“If there is a line of demarcation in this story, a single moment where I crossed the boundary between debtlessness and total financial mayhem, it’s the first dollar that I put toward achieving a life that had less to do with overt wealth than with what I perceived as intellectual New York bohemianism. It seems laughable now, but at the time I thought I was taking a step down from the Chanel suits and Manolo Blahniks of my office job. Hanging out at the Cuban coffee shop and traipsing over the syringes and windblown trash of upper Broadway, I was under the impression that I was, in a certain way, slumming. And even though I was having a great time and becoming a better writer, the truth was that the year I entered graduate school was the year I stopped making decisions that were appropriate for my situation and began making a rich person’s decisions. Entering this particular graduate program was a rich person’s decision. But it’s hard to recognize that you’re acting like a rich person when you’re becoming increasingly poor.”
Meghan Daum, “My Misspent Youth”
Not related, or at least not consciously related, to my brief rant last week about my inability to comprehend New York City real estate prices, I started reading Meghan Daum’s essay collection My Misspent Youth over the weekend and was of course kind of gutted by the title piece, which was written, I think, in the late 1990s or early 2000s, but, if adjusted for inflation and a few key economic differences (she mentions friends getting rich off the stock market—although, well, I guess that still happens, doesn’t it?), could have basically been written this month, or last year, or at any point since. Much of it seems very tied to living in New York specifically but the general warped patterns of thinking about money and class and ambition apply everywhere, of course. Or at least I have certainly witnessed it in my own very-non-New York life (if not in myself, then in others, for sure). It makes pretty gutting tax day reading, if you need some of that. Or you could just eat some free Arby’s and barf and die like you probably want to anyway.
“This one-bedroom in Battery Park for $3,600 is a good example. It is advertised at 687 square feet, which is so precise I’m guessing the realtor measured the inside of the closet. How big is 687 square feet? Well, for contrast, the Elephant Center affords each adult male elephant 3,100 square feet. (An elephant 2-bedroom, so to speak, is 4,900 square feet.) Sounds palatial, doesn’t it? If you’re just squeezing an elephant somewhere temporarily, say in a stall overnight, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Standards for Elephant Management and Care from 2011 mandate a minimum of “no less than 600 square feet.” But in the long-term, that would be inhumane.”
The Billfold | What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Live in New York City
This gives me hives. I know where and how people live is generally a very personal and idiosyncratic decision often impacted by a number of complicated and uncontrollable factors and desires, and I know that I have literally been to New York City once in my whole life, as a high-school junior, actually just about ten years ago this spring, and I know that as a young writerly type perhaps I should be at least willing to consider the possibility that my “career” would be “better off” if I was willing to make that move, but I very personally cannot comprehend how in the world that would ever be an attractive possibility, mostly because—THAT IS SO MUCH MONEY. SO MUCH MONEY. And so little space. Actually I think that might be roughly around the same amount of space of the house (two-bedroom, backyard) Joe and I just moved into, maybe a little smaller, but we pay roughly one third of that. And that is actually pretty low for Atlanta so I feel conspicuous even telling people who live here about it, but I feel like every so often I need to remind the outside world (ie, people paying so so much as much or less space in New York City—the rest of America is probably more on our scale, or even lower!) that there are other options, and other cities, other places where you will be able to live happy and fulfilled and challenging lives, and also go out to eat more, or buy an elephant, or whatever you want to do with the thousands of extra dollars a month you don’t have to sink into a shitty little box you don’t even own.
“In Manhattan, a $60,000 salary is equivalent to someone making $26,092 in Atlanta.”
“Conventional wisdom might say that women over 50 are most concerned about how they look, how many wrinkles they have and how young they appear.”