Being A Working Woman In A Man’s City

Walking down Fashion Avenue with my white lace skirt blowing against my legs, I hear two men shouting, “Damn, I love this city. And I love gorgeous women.”

Mind you, it’s 8:30 a.m.

The two women walking next to me in pencil skirts and designer handbags rolled their eyes. “Sometimes I just want to turn around and yell back ‘would you talk to your daughters this way?’ That would shut them up,” one woman said.

“It’s disgusting,” said the other. “I can’t even walk down the fucking street to go to work without getting harassed.”

And then they turned the corner and their conversation shifted to their plans for this coming weekend, as if they’d never heard those men shouting.

Many women in New York City experience this every day, myself included. I feel like I have to pull my dress down even further or cinch up my shirt as I walk past the group of leering construction workers next to my building. I stood on line for a smoothie the other day wearing a very modest dress and a man looked at me agonizingly slowly from head to toe, and said “nice dress.” I can’t even count the number of times I’ve walked past a man and had him shout the words “so hot” in my face and walk away. Not to mention the men that sit at the tiny chair and tables on Broadway and turn around to very blatantly stare at a woman’s ass as she walks by.

It’s infuriating and demeaning, and yet, just like the two women on my morning commute, I do nothing but roll my eyes. Why? Because of the other hardship we face as the weaker sex — fear of retaliation. What if a guy shouted something at me, or touched me or harassed another woman? What if I said how I really feel, and told him to fuck off? Would he get mad and attack me? Would he scream back and further embarrass me?

So I keep my head down and keep moving. I roll my eyes and go off on a silent tirade. I complain about how a working woman can’t be noticed for her intellect and watch it happen all over again on my walk home from work.

The good men do exist. They stand up for us or tell the leering men to stop acting like pigs. A man once got off a subway and punched another man in the face for touching and harassing a woman standing next to me. But far too often these men don’t stand up, and the only voices heard are those of the pigs degrading women.

There may statistically be more women in New York City than men, but we seem to be nothing more than an objectified minority.

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Come To New York For The Experience — Stay To Fall Madly In Love

I wish I could adequately describe the feeling I have ascending the steps out of Penn Station every morning at 8:30 a.m. sharp. It’s what I imagine a first love to feel like. It’s that first sip of coffee passing through your lips in the morning, or watching a sunset slowly paint the sky orange, but amplified by an innumerable amount.

I walk the same littered path every day, my heels clicking against the sidewalk. I cross the street quickly and walk three blocks uptown, dodging the people selling newspapers and shouting “good morning New York” with an authentic Brooklyn flair.

I turn onto 37th street and cross Broadway, smiling as the same man holding a Dunkin Donuts sign informs everyone that their store front is straight ahead, halfway up the block.

For the duration of the walk, the Empire State Building towers over our heads, causing tourists to stop in the middle of the sidewalk for a photo and causing NYC residents to roll their eyes, annoyed by the break in pace. But who can blame the gawkers? When you have a landmark of the greatest city in the world staring back at you, how can you not take a step back and appreciate it every once in awhile?

New York City in general makes me feel grateful. It makes me feel liberated. It makes me feel like I can do whatever and be whoever I want. It makes me feel drunk, high, happy. It makes me feel things I’ve never experienced with anyone before.

I imagine it feels like the joy a parent has watching their child take his or her first steps. It’s probably similar to the way that child feels at that moment as well — a little unsteady, unbalanced, unsure of what to do next or where to go with this newfound power.

It feels limitless, like endless possibilities exist.

It feels like receiving an embrace by all 8.4 million estimated residents, and simultaneously being told to fuck off by all of them as well.

The city pushes and pulls like the tides, dictated by the crowds of people instead of the moon.

It challenges, motivates, perseveres and pressures. Most might not call it welcoming, but it proves tough love to be true.

The buildings that seem to endlessly stretch toward the clouds have seen joy, pain, struggle, poverty, wealth and every other human emotion that exists. They breathe these emotions into the streets, intoxicating us by the sheer magnitude of it all.

I wish I could adequately describe the feeling I have when my train passes under the tunnel from Long Island and enters this “concrete jungle.” I imagine it’s a lot like falling in love.

When Sleepless Nights Become an Accomplishment

Like many other college students, I’ve occasionally stayed at the library so long that I’ve fallen asleep on top of my books and notecards.

I’ve “pulled an all-nighter” to finish an assignment or to study for an exam I didn’t properly prepare for.

I’ve gone out to the bars and stayed until close and then stayed up an extra hour after that eating pizza and engaging in drunken shenanigans with my friends.

And then the morning comes.

The alarm goes off at 5:45 a.m. and you groan, desperately trying to quiet the obnoxious noise. You lay in bed for an extra 5 minutes contemplating if going to the gym/work/class is really that important.

Finally you get up. You make a cup of coffee – and then another. You dress in a zombie state of mind and drag yourself to your destination.

Eventually, you perk up little by little and proceed to tell everyone you only got 5 hours of sleep last night.

“I was up studying all night for that exam.” “I woke up so early to workout this morning.” “I stayed late at the office last night to get some extra work done.”

Society values sleepless nights. Staying late at the office is a sign of dedication. Sometimes I respect or envy someone that stayed up late studying for an exam more so than I respect myself for falling asleep at 9 p.m.

Pulling an all nighter is like being accepted into this cool, exclusive club of over-achievers. Staying late at work proves motivation to a boss. Waking up aggressively early proves effective time management. Being the last student to walk out of the library feels like an accomplishment.

