways, and splitting our time between his Uptown bachelor pad and my charming Downtown abode, he’d put a ring on it and we’d search for an old row house on a quiet cobblestone street in the West Village in need of some major TLC. I’d set about the task of lovingly restoring our future home + garden, a reflection of each of our personal styles and artistic sensibilities, and we’d live happily ever after, more than less. Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?
And while I have caught myself in the midst of many a “Carrie Bradshaw moment”, my Manhattan love odyssey hasn’t exactly resembled much of a fairy tale or perfectly crafted episode of Sex in the City. (A long-running series of tragically humorous love affairs, that have yet to culminate in a steamy “you’re the one” kiss on the Champs de Elysees, perhaps.) The truth is, no freelance writer I know can afford to live alone in a spacious Greenwich Village apartment, with a walk-in closet overflowing with Pat Field plucked designer threads, and the discretionary funds necessary to drink $20 artisanal cocktails with their BFFs at the hottest boites in town on the regular, from penning one column in the weekly tabloid rag. And chances are, their investment banker boyfriend isn’t planning to secretly build a custom vault in his Fifth Avenue Penthouse for their vast collection of Manolo Blahniks either. But I digress…
When my friends and I would compare notes on our experience of living in NYC, I noticed we’d frequently talk in metaphors about the city as if we were having a romantic relationship with it, as if it were a lover. Such comparisons tend to roll off the tongue quite naturally, for male and female New Yorkers. I’ve heard many people talk about “dating the city” – how “you’re never alone” and it can always be counted upon to “take you out for a good time” even when you’re flying solo.
It certainly was not love at first sight for Manhattan and me. I definitely took a liking to her upon first encounter, but I wasn’t yet ready for anything serious at the time. I was too young. New York was too rough and tumble. I enjoyed getting to know her during that brief visit and we stayed friends through friends, so to speak. The next time we met, almost 15 years later, however, it would be a totally different story…
Upon arrival, you initially spot her from a distance, a tiny glimmer on the horizon. She’s certainly already piqued your curiosity. Her reputation precedes her. As you speed closer, her undeniable beauty emerges. She’s tall and dazzling. She lights up the whole skyline. You get butterflies in your stomach; your body surges with anticipation; you can’t wait to get a better look. She comes closer still. No, she’s not a mirage. Oh my God, she’s stunning! Suddenly, you’re in the thick. The energy is positively electromagnetic. She’s everything you dreamed she’d be and more. You instantly want to explore every inch. It’s terrifying and exhilarating.
You make contact, breathe her in. You want her to want you, just as much. You play it cool, not wanting to get too excited about the possibilities, but it’s near impossible to contain your enthusiasm. She makes your heart pound. You can’t stop smiling. She’s instantly under your skin. What a whirlwind! As you settle in, you can’t stop thinking about her. She keeps you up at night. “Don’t rush into anything.” You sense this might not be easy. “I’m going to have to elevate my game.” The hooks are in.
She’s so fucking intoxicating that you’re a little apprehensive, but as the fear subsides, total enchantment takes the reins. You’ve never felt this way before. She romances, boldly, unapologetically, leaving you breathless. Turning you on, leaving you wanting more. You may momentarily glimpse her flaws, the red flags, but you quickly ignore. They pale in comparison to her utter magnificence. Yep, you’re a goner, no longer thinking straight. You walk around in a daze. She knows this. She’s a tease, a wild flirt. You wonder, “Oh, boy. What have I gotten myself into? Could she finally be the one?!” Surrender.
At first, she’s pure unadulterated inspiration. She makes you want to be your best self and rise to the occasion. This is good for you, exactly what the doctor ordered. She forces you to open wide and take big leaps of faith. You willingly oblige. You like this new, confident, powerful you. Soon, “I love you” flows from your lips non-stop. You can’t help it. Her charismatic charm lurks around each and every corner. She’s dirty, and naughty, and just kinky enough. She fits you like a glove. “This might get addictive.” You pretend you can handle it.
Time passes at breakneck speed. You get into a rhythm together. Your bond is passionate, inspiring, full of surprises. Every day is an adventure! It becomes clear that she’s also pretty demanding, this one. She’s going to take every ounce of your energy and require serious presence. You’re feeling a little sluggish, but you suck it up. You really do wish to please her. The risk of losing her is too great. When she gets a whiff of your wavering commitment, you promise you’re invested. “Don’t give up on me.”
The relationship inevitably ebbs and flows. You still love, but doubt creeps in. You’re not so enamored with certain things. They become harder to ignore. You question. You quarrel when you lose your patience. When you make up, you fall even more deeply in love than before. “What was I thinking? I’m crazy about her!” You may contemplate other lovers, but you know in your heart of hearts that nowhere else could ever excite you so completely. To leave might be the greatest regret of your life.
She continues to blow hot and cold, but you tolerate it. “She’s worth it”, you convince yourself. She can be fickle and callous though. She hurts your feelings, a lot, and just as you’re about ready to throw in the towel, she’ll pull an about face, engulfing you with such profound love, and reel you in once more. “Hey, she’s not perfect. No one is.” You try and hold on so tightly, but she’s just too big a personality to be contained. You have to trust that if it’s meant to be, you’ll go the distance together. You will grow and change, evolving in tandem, or you won’t.
You hang in there, determined to make it work, but she breaks your heart over and over again. She knows your weaknesses now. She has a mean streak and knows exactly what buttons to push. The veil lifts and you realize this has become really fucking dysfunctional. You are in fact miserable and have been for a while. She’s been doing most of the taking and you’ve got nothing left to give. “Maybe it is time to move on after all.” As much as it pains you, you come to the conclusion that even though you love her deeply, she’s not a good match for you. You’re just not long-term material. You can’t change her. She is who she is. You have to accept her, warts and all.
So, this thought seed begins to takes root: “I can’t do this anymore. I will always love her. She’s taught me more about myself than anyone I’ve ever known, but this just isn’t working anymore. I need to make a change and keep my heart open for a more compatible love that awaits me in the future.”
And one day, you finally work up the courage to say, “New York, we need to talk. It’s time we break up and go our separate ways. I love you, but I’m not in love with you anymore. I need to figure out who I am without you. This isn’t goodbye forever, just for now. I’ll be back, I promise. And when that day comes, I hope we can be friends….”
Have you ever fallen head over heels for a city, only to later realize that you best get the hell out of dodge? Are you having your own personal love affair with New York, or some other magical destination? I’d love to hear your story, so please leave a comment below. If this post resonates with you, share with a friend, and be sure to SUBSCRIBE (in the top right hand corner of this page) so you can receive all my freshly pressed posts directly to your inbox when they go live every week!