DC, a girlfriend of mine who has lived in this country’s capital for years now, and moved to it from Canada, leaping right over NYC without ever tarrying there, worries that when she is old and senile, she will sit her grandchildren on her lap and tell them all about life in New York in the ’90s. “We had so much fun in those days,” she’ll say. “We used to hang out at Central Perk and get into all kinds of mischief. If it weren’t for Monica, we’d all have been eating Ramen noodles and KD. I don’t know what Chandler did, but Ross was happy to tell anyone and everyone he was a doctor–although really! it was not-that-kind-of-doctor–he was a paleontologist! Rachel had such pretty hair; everyone wanted to have hair like hers. And Phoebe? Oh, could Phoebe make us all laugh. What a kook! Joey . . . I wonder what happened to Joey? He moved to LA at some point . . .”
Ah, life in lower Manhattan, where a chef, an IT manager, a professor, a waitress, a rarely-employed actor, and a massage therapist can all live the same luxurious life with salon-blown hair, spacious apartments, and the hippest clothes. If it was true on TV, surely it’s true in life! Too bad I can’t convince The Scientist that it doesn’t matter that we’re only living off $50,000–it would be totally awesome for us to raise LL, Cool J, and Baby MoFo in an apartment just like the sweet 300-square-foot bachelorette pad I used to have in Soho. How fun it was! They can have little friends all around them just as I had not-so-little friends all around me (so what if the public schools generally suck, and private schools cost $30,000+/year and require a battery of IQ tests? It’s all good!).
Back in the last millennium, when I went to bed at 3am for reasons other than a puking child or a teething baby, I had my good friend, Chanda, in the building next door–
A few blocks over in NoLiTa lived The Investment Banker, possibly the most sociable woman in the world who would finish work at midnight and be ready to go party (and who is still painting the town red—only the town is now almost 10,000 miles away)–
There was also the Investment Banker’s sometimes-roommate, Mama Brasilia, another party girl; and to the west, near the Hudson, lived another 3 lovely ladies who were a part of our core group of Canadian Chiquitas in The Big Apple: Fashionista, The Kitten, and Prairie.
The Canadian Chiquitas had a blast. We went for dinner or drinks, shopped, hit the nightclubs (all south of 14th street), stayed on friends’ boats or in country houses in the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore, and cried over boys who had not ended our dates by kissing us (and were therefore clearly gay) or subsequently fingered us (the precursor to IM, remember? which, for you young’uns, we might call the precursor to texting)(get your mind out of the gutter!). Life was good.
I’m pretty sure I was supposed to be sharing a studio apartment and using milk crates for book cases. Dojo was supposed to be a fancy night out on the town (I did like their carrot-hummus dressing, I confess). Also, my friendships with people who earned 10x what I earned were not supposed to be seamless (although–apart from “The One with 5 Steaks and an Eggplant”–they were on Friends!). Perhaps I was supposed to behave the way a fellow from my cohort behaved when confronted with an investment-banker type–a little befuddled, a little pedantic, a little freeloading . . .
Or maybe I’m being judgmental. To end today’s post, I offer you an alternative to my idea of happy coexistence despite salary inequity, based on an only somewhat imagined transcript of a date between the The Investment Banker and one of my colleagues (whom I confess I set up with each other for no better reason than they were both Jewish and single):
The setting: My “Cheers” (The Green Chair might be a good name for it)
The principal characters: The Investment Banker and GradJew
The Duration: Short
The Investment Banker: “So. You study English.”
The Investment Banker: “Have you read Bridget Jones’s Diary?”
The Investment Banker: “I don’t have a lot of time to read, but that book made me laugh. You should try it!”
GradJew: “I actually study literature.”
The Investment Banker: “Oh.”
GradJew: “So. You’re a banker.”
The Investment Banker: “Yes.”
GradJew: “I don’t know much about modern banking. But did you know that Jules Verne was a stockbroker before he became a writer?”
The Investment Banker: “Uh–no.”
GradJew: “Of course most of what I know is about banking in 18th-century Britain. Both Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders practically read as accounting manuals. Defoe was a pioneer of economic journalism.”
The Investment Banker: “Huh.”
GradJew: “Surely you’re familiar with the line ‘T’enjoy the World’s Conveniences … Fraud, Luxury, and Pride must live’–from The Grumbling Hive or, Knaves Turn’d Honest? I mean, clearly Mandeville‘s notion that ‘Private Vices … may be turned into Public Benefits’ preceded and gave rise to Smith’s economic theory that the pursuit of self-interest benefits society as a whole.”
The Investment Banker: “Oh.”
Server: “Here’s your check.”
Silence. Both wait, then both pull out their wallets. Here is when that class dance is supposed to ensue–he’ll go to pay, she’ll say they should split it, he’ll pshaw her idea, she’ll insist, he’ll insist . . .
GradJew: “Well, you make more money than I do. You can pay! Nice meeting you!”