Gender identity is for the birds

Flocking Together
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‘How to tell the ornithological girls from the boys’

Take a moment (before reading on in amusement) to check out the flock of bird-watchers pictured at the top of this post. Just how hard is it, on a scale of one to ten, to tell the males from the females?

Well. As someone who has actually been on more than one ‘birding’ trip and traipsed around many a field a-flutter with fellow ‘birders’, I’m here to tell you that it can be a tad difficult to distinguish the sexes. No, I’m not talking about the sexes of the birds. I’m talking about the sexes of the people watching the birds.

That's Mr. Scarlet Tanager on the left. With Mrs. on the right. Interesting how she gets to keep the name 'Scarlet', tho there's not a trace on her

That’s Mr. Scarlet Tanager on the left. With Mrs. T on the right. Some pretty marked sexual differentiation going on here, wouldn’t you say?

By the way, I’m not crazy about the terms ‘birding’ and ‘birder’. Almost as much as I’m not crazy about other nouns-turned-into-verbs-and/or-adjectives: ‘parenting’, ‘crafting’, ‘kidding’. (I’m kidding about ‘kidding’.)

I do love birds, though. In fact, I once saved a baby bird, Sully Sullenberger-style, in my own back yard. If you like, you can read about it here.

But back to my theme. I have this theory that there is something about bird-watching that contributes to the blurring of sexual distinctions. (Again, refer to the photo at the top of this post. Or check out this one here:)

True, these birders are on their perch, so perhaps a tad more difficult to ID. Extra credit: two more on the ground to the left

Birders on a perch are perhaps a tad more difficult to ID, but can you tell the males from the females? Bonus points for checking out those two ambiguously-sexed specimens on the ground to the left

Of course this might be simply due to the fact that male and female birders (there’s that word again; sorry) sport similar plumage; they tend to dress nearly identically in layered shapeless garments in a not-very-wide variety of earth tones. Hmmm, make that mud tones. So very unlike Scarlet Tanagers. Of course, people have hair. But hairstyle is no help either, since birders of both sexes favor hair that’s cropped short. Or, if it’s long, they wear ponytails. (I have yet to spot a birder with a man bun, thank god.)

Oh, and there’s the asexuality of the gear: ‘big-pocket’ vests, trusses and harnesses for the binoculars, hats with brims, caps with flaps. Nylon ponchos. Army drab nylon ponchos. Giant cameras, toted by any and all.

Is that a camera, or are you glad to see me?

Is that a camera, or are you glad to see me?

You can’t tell the sexes apart by their diet, either. Both males and females are up at the veritable crack of dawn, chowing down on the Birder Breakfast of Champions:

Eating like a bird(er): big platters of eggs (of course)

Eating like a bird(er): big platters of eggs (of course)

And this hard-to-tell-apart thing isn’t just because most birders are, to be perfectly honest, not very young. Check out this photo:

Even young hipster birders are sexually indistinguishable

Even fledgling birders, like these hipsters spotted recently, tend to be sexually indistinguishable

Of course, my flock of birders is the exception that proves the rule. I would share photos of Birder Elizabeth in her hot pink jacket. Or Birder David in his snappy watch cap. Or shapely Birder Christine in just about anything. But that would be invading their privacy and jeopardizing our friendship. So you’ll just have to take my word for it. I can share this one, since I’ve only myself to shame.

Me, trying my birdiest to assert my femininity. This outfit is the birding equivalent of fishnet hose and a pushup bra

Me, trying my birdiest to assert my femininity. This outfit is the birding equivalent of fishnet hose and a pushup bra

And I can show you this one, because The Dude never ever reads my stuff.

Here's my hunka-hunka burning birder making a decidedly male display

Here’s my hunka-hunka burning birder making a decidedly male display

I’ll end this little birding observation by asserting that yes, sexual confusion aside, birding is incredibly fun and that no, I wouldn’t miss Cape May in May for the world. For one thing, I’d miss sightings like this one:

A funny thing happened on the way to the Bird Sanctuary

Fine feathered bouncer guarding the entrance to the Bird Sanctuary. I wonder if his tail is hiding ‘ERS’?

Amagansett, New York. May 2016

Yachts: many many boats

Bye Bye Yacht (1)
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‘A few salty sallies from the pages of New York Magazine.’

