Notes From the Big City

Observations from New York City:

1. I am the only woman in Manhattan with short hair. 

It’s like religion here, for women to have long hair. The only woman who did have short hair was the Saks Fifth Avenue salesperson. She complemented on my hair, and while I know she’s paid to do exactly that, I immediately bought three Gucci-lipsticks.

I envy all the unreal manes that come my way, and then try to remember the reasons why I cut mine: in short, mine was never going to be an unreal mane. In a good way.


I am presenting you evidence above. It is bad quality because I used filter to get rid of the yellowness. I went to a book signing by one of my favourite Instagram illustrators, Julie Houts (@jooleeloren) at Kate Spade store on Madison Avenue. I was basically going almost directly from the airport, except that I had a quick cocktail with a friend before, but so yes basically directly, and once I was in the shop I realised it was going to be a very intimate affair. We were a handful of people. Which is just as well, because Houts’ mane clearly needs a room to itself. 

Everybody else was all glossy hair and cute dresses while I looked like an Upper West Side psychiatrist in (by now crinkled) linen getup. Also I had not prepared a question and felt massively intimidated, but then fuelled by the combination of the cocktail and jet lag I launched into a short, hyperventilatory presentation about how much we in Europe enjoy Houts’ observations on Trump. 

I only felt mortified afterwards when I realised that the point of the book signing was to actually buy the book, which I had already, but did not take with me on this trip because it weighs a ton. Again I was too intimidated to ask Houts to sign a random piece of paper or my notebook. Staring at the glossy crowd from my short-haired & middle aged corner, I kind of slouched down the stairs like a tired slinky and made an embarrassed exit from the store. So European of me.

2. I am the only person on Manhattan who does not have dietary restrictions.

– Any allergies, ma’m?

– No, I’m good thanks.

(Face emerges) – So just that you know there’s onion in the taco sauce.

– Yeah I’m good.

(Face shrugs and leaves)

Next time I’ll mention something about night shade legumes. I’m not sure what they are, but I read there’s a diet that makes you not eat them. I think it was keto. 


3.Customer is King.

This is intimidating for someone whose favourite city is Paris and who’s thus become a sucker for punishment. I generally don’t want to cause inconvenience to the staff in a restaurant. In continental Europe you’re the waiter’s bitch and should be lucky if they bring you what you thought was what you ordered. Or anything, without being rude and/or obnoxious. 

On the other hand the megawatt-smile people over here also want you to haul your ass out of their establishment the minute you are finished with your coffee. And not, like, a second later. 


4. Everybody is either talking about a wedding or a baby-shower

The very best thing about being out and about alone is the fact that one can pretend to read, but actually one is eavesdropping every conversation around and taking notes. NYC- uniform for women: an insanely thick ponytail, Lululemon fleece and black yoga pants, all-black Nike trainers and a big-ass diamond on their ring finger. Literally. Everyone. 

Overheard in a park:

– So what’s your workout tomorrow? I’m like doing a ten o’clock class on Spring Street because I have this baby shower later I have to go to.

– Oh so you’re going now?

– Yeah it’s like I had to pay an advance of fucking 100 dollars so yeah I kinda have to go now.

– So whose shower is it?

– It’s this Amy from office and it’s like ok, I went to her last shower and it was like so fucking boring though. I just wanted to get drunk but she had no alcohol there and it was just so boring.


Overheard at an upmarket gift-shop that specialises in posh decoupage of insects*:

Male cashier: – Get out! You’re coming to Mike’s wedding too? That’s like so awesome!

Female customer: – I yeah I’m like his husband’s cousin so yeah I’m totally going.

Male cashier: – They’re registered with us so it’s like really exciting to see what people are getting them.

Female customer: – Oh wow I didn’t realise. Yeah totally exciting!

Male cashier: – I’m one of the flower-girls at the wedding by the way, I’m so psyched.

Female customer: – Oh that’s like so awesome.


​5. Fantastic bookstores.

There are three absolute favourites: The legendary independent multi-storey bookseller Strand, another indy bookshop in SoHo, McNally & Jackson (they have an extremely comfortable adjacent café) and Rizzoli on Broadway, in the Flatiron district, which is beautifully curated and has an extensive section for art, fashion and photography. I spend inordinate amounts of time in New York bookstores, and still have not yet even proceeded to the second floor of Strand during this trip**. 

The nice thing about independent bookstores is that they are unashamedly liberal, and usually have huge selections of liberal, feminist literature and anti-establishment merchandise, or swag, as us Manhattanites like to call the weird crap you don’t need at all, but it’s situated conveniently next to the cashier and which, at the time, makes all the sense in the world.


P.S. I’m writing this on a terrace and am listening in to the table next to me (crowd of four).

– Did you guys know that in Europe they speak like so many languages? It’s like so crazy.

– Yeah I heard they like have one mother tongue and then they like have to learn another language, so everybody in Europe is like bilingual.

– That’s so crazy.

– Like totally. 

– So they learn these languages even in like regular public schools? 

– Yeah like that’s what my friend tells me.

– I speak like ten words of Japanese.

– That’s so awesome man.

– So what’s like, thanks in Japanese?

– It’s arigatou

– Fucking awesome.

* This is mainly the reason why I take my holidays alone. Thank you for your understanding. 

** This is the other reason why no one wants to do city breaks with me. 

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