Why does sleeplessness signify more respected values than a good night’s sleep? Why do I feel more accomplished the bigger the bags under my eyes grow?

48 Things I Wish I Knew as a Teenage Girl

  1. Your mother is always right, no matter how much you don’t want to admit it.
  2. You should learn how to cook at least one meal.
  3. Those 5 or 6 Oreos won’t kill you – eat them while you still can.
  4. Being a nerd is more attractive than purposely acting stupid.
  5. You won’t miss the party of the year just because you decide to stay in one weekend.
  6. Most people drink in college, but it’s okay if you don’t.
  7. In moderation, alcohol isn’t poison.
  8. A man that doesn’t respect your decision not to have sex is not worth your time.
  9. Sexism still exists – never stop fighting for what you want.
  10. You won’t automatically gain the freshman 15 just from drinking a couple of beers and binging on pizza every now and then.
  11. Running sucks, and there are so many other ways to stay healthy and exercise.
  12. Brussel sprouts don’t suck as much as they did when your mother made you eat them before you left the dinner table.
  13. Bubble baths are not just for babies.
  14. No one will remember or care what clothes you wore to school.
  15. College is nothing like your high school english teacher says it is.
  16. You shouldn’t have sex in high school – not for a religious or moral reason, but because it’s inexperienced. Men don’t understand how to make it a pleasant experience until you’re older.
  17. Your number doesn’t mean shit.
  18. Every person who enters the women’s bathroom gets their period. You don’t have to try and muffle the sound of your tampon wrapper.
  19. It’s not the end of the world if you miss a practice for an after-school sport.
  20. College is so much better than high school.
  21. Most of the friends you have freshman year of college won’t be your friends by senior year and that’s ok.
  22. You don’t have to be friends with everyone and it’s ok if you’re not loved by everyone.
  23. Bars are not the place to meet quality men.
  24. Your mom’s cooking really isn’t that bad, especially compared to dining hall food.
  25. Making money during the summer is a lot more important than taking days off to work on your tan.
  26. A tan isn’t worth the risk of getting cancer and using a tanning bed wastes a lot of money.
  27. Being an undeclared major is almost smarter than coming into college declared – most people change their major anyway.
  28. It’s ok to quit a club because you don’t like it anymore, even if you hold a position of leadership or authority.
  29. Taking a personal day every now and then won’t ruin your GPA.
  30. Ben & Jerry’s can heal all wounds.
  31. Wine has the same power.
  32. If your friends don’t like your boyfriend, they’re probably right about him.
  33. Everyone gets zits.
  34. Remembering to wear your retainer every night may be a pain in the ass but you’ll be thankful when your teeth stay straight.
  35. Coffee is not bad for you, it is not disgusting and it is 100% worth the risk of stained teeth. That’s what Crest white strips are for.
  36. Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but sometimes it’s not doable. Keep snacks in your car.
  37. Sleepovers suck. Don’t be angry when your mom says you can’t go.
  38. Your siblings will be your biggest allies in the future – don’t burn bridges.
  39. Always have an umbrella handy and dress in layers.
  40. Bagels don’t cure hangovers – iced coffee does.
  41. Sit near the door in class if you’re hungover.
  42. Never leave the house for an extended period of time without a phone charger.
  43. You have your entire life to make your own rules so abide by your curfew. Staying out past 10 isn’t worth the consequences.
  44. Never go shopping when you’re hungry.
  45. You don’t have to be nice to everyone – stand up for yourself.
  46. Don’t buy every “required” textbook for a class.
  47. Don’t get caught up in all the crap life hands you, because in 5 or 10 years it won’t be relevant. Live a little and enjoy the time you have.
  48. Nothing will make you happier than doing what you love.

When You’re Chronically Busy

People always ask me why I take on so much more than I can handle. On any given day, I can be seen walking at a New York City pace across campus rushing to be somewhere. When I take out my Kate Spade planner in class it’s covered completely in a million different assignments, reminders, or meetings coordinated by pen color. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I can be found changing my outfit in the admissions office bathroom before running to class.

Most of what I do on campus doesn’t have anything to do with my future career either. Most of what I do is for my own enjoyment (or punishment, call it what you’d like). There is absolutely no reason for me to be taking 21 credits, or to have an international studies minor, or to work eight hours in the admissions office.

I also get asked why I live so far into the future. While some people are still undecided in their career path as a junior, I can tell you where I want to be in 5 years, and then 5 years after that, and even 5 years after that. I can tell you where I want to live, how I want my career to progress, what type of dog I want and even what color I want to paint the walls of my NYC apartment.

Some days I don’t even have time to eat lunch. Instead, I eat a bag of trail mix on the way to one of my classes.

The only time I can ever answer either of these questions honestly is when i’m not doing anything, and I think that’s the problem. I overbook myself to the point where all I want to do is lay in bed and eat Ben&Jerry’s because as soon as I slow down or succumb to the ice cream, I start to think. I start to question what happens if my 15 year plan doesn’t work out, or I start to worry about never finding a husband, or I start to think about the fact that I graduate in less than two years. Everything becomes real when I slow down and it’s terrifying.

The future isn’t real yet. In a way, I never have to face reality and the pain and fear and confusion that comes with it. I can live day by day without ever thinking about anything except the task at hand or how it’s going to benefit me in the future. Some people say that this isn’t living, that i’m going to regret not taking the time to live in the here-and-now.

Maybe I will. But right now I can honestly say that being busy enough to distract myself from pain or fear or loneliness is a pretty damn good idea.

So I guess the question you should ask me isn’t why I do so much or why I live so far into the future – it’s what am I going to do when I finally catch up with myself.