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New York doesn't make you an asshole

Written by
Carla Sosenko

Listen, broad strokes here, but no, of course New York doesn’t make you an asshole. I think people see “asshole” as a synonym for anger, aggression, guff, and we do have those. But New Yorkers are no angrier than anyone else—anger is a human emotion, not a geographic one, and it’s healthy. “Yes, ma’am”ers in the South and “Aw, shucks”ers in the Midwest may seem less ragey than the rest of us, but they’re not. In fact, all that anger denial probably only makes them angrier. (Seriously, watch any episode of Dateline. All pleasant-seeming, all non–New Yorkers, all murderers.) Think of it as an asshole optical illusion.

Time Out New York Features Editor Tim Lowery argues: "New York makes you an asshole"

Here’s a story: Last week I was getting coffee, and a gal at the counter knocked over a bunch of spoons. I hopped off line to help her pick them up (classic non-asshole behavior!), and when I got back, the woman behind me had inched up to make sure I couldn’t get back on line. (I am convinced she’s from Idaho.) I squeezed in anyway, and she shot me a dirty look. “I got off line to help her pick those up,” I said calmly. “You can go ahead of me if you want to, and you can keep looking at me like that, but I’m not cutting you.” You might think that I’m the asshole in that scenario, but I was just being straightforward. Aggressive, perhaps, but an asshole, no.

Which, mind you, doesn’t mean we’re not assholes—but that’s not because we’re New Yorkers. For that you can blame social media, overscheduling and a general inundation of too much shit to do. We’re flaky, we’re hard to please, we’re impossible to make plans with. But that’s life in the modern age, whether you live in New York or New Mexico. (Okay, maybe they’re a little more chill in New Mexico.) In the important ways, I believe New York makes you less of an asshole. It makes you more tolerant and open. It makes you interact with people you’d never meet back home in Wherever, USA. It makes you hard-working, ambitious, social. If others see our being worldwise as a sort of cynicism, I see it as the opposite. It’s why hatemongers (cough, Trump, cough) could never dream of winning a place like New York. (And before you say it, New York didn’t make him an asshole—a million other things did, it’s just our unfortunate luck to have inherited him.)

There’s a reason people are proud to call themselves a New Yorker and why so many flock here every year in the hopes of becoming one. And guess what—we’re happy to have you. Because we’re not assholes. (Just don’t cut us off when we’re on line for coffee.) 

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