There are certain parts of New York – say the West Village, Soho, and even Williamsburg – that give the feel of a small town in a big city. The buildings are shorter, the streets are less crowded and frantic, and the people, seemingly calmer and happier. It’s reasonable to spend all day lounging in a cafe drinking coffee, that somehow, they don’t charge for refills – and still stay in business. There are more couples and families, and yet the singles still roam wild and free. You see less and less corporate and more and more locally owned and there’s this greater sense of community that can’t be found in Meatpacking, Chelsea, or even the Upper West/East sides.
To me, the characters of the villages seem like the ones who have found themselves established and secure, comfortable and at home in a place that entertains transplants, commuters, and tourists day-end-and-day-out. These residents of micro communities, usually dressed in black and boots, hair partially dried and unnamed bag in tow – have done what any NYC-wannabe aims to do: they’ve become New Yorkers. They’ve created little worlds inside of a huge ones, homes within the perimeter of industrial, and codes of conduct that don’t apply past West 4th or north of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Quite like the boroughs and the districts that divide and designate the many lands of Manhattan – something happens when two become one, when casual becomes serious, and when fear of commitment subsides to the need to just be. For whatever reason, in an unexplained manner to outsiders, being in a relationship does more than eliminate your single status, it creates an alternative universe of chemistry-specific coupleness.
Being in a relationship, in a lot of ways, is like being in a whole new world (mind the trite Aladdin reference here) – and if you’re lucky (or is it unlucky?), being in love turns your schedule and your life upside down in the most blissful of ways.
Yesterday, I spent a great deal of time navigating downtown, a hundred streets away from my apartment, observing the energy and the interactions of inhabitants. And what I discovered, beyond any reasonable doubt, is couples of every shape, form, age, race, or mood – blend into one another. Perhaps I mainly saw those who had been together for years or were just madly in love, but somehow, those I walked by, seemed as if they were happily lost away, out of the city, out of the village, and deeply engrossed in each other – in their own personal sphere.
They walked in sync, step-for-step. They discussed topics of no particular interest in an interesting fashion. They sipped coffee and laughed, held hands, and peered into each other’s eyes. They sat cuddled on the bench, in the corner booth, by the exit of the train. They sat side-by-side, across from one another, and shared sentiments I’d never be able to decipher. Glances were hidden but clear, touches were stolen but remembered, and thoughts were shared, but secret.
In the way that becoming a New Yorker means settling into a community, finding your way among thousands upon thousands of people, and being comfortable enough to really not give damn about how you look while fetching the morning paper- is the appeal of a relationship due to having a partner who gets you? Who you can be a little freak with, dispense those characteristics or mannerisms that others may not understand, and at the end of the day, be accepted just as you are?
Is being in a love a way to establish yourself? A way to prove to the strangers you pass, the fathers who continously ask for grandchildren, and all of those silly married friends who found love many moons ago – that yes, I’m not defected, I’m not unlovable. There is someone who wants me, someone who I can be myself around, and see life through not only my eyes, but their perspective too?
Is being a couple like being in a super-secret, difficult to be admitted into, only for the privileged, membership program? Is love like a club for two?
If so – for a long time, I was doing all that I could to be sent my acceptance letter to the School (or city) of Love.
Had I pranced around the streets, chasing the pigeons as I usually do, say, six months ago – as happy as the energy of the streets made me, I would have still felt sad. Passing double doses when I was a single serving, seemed to always rub me the wrong way. The simple reminder that others had found love, had found someone who wanted them, had this immeasurable power to instantly make me feel awful. To give me the impression and the sense that I wasn’t worth the love, that I wasn’t part of this unknown world I had rarely passed, that this highly desired title of taken, just wasn’t meant for me.
By judging myself against the women I wanted to be – those who were dazzling in the loveliness of love – I just didn’t measure up. My standards must had been too low or high, my scores on the girlfriend test had failed below average, and the uniform I was to wear as someone’s lady, just didn’t hug me in all the right places.
I had, in fact, been rejected from the very place I wanted to be. Access had been denied.
But now, with a little focus on self-love and a lot of patience with myself, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that love isn’t a microcosm or alternative universe left to be traveled. It isn’t just found on McDougall, Prince, or Park Slope. It isn’t an all-exclusive resort that few can afford and some can enjoy the lavish luxury of. It isn’t meant for those who are the best or for those who give and take love with the most ease.
Like the neighborhoods of New York – that many of us cycle through during our time on this island – being in love isn’t limited to our address or even our final destination – but it is found in each and every step. In whatever place we happen to find ourselves at. Because even when we do stumble upon a man who actually wants to be exclusive, a person who is worth rearranging our calendar for, or perhaps just someone who knows the best way to make us laugh – we still remain part of the world. The West Village is still part of New York, and being an an individual is still part of being a couple. No matter how much we escape from the bigger picture to focus on the smaller.
If there is a club of love – we should all rest assured that we’re all accepted. We’ve all passed the tests with flying colors and we’ve all failed miserably. And after all is said and done, after we move away from the relationship or away from the brownstone, we’re still part of the world. Part of the universe that forever, without question, will always let us back into the love club, time and time again.