An L.A. lesbian in New York

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New York has always intimidated me. Maybe it’s the way people say “New Yorker” with the same mix of respect and distrust as “Dick Cheney,” or the immense amount of culture and coolness that oozes out of New York’s open gutters during every generation. After a lifetime in the deep South and three years immersed in sunny Los Angeles’s plasticbut usually quite pleasantpopulation, I decided to face my fears, With a little help from Caitlin, Cristi, and Ari, three of New York City’s most accomplished and attractive queers.

Caitlin, a talented chef from New Orleans, gave me a spot to crash at and a good ol’ fashion New Orleans welcome while blending in effortlessly to Bushwick’s creative thrall. Cristi, a rare model with no ego and lots of brains, gave me modeling pointers (which did not take), took me thrift shopping, and traded stories of the hot yet deeply irritating people we date. Ari, the model/director/writer you probably recognize from last season of The Real World, annoyed me with her lack of punctuality and then promptly charmed my attitude away by laughing at herself and telling salacious stories.

So here’s what happened.

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“I want a girl to pick pumpkins with,” Cristi murmurs, pouting prettily.

“I want a girl without aspirations of becoming a DJ,” I respond, and our collective demands unravel.

“We could hibernate and do…. things.”

“We could read quietly next to each other.”

“She won’t have slept with any of my exes OR any of my exes other girlfriends”

“She’ll have hipbones that could whittle”

Even though we live on opposite sides of America, Cristi and I share a surprisingly wide web of lesbians who we either know or know of. We eat burgers (Cristi and I agree that burgers are the best thing on any given menu) and discuss the endless possibilities. New York girls sound cooler, smarter, and kinkier than LA girls, but everyone in NYC PROMISES me that NYC girls are the worst, so done with them, over it, and so on, complaints eerily similar to my groans over LA lesbians. I’m glad we all find each other so universally underwhelming. I’m glad we’ll always have mutual disappoint to bond over.

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I came to New York from LA with a mission. That mission has nothing to do with this story. As the taxi lurched from JFK to Brooklyn, I gazed at the rising Sun and thought: “This could make for some funny shit.” Over the next three days, a concept formed: Three days, three girls, New York City, and me. What would I learn? Nothing, probably. But I would have fun.

Everyone agrees with varying degrees of enthusiasm and dismay that Bushwick is New York’s next neighborhood du jour, and I’d accidentally secured a crash pad smack in the middle of that entertaining prospect. Caitlin, a chill Cajun I had a brief but friendly fling with in New Orleans a couple years back, just moved into a densely occupied loft and generously invited me to stay.

In Bushwick, hipsters (they call themselves that and no one seems to have come up with a better term so hipster it is) fashion bedrooms from windowless cupboards and laugh in the face of overhead lighting fixtures. While settling into Caitlin’s apartment, I am stunned and grudgingly impressed to discover just one mirror: a small square dangling over the (sole) bathroom sink and barely illuminated by a fist size lamp perched precariously atop the toilet bowl. The first message I receive from New York City is clear: Come attractive or be ugly.

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Friday begins with my typical travel strategy: wandering in circles. Eventually I tire of plodding around warehouses and map a walking route to Williamsburg. During the route, I rather keenly observe that there are a lot of unmarked warehouses in Bushwick, striking a blunt backdrop against the neighborhood’s many unmarked boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants.

Cristi, a friend who, along with Ari, was featured on AfterEllen’s you met on AE’s 20 Out Models We Love hits me up and we realize that I’m two blocks from her place and do I want to come over a distract her from work? Yes. I live to distract people from work. I live for distractions in general. Within five minutes we’re splitting an afternoon tall boy (tall boys are best in the afternoon), flipping through striking photos of Cristi published in a glossy new book (as one does), and exchanging scathing dating commentary. I love Cristi. We never run out of people to talk about.

Cristi explains that the NYC lesbian scene’s greatest asset (living close to girls so close you can just pop outside and get laid) is also a great weakness. Brooklyn’s terrain is apparently littered with exes, who lurk forever on sidewalks like mangled bags of doritos. At least in LA you have to drive to a lesbian-geared event to run into exes, and even then are usually golden outside of West Hollywood. Cristi views Manhattan lesbian nights with the same mix of distress and disdain as I do. Lady Gaga? Smirnoff Bottle Service? GoGo Dancers? Flyers with the garish, dated aesthetic of a Tallahassee strip joint? Pass.

OK, I’m done. I hope someone, somewhere, really learned from that and will plot their next EVENT accordingly. I hope you are inspired to change. Cristi and I hate the same places and date similarly debatable girls. Girls with artistic aspirations and large tattoos and lots of feelings they pretend not to have at first until starting and then never, ever, stopping. Girls with fancy cameras and cool names.

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We have cool lives and jobs and friends but wish our relationships had more meaning, or a better meaning, or any meaning. We are not quite sure what meaning is, but will know her when we see her. In the meantime, Cristi has a million dates and I have a couple. New York lesbians struck me as more laid back about sexuality than LA lesbians, and have more interesting jobs. There’s only so long you can listen to a PA drone on about her directorial ambitions. Listening to Cristi detail a day spent hopping back and forth exuberantly for a Nine West Campaign is a glamorous breath of fresh air.

We eat more burgers at Five Leaves and simultaneously check out a surfer sexy boi with the sweetest smile and amazing Libra Rising tattoo, who I dub “Lords Of Dogtown.” If you’re reading this: yes, we were talking about you. New Yorkers love putting weird things on tasty things and pretending it’s better that way, so I sportingly nibble a burger topped with pineapple, fried egg, and beets. You had me until beets. Why the beets? Why? I crack jokes and dry observations until noticing that Cristi keeps giving me puzzled and slightly perturbed looks that last for a second too long.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Because you’re making fun of me.”

“No I’m not, I’m being nice to you.”

Cristi can’t tell when I’m serious, joking, or teasing. I can’t imagine why.

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