After working for The Michigan Daily for two years, I finally accepted media as a significant force in my life. Or maybe it was the more than 30 hours of television I was watching per week last year. Whatever it was, I registered for my first class in Communications Studies this semester. My friends reacted with a mix of amusement, pity and horror. Apparently, I was screwed because history has proven these classes are filled with New Yorkers.
Wait, what? I’m from New York.
Since stepping into East Quad Residence Hall for orientation in 2008, I have found myself both a victim of and witness to what I am calling “The New York Stereotype.” According to some students at the University, students from Long Island, New York City and Westchester (and they’re likely unknowingly including New Jersey as well) have certain indefinable characteristics the rest of you simply can’t stand. For whatever reason, we trigger an impulsive eye roll.
Over the summer, a friend’s sister said I’m the only New Yorker she has met and subsequently liked. New acquaintances are often shocked to find out I hail from the Big Apple and are quick to disclose the reason: I don’t fit into “The New York Stereotype.” Many other native NYC folk don’t fit “The Stereotype” either. But since this subsection of the city’s population in Ann Arbor aren’t identifiable at a glance, they appear to be considerably outnumbered by the rest.
I don’t want to argue the definition of “The New York Stereotype” or even deny its accuracy. I’m not even certain I can accurately describe the stereotype, but I do know it isn’t good. While I’m proud at times to be an exception, I can’t let another year go by without extending a hand to my oppressed neighbors. True New Yorkers, the ones who are forced to constantly repeat “No, I’m actually from Manhattan” (or another acceptable borough), are really not that bad. In fact, we are pretty awesome.
Growing up in New York City offers unique opportunities to experience different cultures and interact with people from all types of backgrounds. Those of us who attended schools in Manhattan or near our homes never drove to school, so any prissy tendencies (for both guys and girls) were expelled when we dealt with the weather and whatever public transportation threw at us before 8 a.m. We experienced 9/11 firsthand, and it changed us. We tasted alcohol before college and learned how to deal with it responsibly. We know when to pay attention to the crosswalk signal and when to ignore it. We know how to look and sound like we know what we are doing even when — especially when — we don’t.
If you’re still not convinced, you have no choice but to separate a true city person from the pack and find out for yourself. Luckily, there are even slight differences in his or her appearance if you are attune to the variations. Look for the guy or girl outfitted in a pea coat or a jacket with toggles instead of a North Face. Uggs aren’t an automatic once the temperature dips below 40. When they get dressed to go out they’re also dressed for the walk home or, at the very least, the line outside Skeeps. And if you hear a New York accent in more than a couple words then rest assured the speaker was not raised in Manhattan.
So please, hold your judgment until you’ve done some research — isn’t that why we have Facebook? And maybe go a step further and stop judging people on their appearances and 10-second interactions in the first place. But, in case that’s too much, I’ll give you a simple mantra to repeat every now and then: New York City is better. As for the stereotype, maybe I’ll rename it “The Long Island and Westchester (and sometimes New Jersey) Stereotype” to avoid any confusion in the future.
Sarah Squire is an LSA senior. She is the Daily’s web development manager.