Monday, June 24, 2013

Borrowing a Cup of Sugar in Modern-Day Manhattan and Everywhere Else

A former boss who has given me oodles of invaluable advice about how to join the illustrious ranks of The Street Smart also gave me two blemished pieces of guidance: (1) Don’t ever date a guy you wouldn’t marry; and (2) When you’re living in New York, never socialize with the people in your building. The latter caveat is largely why I’ve maintained a friendly distance from my in-building neighbors, and could be why most of them have done the same with me. We dutifully follow so many rules.

There’s a unique and authentically sociable person who lives down the hall from me. Semi-regularly running into her is a treat. The Midwesterner in me has always said, “She’s really nice and interesting. You two should do lunch and get to know each other a little better.” The New Yorker in me said, “Don’t even think about it, girl. Keep that guard up. You’ve already got your crowd.”

It took awhile, but I allowed the softer, saner instincts to prevail. The upshot was a delightful brunch at a local eatery, an equally compelling stroll through the park, and a better sense of what I’ve been missing out on all these years this neighbor and I have shared a floor of over-priced rental property.

When many adults reach a certain age or station in life, they stop letting new people in, unless it’s for family- or business-related purposes. I’m all about the kind of downsizing that involves letting go of the ones who turn out not to have your best interests anywhere near their hearts. But my own evolving street-smart advice is to keep auditioning every receptive new person you have a natural chemistry with or curiosity about, the way you might try out an alluring new restaurant. Ideally at the alluring new restaurant. 


  1. I think your former boss/friend was getting a little extreme in his advice. 1)"Never date a person you would not marry"...well, I would say that depends on your stage in life. In high school and college and also your twenties, you are just figuring out who you are and you are experimenting in your associations. Now, I don't think you should date a drug dealer...that is a one-way ticket to disaster...but you might well date people that you would never marry, and that's just fine. Later in life, if you are seriously interested in marrying (bearing in mind that you can lead a very happy life without marrying), then, yes, you shouldn't date someone you wouldn't marry. You are past experimentation and casual relationships, and into seeking serious commitment.

    2) "Never socialize with people in your building." That's a fairly astounding dictum. I've lived in the same rental building for more than forty years, which is unusual in NYC.I have socialized with many of the people in the building...and, considering the turnover here, that means I have a lot of very friendly relationships that now spill from coast to coast, and even to Europe. We have one "building friend" who now lives in L.A., and we still hear from him.

  2. Great advice. You never know when you are going to meet someone who will bring a new, interesting dimension to your life. I also try to be mindful to make contact with people of different ages, rather than people who are all just like me.

  3. I am currently 34 years old.... Unfortunately, I have been living in Boston for the past two years. I have learned that I don't really care to meet new people as I used to do when I was younger. More specifically, I can only allow myself to befriend people in Boston after a nice shot of Jameson. :)