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What Life Is All About

27 Jul

Last month, my godfather, Uncle Nick, passed away after a long battle with numerous health problems.  He was one of the best people I know.  He meant the world to my family, and we miss him so very much.

Uncle Nick was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back, whether he knew you or not…and then he’d pour you a glass of his homemade wine, feed you a dinner big enough for a whole army, and probably repair something in your house.  He had so many wonderful qualities and talents, but the best one, in my opinion, was the absolute kindness and friendliness he exuded every day of his life.  That is what I remember most about him, and that is what I try to emulate in my own life.

My family, circa 1987. Uncle Nick is on the far right. I'm sitting on my mom's lap. Like that old school wallpaper and paneling?

So, in honor of a wonderful human being, I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about the wonderful people I meet every day in NYC.  New Yorkers get a bad rap, and it annoys me to no end.  Of course in a population of millions there are sure to be some bad apples.  But in my experience, there are many more nice people walking past you on the street, than there are bad ones.  In this town, the areas you live in and frequent become your community.  People greet one another with “good morning” and ask about each others’ families.  They look out for one another.

My first experience with nice New Yorkers was my breakfast cart guy at NYU, during my freshman year of college.  He knew I was going to order a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese and a cup of tea, and every morning he gave me a warning about burning my tongue on the tea:  “wait a minute to drink this, sweetheart, it’s really hot.  And for you, only a dollar for everything.”

Since that first experience, I’ve met so many friendly food folks around the city:  in Harlem, at Miss Maude’s, my friend Damion had food ready for me every Wednesday night.  He’d sit and chat with me while I ate dinner.  At my favorite Mexican Place, Tajin, the proprietor knows my order and even corrected Agent Owens when he tried to order me the wrong meal once.  The halal cart guy near my Battery Park apartment used to commiserate with his regulars about rising rent costs.

But foodies aren’t the only nice guys ‘round these parts (like that rural talk?).  Last month, after Uncle Nick died, a woman saw me crying on the subway (I mentioned I was a mess that month, didn’t I?), and she came over to offer me tissues and ask if I was ok.  And a few days later, on a different subway car, my boss’s AMEX credit card was returned to him by a fellow straphanger after it fell out of his pocket.

One good citizen actually took things a step further when I used to work near Penn Station.  In a super crowded area of town, my driver’s license fell out of my wallet, and I actually didn’t notice until a few days later.  Before I even had time to get to the DMV for a replacement, my ID showed up in my mailbox.  A kindhearted lawyer (apparently that’s not an oxymoron) took the time to mail it back to me.  Similarly, a taxi driver once returned my dorm keys and school ID to the nearest NYU building, where I was later able to retrieve them.

Small, random acts of kindness happen all over this city every single day.  You may not notice them if you’re busy looking at skyscrapers on a quick trip through town.  But if you live here, take a look around.  You’ll see young men helping old women cross the street.  You’ll see someone help a blind stranger to maneuver through a subway station.  Someone will carry a stoller up a set of stairs for a young mom or give up their seat on the subway for a pregnant woman.  A delivery man will stop and ask you if you need help finding where you’re going, as you stand on a street corner trying to orient yourself.  And those drowsy folks you pass by on your morning commute will stop to say hello, if you just share a smile with them.

So, I’m asking for this:  this week, in memory of my Uncle Nick, and in the spirit of infusing a bit of good in the world, do something nice for another person.  It doesn’t have to be anything big or showy – just something to make another person’s day a little brighter.  Show folks that New Yorkers are big-hearted people.  That we’re considerate and conscientious people.  It would have been Uncle Nick’s birthday this past week, and I think he’d consider it a nice gift to know that a group of people (many of whom he never even met) passed along the kindness he always displayed.  What a nice legacy to leave behind.

 

Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living

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Love is in the Smoggy Air

25 May
  1. On Monday night I watched the season premiere of The Bachelorette. (Big Love is over, and Grey’s Anatomy isn’t aired on Mondays.  A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.)  This is unrelated, but my early bets are on JP, Ryan P., and West.
  2. I went to a wedding in Wisconsin this past weekend, wherein I watched two friends get married after dating for almost 10 years (!!!!!).
  3. At the wedding, I saw a friend from college whose date was a guy she met online.  He was super cool, and they were so sweet together.
  4. The online couple reinforced my belief in the power of relationships that start online – like my relationship with Agent Owens (yup, we met on match.com!).  It was a very love-filled, romantic weekend.
  5. It’s spring in NYC.  This is the season of drinking wine in the park and going for romantic strolls.  Well, if it ever stops raining for longer than 2 days, it will be that season.

