Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Men and (New York) City: Part 2
By Leeat Granek (Guest Voice)
I spent the last week bouncing around New York City. The classic wandering Jew. To my utter delight and dismay, I found the men here to be different than the Toronto cohort.
I was delighted because the guys talked to me everywhere. On the subway, in the park, on the street, and in the coffee shops. Conversation comes easy here. It’s fun and flirty and breezy and blasé all at the same time. And it’s constant. Hence, the dismay.
You’re never left alone here. Sometimes it’s flattering like when you are having a bad day and some hunky redhead tells you have a great smile. Other times, it’s just plain scary like when the tall, burly Russian man leered at me “you are sexy woman.”
It can get exhausting to be on guard all the time. My natural tendency to smile at the passerby’s was beaten out of me quickly and unceremoniously when a guy mistook my grin as an invitation and followed me out onto the subway platform.
I shouldn’t be complaining. Last week I whined about not getting enough attention and this week I am annoyed about getting too much. This might be one of those times when women are ambivalent, making it hard for the men to know what to do. Why, I wonder, can’t we strike a happy balance? Canadians are known for being moderate. Surely, this too can be negotiated.
I come frequently to New York and have noticed this guy phenomena before. I am invisible in Toronto and ridiculously detectable in New York. It’s like being some kind of weird superhero that appears and disappears depending on what side of the border I’m on. Maybe it has to do with the weather? It’s cold in Toronto. We huddle inside our coats and our heads, avoiding the wind and each other. In New York it is warmer, and so, in general, there is more heat between the sexes.
Or maybe it’s that there are just many more people to choose from in the big apple. The crowds mean more selection, but also a forced intimacy that rarely happens in Toronto. People bump into each other, brush up against one another on the subway, in the bars, and in the coffee shops. No one apologizes when they push you out of the way, or reach over you to get the sugar. Its just part of life here. There is friction. And it’s exciting.
Case in point. I am writing this blog in a small coffee shop in the West Village. I am sitting at a lovely communal table. It is old and made out of solid wood. Six other seats are open to strangers who are talking, eating, writing, texting, or typing away at their laptops. At this very table I met two German women here for the holidays, a set of academics discussing their students, an Israeli woman putting together a New Year's party (in typical Israeli last minute fashion, a day before the event!) and a lovely New York man on his way to an appointment. If it weren’t my last day here, it might have turned into something more.
The particulars of this table, however, are less important than the principle. There is an openness here that is both charming and irritating. It is the quintessential New York paradox that makes this place so compelling and it is ultimately what I think is missing from the Toronto scene.