New Yorkers have a rep for being tough-as-nails, foulmouthed a-holes. And we are! But we are also some of the kindest, most tolerant, most loving, creative citizens. I happen to think we are incredibly warm—always happy to help a lost, map-twisting tourist; lend an opinion on the best pizza; or share tricks of the style trade. But to be a real New Yorker, you need to be able to instantly slip on your crocodile skin. Like those weird conference rooms that have a switch to make the glass windows opaque, New Yorkers need to become suddenly impermeable.
Some angry dude yells something awful at you when you jaywalk past his truck? It ain’t personal. Some catty SoHo hostess sneers and says she won’t seat your incomplete party of two? Summon a curt smile and say you’ll gladly start ordering. A competitive mom glaring at your verbal kid, a loud-mouthed trader in a gray suit, a whistling construction worker—all can evaporate if you shrug them off as part of the eclectic bouillabaisse of our crowded, bustling city. I’m the least earthy person I know (I’m very indoorsy), but I like to think of myself as made of layers, like this blue-green orb we call home. On the surface, or the crust, I am incredibly friendly. But if I am messed with (to use polite language), you get the lava coursing under the mantle of civility. And then my core is nice again! Most of my fellow New Yorkers have similar layering, though some have more fire burning underneath than others.
Southerners may have their smiley charm, and Californians may be chill, bro-accepting huggers, but I’d take New Yorkers any day. New Yorkers own up to their spikes. I’d rather have some rough-around-the-edges cabbie tell me to watch where the hell I’m going than a grinning blonde with a basket of welcome muffins who then gossips behind my back. With all its edges and noise and chaos, the seeming cacophony somehow yields the most beautiful symphony of diverse cuisines, arts, humor: a buzzy kaleidoscope you only truly see through when you live here. And if that requires a little extra toughness to navigate, it’s totally worth it. I believe our emotional armor protects enormous New Yorker hearts, iron gloves shielding velvet fists.
Lifelong New Yorker Jill Kargman is the writer and star of Bravo’s Odd Mom Out, based on her book Momzillas.