Bottom line:  love is in the air.  And so, I thought to myself, “Self, what better time to talk about dating life in NYC?”

Everything is different done differently in this city, including dating.  This is not the kind of place where a guy rolls up to a girl’s house and drives her on a date.  This is a city where you take the subway to the restaurant – or a taxi, if you’re really feeling spiffy.  If you’re a girl, you may very well have your high heels thrown in your purse and you’ll have to stop a block away from the date place to change out of your “walking shoes”.  As for the location, you have an overwhelming number of restaurants and bars to choose from, and the ambiance of the place you pick could well set the tone of the date.  And, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, there’s the issue of actually trying to find that one great person who makes your heart skip a beat, in such a mass of humanity.  This can seem virtually impossible. So, the rules are different.

In my humble opinion one of the easiest ways to meet potenial partners is at school or work.  However, eventually college ends, and sometimes your working world consista of a company of 8 people (like mine), with no dating options.  Hell, I’m sure some of you at companies with 1000+ employees still think the pickings are slim!

Then, there’s the bar scene.  But it’s nearly impossible to imagine a future with a man who’s slurring his words or puking on your shoe.

Yea, nobody wants to date that drunk girl (me).

A third matchmaking option is that you could have a friend set you up.  Of course, if it doesn’t work out things can get awkward fast.  This is all starting to sound exhausting, isn’t it?

Enter, online dating.  There used to be a real stigma attached to this method of meeting a mate, but now, it’s quite commonplace.  And in the city, it just might be the best option.  Let’s be real here.  City people like to get shit done.  We move fast; we work late; we keep our smart phones attached to our bodies; we squeeze in social engagements; we knock you over if you’re walking too slowly; and we certainly don’t have time to mess around with culling through the millions of other residents of this town just to find a decent date.

Online match-making was made for us city-dwellers.  One can go online, pick the exact characteristics that they’re looking for in a partner, weed out the weirdos, and schedule as many dates as they’d like, with no string attached.  You can complete this whole search process from the comfort of your couch, and you can get messages from people directly to your email account.  What could be easier?

Intersted?  Here’s my advice after about 9 months, 50+ dates, and countless communications on match.com:

Step 1:  pick a website

As time goes on, the options for internet dating sites are becoming more numerous.  Depending on what you’re looking for, you might choose from one of the following well-known dating sites:

  • Match – good for high volumes of members
  • EHarmony – tends to be Christian-based, and makes matches for you
  • JDate – the best known Jewish singles site
  • OkCupid – free!
  • Lavalife – geared toward enjoying the single life
  • Zoosk – creator of the commercial with the dart thrower (my friend Joe and I watch this commercial over and over and over again.  “I’m getting’ stupid loose.”)

Step 2:  make a profile

The site will prompt you to fill out a profile, and this public description of yourself will likely change over time.  As you get into reading other people’s profiles, you’ll likely discover the best ways to present yourself, as well.  Highlight your best characteristics and the aspects of yourself that you consider important.  And most importantly, try to convey your own voice.  It’s easy to sound generic in these biographies.

Also, make sure you post photos that are flattering, but realistic.  No one wants to see how cute you looked 10 years ago.  They want to see what you look like now.

Step 3:  search for matches or sift through the matches your site has turned up

Depending on the site you use, you’ll do some combination of searching on your own and filtering match results that the site generates.  Whether your matches are computer-generated or self-selected, make sure you’re realistic about what you like and don’t like in each profile you view.  If something seems “off”, move on to the next person.  If you find someone you like, contact them.  Throughout your time on the site, you’ll get more savvy at filtering through the available members, and you’ll be less apt to hum and haw about sending an email or setting up a date.

Step 4:  make contact

Depending on the site you’re using, you’ll be able to make contact with the people you like via email, phone, text, wink, chat, etc.  Do what feels comfortable.  Try to get a feel for what the person is like.  On the other hand, don’t judge them too harshly for being awkward at first – afterall, talking to strangers is universally recognized as being extremely difficult for at least 50% of the population. Like how I just made up that statistic?  Yea, makes me sound like I know what I’m talking about.

Step 5:  go on a date

If there is one thing I would warn against, it would be endless strings of emails.  If you like someone based on their profile and their first couple of emails, go out for a drink with them.  You can waste so much time emailing back and forth with someone, only to find out when you meet them that they’re nothing like you thought they’d be.  Trust me, I know this from experience.  Meeting someone face-to-face will be the most efficient way to find out if they’re someone you’re interested in.

