I ventured to Williamsburg yesterday—truly a feat from the Upper East Side (gold star for me, please)—to see my friend Maia. I really like the physical environment of that Brooklyn enclave, but there’s something about all the trying-so-hard-to-be-hip humans crawling out of every nook and cranny that makes me a little nauseous. I half-joked to Maia that I immediately felt really uncool after exiting the subway—everyone looked as if they had spent hours calculating the perfect ratio of done up to undone…walking algorithms of intriguing nonchalance. But calculate is the key word. A lot of the sartorial sights seemed a little too contrived: less je ne sais quoi, more snobby French stereotype.
I started to wonder if I would drink that Kool Aid myself should I move to Brooklyn, and shuddered at the thought. The hipster take on Main Street that is Bedford Avenue just doesn’t strike me as the kind of place people comfortably venture out to in their PJs for morning coffee, hair genuinely a mess, rather than a mess you might call artful. It doesn’t seem like a neighborhood where your outfit is ever far from your consciousness, and even a clotheshorse like me finds that notion anxiety inducing. For as much as I love the occasional dress up day, with serious emphasis on occasional, I also like to spend days in clothes that could care less. That choice is especially comforting when other areas of my life need to take precedence–when fine-tuning my exterior would become just another chore among many.
I wasn’t always this way, mainly because the insecurities of youth (surely a different breed than the insecurities of fading youth) had me convinced that hours spent on my outside would render my insides the emotional equivalent of a Hawaii resort. Not so, I would eventually learn, after immeasurable hours spent tearing my closet apart (and with it, my general wellbeing) that probably wouldn’t pale in comparison to the excessive amount of time I’ve spent in front of this screen. Insert something trite about accepting yourself more as you age here, which is somewhat true, though not necessarily on all fronts.
Anyways, I tend not to court these hipster poster-children in my daily life—having learned over the years that the great majority are like repressed, angsty high schoolers, vying for revenge on the masses via arrogance and patchouli-scented disdain. Thus, Maia is not one of these ladies-or-gents so affected by affectation. She’s nearly the opposite, and in a way that I really admire. She’s also probably rolling her eyes at this attention from her Brooklyn kitchen right now, not being one of those entirely self-obsessed folks that can seem native to Manhattan.
Perhaps it’s because she grew up here, and while she might think the city’s shit doesn’t stink most of the time, she also knows that it can. She’s not immune to its charms, they’re just not a new reality for her that she has to live up to. Unlike for many current city dwellers, this is not a place she spent years dreaming about—this is the playground she’s traversed since birth. So she doesn’t try to blend in to New York, she was weaned on—she is—New York.
And of course, because of that, when I rolled up to her apartment yesterday and she was bare faced, wearing what appeared to be a super soft gray tee (I try not to feel my friends up, but we can at least speculate), and a pair of plaid pants that I’ve decided are something of her signature—though now with an unintentional, and thus all the more cool, tear in the knee—she had me hankering for her outfit-meets-attitude way more than any of the capital-C cool kids I’d just passed on the street. Brooklyn transplants could do to take a few tips, namely: “waking up like this” is not something you work at, it’s just something you do.