Fucking asshole. Earlier this year, this description was attributed to me, via texts from two different people, within the span of one week. One week. They weren’t about the same thing or about mishaps along the lines of accidentally breaking a sculpture at an art opening (for one, I don’t go to a lot of art openings). And nope, they decidedly weren’t sent in that you’re-an-idiot-but-you’re-still-the-best kind of way. They were angry—and accurate: I deserved it. (I can't really get into why—but I did.) So how did I get here? How is it that, in 2016, a once-sweet Midwestern kid is now—in the view of at least two sane, successful adults—some kind of monster, someone who deserves being called a “fucking asshole” with a spite that’s usually reserved for backward-ass politicians and that torturer with the dreamy eyes on Game of Thrones?
Time Out New York Editor-in-Chief Carla Sosenko argues: "New York doesn't make you an asshole"
The easiest scapegoat that springs to mind is New York. I’ve lived here for nearly seven years, and the best way for me to gauge how much this city affects me is to get out of it. Take this instance, which happened last fall during a surprise visit to see my folks in Chicago (see, you can take the sweet kid out of the Midwest…): I was walking to town to get coffee for Mom and Dad (sorry to boast like an asshole again, but c’mon: so fucking sweet of me), and along the way three different passersby, in sweaters and khakis no less, offered me some variation of “How are you this morning?” and “A good morning to you” while looking directly into my eyes, all beaming smiles. I thought, What the fuck is happening? What do they want from me? Money? No, those shoes are too nice—it’s not money. Are they after me? Are they part of a cult? It’s definitely a cult. My mind went into a spiral of thriller-movie paranoia over something as simple as a stranger being innocently affable.
There are other examples, too—the weekly phone calls with my saintly mother kill me—but the point is this: New York, whether it’s the crowdedness, stress or anonymity, allows you to get away with—and almost embraces—asshole-ish behavior. I’ve flaked. I’ve ghosted. And I’m not proud of either, but I emerged from both pretty unscathed. That’s the thing, though: The people I admire here, the good ones, the folks who find time to live it up and still volunteer and, you know, help people, stay good in spite of this. So maybe it’s not so much that the city makes me a dick but that the city gives me a dick pass (DP) I can use whenever I want. But I don’t want to. And hopefully the me of 2017 will follow suit and be described as “fucking great” a few times. Over text, if possible.