I’ve always taken great pride in being a New Yorker (New Yawka, thank you). It’s a huge part of my identity. When I went to college, I thought everyone at my small liberal arts college would think I was *so cool* that I was from the City. Turns out, they were not. Upstaters are not fond of New York City, especially when it seems only people from the City can claim the title of New Yorker. They also do not like the City’s simplified version of New York geography, wherein you have Long Island, the City, Westchester, and then everything else is Upstate. They like to tell you about Central New York and Western New York, although to be honest, I would just nod along politely and go back to calling it all upstate.
Point is, even when I found myself in a situation where it was uncool to be from NYC I was still hella proud of it.
Interestingly, in England I get much more the reaction I originally expected when I say I’m from New York. I have used my accent to command the respect and attention of a class of students. When people notice my accent (and they always notice my accent), they ask where I’m from, and when I say New York, I have gotten an actual gasp of awe. Even MR has gone on record saying that he finds the NY accent kind of hot (really??). I’ve branded myself as a New Yorker.
I think I can claim the title. Both sides of my family settled in NYC when they got off the boat from Italy and Germany. That makes me a fourth generation New Yorker on my mother’s side and third on my father’s. I went to NYC public schools. I taught in NYC public schools. My cousin is a NYC police officer. I used to have a super thick accent, along the lines of ‘dawg’ and ‘cawfee’ and most of my family still does, even when the NY accent is dying out. I even grew up in Queens, which is one of the more ‘authentic’ boroughs inasmuch as nobody goes to Queens unless they’re from Queens. Or going to the airport.
My family being in New York was an institution. It would always be–until it wasn’t. The transition started a long time ago: distant cousins moved to Florida; my grandparents sold their house in Brooklyn and moved to the Poconos. My father’s parents followed suit, and my uncle went to Jersey. But that was all fine, because my parents were in NYC and they weren’t leaving.
Only–rents got high. My mom kept looking at apartments and realised she could never move because she could never afford a new place. My dad got sick and my sister lived too far away to help as much as she wanted. New Yorkers will know that a drive from Croton-on-Hudson in northern Westchester to Queens is too much of a trek to do on a regular basis. So my parents compromised–they moved to Tarrytown. At first I hated the idea of them leaving NYC, but as it happens, I find Tarrytown amazing. Gorgeous views of the Hudson, amazing restaurants, still proper NY food with good pizza and bagels…MR and I visited my parents there and promptly fell in love. We would move there in a heartbeat if we thought we could ever afford it. But we can’t, so we settled for visiting.
Only then my sister moved to Massachusetts. My dad’s no longer with us, so that left my mom alone in Westchester. She shouldn’t be alone–she’s kind of isolated from everyone because she doesn’t really drive and everyone’s pretty far. Not just my sister, but to get to her brothers in Staten Island and Brooklyn is easily a couple hours’ journey involving several modes of transportation, including a boat to get to Staten Island. So obviously my mom needs to move to Massachusetts. I 100% think she should do this.
But selfishly, I think that my ties to New York are getting severed. My children will never be able to call themselves New Yorkers unless they choose to move there. But even then, won’t they be transplants with their British accents? And can I even call myself a New Yorker anymore? I don’t live there. When I go to the States I will be visiting family in Massachusetts, and I almost spit out the name. Not because Massachusetts is a bad place (I actually quite like it, if I’m honest), but because it’s not NY. And the bagels and pizza will suck. So if I don’t live there and don’t have ties to the City, how can I claim it as ‘my’ city? Do I have to start saying ‘I’m originally from New York’ instead of ‘I’m a New Yorker’?
When I left NY for England I thought I would probably come back. But gentrification and skyrocketing rents mean that the financially comfortable life we lead in Coventry is well beyond our means in NYC, an injustice that stings.
This is definitely an existential crisis. I want to go home, but I don’t know where home is. Faraway is the City that raised me. That’s part of me, but I don’t think I’m part of it anymore. I live in Coventry. I like England and I like Warwickshire, but if I’m brutally honest I still feel like an outsider. I’m always the only American, and that gets a bit lonely, particularly when I have to explain/ represent some of the idiocy this country gets up to.
So where is home? I don’t know.
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