Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ten Things Every Black Woman Should Have If She Lives in New York City

I've seen way too many of these "ten things" lists floating around -- and so have you. Most of them say things that are generally true for anyone, not just women.  None of them speak to me, especially when they say insist that's not the case.  Unless you're rich, independently wealthy or bankrolled in some other way (your parents bought your apartment! yay!), living in New York City is a very difficult proposition. The fabulousness of paying four figures a month to live in Williamsburg or Bushwick or Harlem just isn't enough after awhile. Something else has to soften the blow. 

If I didn't have all of these things, the quality of my life in New York City would take a decidedly downward turn. FYI: This list is not in order and it's totally in flux. Next week, it could morph into something else.
  1. A strong sense of personal style -- By now, you should know the difference between fashion (what trends/a clothing designer/your favorite pop star tells you to wear) and style (self expression).  You and your closet shouldn't be at the mercy of what's in or what's out.  I'm aware of what's fashionable and a lot of it looks like (expensive) fun but if I can't look like myself when I put my clothes on, what's the point. As a performer, I'm in the business of expressing myself.  Being me when I get dressed is the natural order of things so maybe there's an unfair advantage in there somewhere.  New York City is the place where your individuality is an asset because it sets you apart from the common herd.  Then again, if you really don't love yourself enough to be yourself in the first place, the wheels are going to come off that bus pretty fast.
  2. Excellent physical health -- You don't have to be in peak physical condition to live here but trust me, it helps. When I moved to Harlem, I lost weight and stayed lean in part because I suddenly found myself walking and riding my bike everywhere.  It was a drastic change from a place like Atlanta, for example, where everyone drives everywhere for anything.  Even going up and down the stairs to get on and off the subways will wear you out, if you do it on a regular basis. Then again, you can jump in and out of cabs to get around -- if you can catch one.  Aside from all that, being sick can be pretty expensive -- and what with all the money you're already throwing up in the air to live here, you really don't want to spend more on something that possibly could have been prevented.
  3. A friend in the Garment District  -- When what is fashionable and trendy loses its luster, it gets sold -- sometimes for as much as 90% below what you would have paid when it was on the rack.  You can sign up for alerts for sample sales to your favorite designers -- but if you know someone who works there (and what with six degrees of separation, you probably do), they can let you into the sale before it happens.
  4. A spiritual life
  5. A strong connection to your family (how ever you define it) and your community (the world your family lives in).
  6. A sister who will (lovingly and tactfully) tell you the truth and a brother who will always have your back.
  7. Your Own Private Hair Guru -- I don't care what you've got -- a tight weave, a closet full of wigs, a blow dryer that's your hair's best friend or a T.W.A. When it's time to get your hair done properly, you've got to have your go-to person on speed dial.  They're affordable, they're convenient and they usually know your hair better than you do. You didn't open a phone book to figure this out. You asked a sister and she told you what's up. Black folks live and die by word of mouth. Period.
  8. A well worn passport -- The importance of traveling internationally need hardly be stressed. Get out there. See the world. It will change your life. (Start here.)
  9. A museum membership -- This is quite literally the gift that keeps on giving. There are hundreds of museums, cultural sites, historical establishments and the like in New York City.  Most of them are internationally recognized and much lauded, and quite a few are trendy little hotspots.  Some of them offer memberships. If you join at a certain level -- and yes, you can write most of your fee off on your taxes -- that's where the fun begins.  There are events, parties, galas, previews for openings and lots of other exclusive diversions, not to mention added discounts and free passes to other museums all over the country.
  10. A diverse group of friends that includes at least one WASPy looking white guy -- Because when your fun night is over, someone has to put you in a cab. When there's some flak in any given social situation, someone has to smooth things over. And if there's a "problem", someone has to talk to the police -- and you and I both know that probably shouldn't be the black man in the room.

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