Also, you may be wondering why I said you should go get a drink.  Here’s the theory:  coffee dates can end up being very platonic and non-intimate; dinner dates will trap you at a table too long, especially if you wind up not liking the other person after minute 3; and hookups on the first meeting are just slutty.  You may be considering some more alternative type of date, but I’ll warn you against a few things:

  • Even if you’re a great chef, don’t cook for the person – they shouldn’t know where you live until you know them a little better.
  • Sporting events might seem great, but 9 innings of baseball is a long time to make small talk.
  • Concerts and movies are entertaining, but you won’t be able to talk with the other person much at all.

Drinks are ideal.  Even if you don’t drink, you can have a non-alcoholic beverage.  Either way, it will be short, sweet, and to the point.  Then, if you happen to have landed a date with Prince(ss) Charming, of course you can go out on a longer/cooler date after the drinks meeting.

Agent Owens and I actually ended up on a dinner date the first night (because I had another drinks date planned for earlier that same evening, hehe).  Here’s how it went down:  I talked his ear off for the entire evening and then somehow also convinced him to get drinks with me after our meal.  I thought he didn’t like me because he wasn’t really saying much, but it turns out I was taking up every minute of the date with MY talking.  Anyway, that was years ago.  Not that anything’s changed – I still talk his ear off, and he still hopes I’ll give myself a sore throat so that he can get a word in.

Me giving a psycho waiting-for-a-response stare, and Agent Owens thinking, "If this nutcase doesn't shut up, I'm going to lose my mind."

I will say that in nearly every instance of dating someone I’d met on Match, I found myself with a nice and respectful person.  Even though most of the guys weren’t right for me, I was lucky enough that no one was ever a complete disaster.  For me, I scanned the male-membership for tall, non-pale, non-Republicans.  Once I found someone I liked, the preliminary conversations and emails really only established that the person was intelligent enough to put together a full sentence.  Then, I’d plan a date.  I made dates pretty fast and furiously, believing that sheer quantity would get me a better chance of finding a great guy.

I ended up dating one guy from Match for a couple of months, and then I met Agent Owens.  We’ve been together ever since.  So, I’m going to go ahead and pat my own back here for being an online dating success.  The dirt is being brushed off my shoulder as we speak.  That said, here are my NYC online dating TIPS!:

  1. Find the right site for you.  Research a bunch – they all have different costs, different search methods, and different standard operating procedures.  Most importantly, they all attract a different type of member.
  2. Be yourself – in your profile and in person.  Sounds cheesy, but if you’re an opinionated chatterbox like me, you may as well portray that from the get-go and end up with someone who likes puts up with those qualities.
  3. Be honest with yourself about what you want.  Don’t settle for someone just because they’re good-looking.  If there’s a glaring red flag (like they’re uber-religious and you’re a confirmed atheist), don’t expect them to change for you.  This is your chance to hand-pick someone who is exactly what you’ve always been looking for.  Take advantage.
  4. Pick public places for dates.  Safety first.
  5. Always make the first date a drinks date (see above for the reasoning).
  6. Tell a friend where you’ll be on your dates.  This helps for safety purposes, and it also give you someone who can help you out with a fake-emergency call if the date is truly tedious.  My friend Karen knew every date I ever went on while I was a member of Match and always checked on me to make sure things were going ok.  What a gal.  She’s actually getting married to a guy she met online, later this year.  He’s a gem, an I’m sure this is her good karma for being my date support for all those months.
  7. Don’t be afraid to actually make dates and meet people.  It is much easier to form an opinion of someone in person, and you’ll waste less time than if you email back and forth a ton of times.
  8. When you do email people, do NOT send generic form emails.  It’s a big turn-off when you’re the recipient of a note that you can tell has been sent to 50 other people.  Take the time to be genuine and mention something that you liked or noticed in the other person’s profile.
  9. If you go on one or two dates and realize you don’t really like the person, text them a nice note to let them know you’re not interested.  Don’t drag people around on dates that aren’t going anywhere.  Personally, I used to say “Hi!  Just wanted to thank you for the date last night – it was really nice to meet you.  Unfortunately, I just don’t feel the spark I wanted to feel.  Hope you find someone great, very soon, though!”  To the point, but kind.
  10. If you find the perfect person, on your 5th date or your 50th date, don’t hold yourself  back.  Don’t play games or be emotionally unavailable.  Just go with it, and enjoy.

Going with it, and enjoying.

Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living