The Soapbox: A Response To Julia Allison’s Op-Ed Addressed To Women Moving To NYC, From A Woman Who Once Moved To NYC

This weekend, The New York Post printed an op-ed titled “A warning to a new generation of women — don’t let ‘Sex and the City’ ruin your life,” written by “internet celebrity” Julia Allison and her friend Julia Price. At first I was like “huh,” and then I skimmed it and was like “UGH,” and then I read it and found it all sorts of horrifying and insulting and wrong.

The overall problem I find with their open letter to “women” — besides the fact that it’s referencing a TV show that ended eight years ago about women twice the age of most college grads — is that it speaks to a demographic I hardly ever encountered in NYC. Are there tube-top dress wearing, Pink Elephant frequenting, banker-flirting women in NY? Sure. Are most of the women living/moving to the city only interested in those things? NO. So please allow me to speak to the rest of the female population who might also feel slighted or offended by the Julias’ out-of-touch words of “wisdom.”

The Julias: Both of us moved to New York City at age 22 and trust me, we were “sooooo Carrie Bradshaw!” We had all the energy in the world to network, hustle, apartment search on Craigslist again and again and again, and of course there’s dating; the patience to go out with guys who brag about getting a table next to John Mayer at Pink Elephant and expensing their thousand-dollar liquor tab on their JP Morgan accounts (hey, it was 2006). We would tolerate these guys because of the free group-dinner invites where we shared a meal with young wannabee Tory Burches, Noah Tepperburgs and, of course, five Ford models. Why? We were so eager to learn this world; anxious to suck it all in.

I too moved to New York at 22. I had all the energy in the world to work 40 hours a week making $10/hour at a retail store, intern twice a week at a documentary film production company and take improv classes at UCB. I drank pitchers of beer at McManus and nerded out about comedy and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge at night and dated a guy in a terrible band who wore really old Adidas and nerded out about comedy some more. I spent every night rehearsing improv and spent every day working. The only people I knew who worked at JP Morgan were temps.

Also: using people for free dinners? Just, no. That’s a gross thing to do to anyone, unless you’re starving.

The Julias: If you want to be in the scene, you’ve got to stay in the scene. We had to go out nearly every night just to maintain being considered for these invites. The drinks, the cabs, the clothes — pretty soon you’ve maxed out your credit cards.

Or…you don’t spend money. You take on a second job to afford the improv classes (or painting, or acting, or law school, or whatever) you’re hooked on. When I was broke, which was all the time, I’d climb up the fire escape to the roof of my Fort Greene apartment building and drink wine with my two roommates as we stared at the skyline. We shared a railroad apartment and didn’t have cable or air conditioning or a buzzer. I walked 15 minutes to the train each way because who can afford to take cabs when they’re 22? I ate a lot of cheap pizza and cooked a lot of rice and beans. It was one of the happiest times of my life.

The Julias: Want four friends that get together every week for brunch? Dream on…Often the biggest fantasy of “Sex and the City” wasn’t the apartments or the lovers — it was the friendships.

The strongest thing I took away from 10 years in New York were my friendships — both the new ones I formed and the old ones that intensified. We supported each other’s creative and professional pursuits, attended each others gallery openings, open mics, improv shows, art school events, graduations, weddings and baby showers. We went to a lot of bad bars and weird parties and ate a lot of Veselka. We toasted each other and embraced the connection we felt despite the different paths we were on. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer and passed away 8 months later, the support I received from my friends in NYC was unparalleled and unconditional. If anything, the love between the four SATC ladies is the most real thing about the series.

And what’s most absurd about this argument is that Julia and Julia are writing this article as female friends who met in NYC while insisting that female friendship in NYC is a fantasy. 

The Julias: Every woman comes to New York to be Carrie. No one wants to be Charlotte, Miranda or Samantha. 

REALLY? Do I even need to respond to this?! Because all I want in life are some sensible but stylish shoes and mom hair and a Park Slope brownstone and a kind husband with a New York accent and a good kid and a small wedding in a West Village park and a closet full of power suits. (Yes, I want to be Miranda. What of it.) I’d also be okay with chocolate-y mermaid hair or the world’s most satisfying sex life. And if you’re coming to NYC to be a TV character, you’re doing it wrong.

The Julias: Less talked about is the way the city eats at your soul. At 22, the world is your oyster. At 25, the 40-year-old investment banker is looking over your shoulder at the next 22-year-old. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, but how many really do? And even if you’ve “made it,” you’re met not with accolades but glares. A city with “new” thrives on impatience and jealousy; sometimes you feel like everyone’s an intern or a has-been.

At no point in my life has the world being my oyster ever involved a man, much less a 40-year-old investment banker. The fact that they’re equating “making it” to landing a rich dude infuriates me to no end. Never once in this piece do The Julias talk about internships (except to complain about everyone being one), career goals, education, intellectual or creative pursuits and passions, which — in my opinion — are what gives New York the energy that makes it like no other city in the world.

Also this is the point in reading their piece when I barfed in my mouth. 

The Julias: New York City is f**king exhausting. Sounds obvious, but we wonder how many women who moved here in the last 15 years learned that lesson the hard way, who have ended their “Sex” fantasy not in syndication but one step away from the sanatorium?

Yes, sure. Living in NYC is tiring — for all people. But insinuating that it makes us gals crazy is just dumb and perpetuating weird hysteria stereotypes from 1900. I walked a mile a day to the subway while nine months pregnant and managed to keep my meltdowns to a minimum, thank you. Give the women of New York some credit — our greatest asset is staying calm and cool amid the madness of the city.

The Julias: We made the move to Los Angeles this past October, and it’s been positive in every way. We used to get stressed about how everyone seems so much more relaxed out here, but now we’ve become those same chill West Coast people. Why? Because it’s easier. Turns out you can get the same amount of work done, but people know how to switch off. They know how to get outside, take hiking meetings, dedicate time to people. There’s a creative energy flourishing that seemed to be stifled in New York.

Funny, I moved to LA in September. I feel relaxed here too! I’m quite happy in Los Angeles, despite how devastated I initially was to leave NYC. And yes, it’s easier to drive to Costco and Target and hang out at friends’ houses. Sure, the outdoors are more accesible due to LA’s 24/7 glorious weather, but I find New Yorkers just as — if not more — committed to experiencing nature in whatever way they can. At 5 a.m. on a Saturday Central Park is packed with runners, while the Silverlake Reservoir sits empty until 8 a.m.

I’ve found both Los Angeles and New York to be exciting, motivating and inspiring places to live and work. And let it be known that LA has many exhausting elements — traffic, parking, apartment buildings that also involve walking up numerous flights stairs. As for this “stifled” creative energy they claim is in NYC, well, many of the successful people I know (some who now live/work in LA) spent years in New York working on their craft while temping, waiting tables, babysitting and bartending. By insinuating otherwise, you’re insulting the thousands of twenty-somethings who move to the edges of the outer boroughs, work crappy jobs and eat frozen veggie burgers at every meal just to pursue their passions. 

Also, what person with half a brain believes that what they see on television at all equates to real life? That, dear Julias, is what I consider “one step away from the sanatorium.”

Kate Spencer is a writer, producer and correspondent for VH1 and a comedy performer at the UCB Theatre in Los Angeles. She’s also a mom, which is sometimes hard but always great. She exists on Twitter and Tumblr (where this piece was originally published), and sometimes in the real world too.