Dear Pretextual Creatures,
At what point can a transplanted resident of New York City call themselves a New Yorker? I googled this inquiry and received several link–due to my odd wording–about “selfish New Yorkers” refusing to give up their organs (thanks for the info, you fearmongers). I’ll try again: How long do I have to live in NYC to call myself a New Yorker? In one Yelp forum, users suggest varying time lengths ranging from 10 years to several decades, others say there is no official timeline, many “natives” claim the status is unachievable while others are less crass by getting super technical, agreeing that the definition of a “New Yorker” to be someone born in New York City but adding that transplants have the ability to reach a status of naturalization.
Like many questions I shout, I ask already knowing my answer–but by no means THE answer. I like to think that for every individual who moves to this great city, degrees of New York-ness differ. For some the move is career-motivated, perhaps in pursuit of fame or simply because the land to which they were born no longer offers a level of opportunity they seek to achieve; others it is to escape persecution, be it religious, political, or cultural; for some it is to follow those they love, or simply a change in scenery–an American youth Rumshpringa of sorts–to return after a period from whence they came; and for others, myself included, the migration occurs in hopes to finally find a place we feel we belong.
I officially moved here on January 18th, 2009, when I touched down at JFK via a one-way ticket purchased for about $70. It wasn’t the first time I was in NYC, but I knew it’d be the last time I’d be there as a visitor. In hindsight I can now see that New York City was always my home.
My childhood, despite being a great one thanks to my loving family, occurred in North Carolina by happenstance. My parents relocated south for work, choosing Raleigh, NC over Illinois, where I could have grown up a Chicagoan named Chloe (not sure one decision influenced the other). For many reasons including my lack of southern drawl and my Jewish upbringing, I failed to fit in, internally and externally–I was often verbally denied my status of native-North Carolinian because of the way I learned to place inflections, and one time I was accused of thinking I was “special” for passively revealing that I didn’t celebrate Christmas (bah humbug?). For all intents and purposes (and to quote the wiry but wise Vonnegut in his final words), I was a woman without a country.
Either because of this chain of experiences or simply an inherent understanding, my motto on the topic became: You don’t choose where you’re born, you choose where you live. And for as far back as I can remember, I had chosen New York City. NYC, for reasons that cannot be put to words, was the glimmer of hope that I would meet my kind–those weirdos of happenstance, born in towns that never quite fit, searching for a place to call home.
Hugs & Kisses,
J Straw Founder/Editor-In-Chief, Pretext Social Club
P.S. Here are some photos from my mother’s recent visit when we acted like a couple of New York City tourists, shot on my inherited Canon 35mm SureShot Ace.
P.P.S. Happy Autumn, I think.
Inefficiently en route to Five Points, Manhattan.
Doyer Street a.k.a. Bloody Angle, Chinatown, Manhattan.