When someone asks me what’s “so Manhattan,” it can be a bit difficult to put into words. It’s sort of an “I know it when I see it” sort of situation, but as a writer, I figured it’s time for me to put into writing some specifics around what makes something so Manhattan.
And since people get bored reading long passages, I’ll break it down into four characteristics that by coincidence all start with the letter C. (JK, this is a writing trick to hook you.)
Obvious statement alert: Manhattan is expensive. Yes, there’s lots of free and low-cost things to do, but for the most part, you’re gonna spend a lot, like by paying way more on rent than your friends in other cities. And after living here a while you’ll start thinking that a $6 beer is a steal. So when something is “so Manhattan” in a pejorative sense, there’s a good chance cost is a part of it. But it’s also tied to how cool Manhattan is (another C!), because you’re gonna end up spending a lot of money at fun bars and restaurants, entertaining shows, and hopping in cabs when you know your bank account is telling you to take the subway.
Closely correlated with cost comes crowdedness (alliteration golf clap). The high real estate costs mean apartments are tiny and so are many commercial establishments. You’re likely to get a good core workout trying to shimmy around people at a bar while avoiding elbows to your rib cage. Fun, right?
Even if the space itself isn’t that small, there’s so many people here that places get long lines all the time, especially if it’s Instagram worthy. So when you see people lining up down the block for fancy milkshakes or cookie dough, that’s so Manhattan.
Assuming you don’t get caught in a crowd, Manhattan is quite convenient. First of all, the numbered parts of the grid make you feel like a genius cause you always know the cardinal directions, and the order makes it much more convenient to get around compared to other cities that have twisting and turning roads like Boston. Beyond navigation, Manhattan has everything you need and everything you don’t need at your fingertips. Need your coffee fix? There’s only a place to go…everywhere. Want to try some DIY projects at 4 a.m.? There’s a 24-hour hardware store. Want to look at a room full of dirt? That exists. Convenience is generally a positive part of what’s so Manhattan, but like the dirt room, it can also be seen as being unnecessary and excessive. Yet I’ve been to the dirt room twice, so who knows, maybe it is a good part of Manhattan.
The last aspect of what makes something so Manhattan encompasses everything from the people to the architecture to the opportunity to fulfill your dreams. New York has a lot of character, or as some people describe it, an energy. It’s almost as if Manhattan is a living organism, one which constantly evolves, and which people can care deeply about and seek inspiration from. Some days you’ll question why you put up with the hustle and bustle of the city and picture a more idyllic life elsewhere, but then you’ll have drinks until you stop caring about how much they cost, meet people from all over the world in one night, see a famous comedian do an unexpected set at a comedy club, stare up at the lights of the Empire State Building, and think “This is so Manhattan and so awesome, and I never want to live anywhere else.”
What do you think is so Manhattan? Share in the comments!