Last week’s post was sort of a Reader’s Digest of amusing Metropolitan Diary entries written by, um, me. Since you Readers seemed to get a kick out of it, I thought I’d regale you this week with a few examples of stuff of mine that got into New York Magazine. (If I ever get anything into the New Yorker, like my pal Ken, you’ll never hear from me again.)

Remember when I told you that Ad Folks are the funniest people ever? This famous New Yorker Cartoonist used to work at Ogilvy. And I actually KNOW him!

Remember when I told you that Ad Folks are the funniest people ever? This famous New Yorker Cartoonist used to work at Ogilvy. And I actually know him. Fun fact: he also wears blue glasses (!)

To be honest, I’m really doing this stuff-from-New-York-Magazine thing because I played hooky away from my computer all weekend. I was on a birdwatching trip (honest) to Cape May, New Jersey, and it was kind of hard to think about my blog while I was trying to concentrate on warbler wing bars. (I promise to share wacky birding stories soon; stay tuned for my views on how “birders” are practically sexually indistinguishable — and much much more!)

But for now, on with the wordplay. See, back in my pre-blog days, in addition to sending the odd observed moment to the New York Times Metropolitan Diary, I used to enter these New York Magazine contests. Nerdy wordy people like me just love them. Here’s a recent contest that I looked up just for you:

This is a good one. Wish I'd entered. Too late now (!)

This is a good one. Wish I’d entered. Too late now (!)

If you won the contest, you’d get a free subscription to New York Magazine. Which was a pretty clever prize, actually. For the magazine and for the winner. Anyway, once in a while I’d win.

One of my favorite contests was the one where you were supposed to write down what a person said, and then what that person was really thinking. My (winning) entry was:

(Says) ‘She looks just like her father.’

(Thinks) ‘Omigod. She looks just like her father.’

Heh heh heh. I amuse myself so.

Now that you know the general gist of these contests, take another look at the title of this post. That was the winning entry in a contest where you were supposed to provide a funny definition of a word beginning with ‘Y’. Thus:

Yachts: many many boats

To be fair, and give punny credit where credit is due, this was something my Mother used to say whenever we passed a place with a bunch of boats bobbing about. (Which, since we lived in the Midwest, wasn’t too often, thank god.) Mom actually has lots (or is it ‘yachts’?) of funny sayings. If you missed my Mother’s Day post ‘Get in the back seat if you want to wiggle your behind’, it’s not too late to check it out here.

Speaking of giving punny credit where it’s due, one of our Birdwatching Gang came up with a pretty darned amusing New York Magazine Contest Entry just this weekend. We were tracking the prothonotary warbler through a swamp near a former bean cannery when David asked (actually, whispered) if I missed running. (I used to be a marathon runner, but we are so not getting into that right now.)

The bird that got our endolphins flowing

The bird that got our endorphins flowing: the Prothonotary Warbler

When I said no, I’d found an effective substitute in swimming, David remarked ‘Oh, so that’s how you’re getting your endolphins these days’. Good one, David! Now all he needs is for New York Magazine to do that contest where you change one letter of a word to change its meaning (you know; like ‘endolphin’ for ‘endorphin’) — and he’s got a subscription for life, whether he wants it or not.

I’m feeling rather pleasantly nautical right now, what with my endolphins flowing and all (I just got back from swimming), so I’ll end this post with a couple of pictures from a yachting adventure The Dude and I experienced a few years ago. An acquaintance from Sag Harbor had chartered a yacht for the day and needed a quorum (or maybe just ballast). So we got invited along, even though we knew, like two people. Though I did feel a definite kinship with the boat itself, since it flew a Swedish flag.

The Dude is digging the yachting life

The Dude, digging the yachting life while not thinking of New York Magazine contest entries

Me on the yacht. Feeling the wind of many many boats in my hair

Me on the yacht. Feeling the wind of many many boats in my hair. And the thrill of being published in my soul. Thanks for reading, People!

New York City. May 2016

Walking the goldfish

Goldfish
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‘And other Dear (Metropolitan) Diary entries’

A couple of weeks ago, my story (‘The time I had a blind date with an eye doctor‘) came by way of a suggestion by my friend Mary Ann. (Thanks again, Mary Ann!) This week’s is thanks to an idea from another friend, Jim. (Who writes a very cool blog called ‘Forged in Buffalo’. Plug plug plug.)

Jim reminded me that my stories used to appear fairly regularly in the New York Times. Honest. There is this column that appears on Mondays called The Metropolitan Diary. As the Times website puts it, ‘Since 1976, Metropolitan Diary has been a place for New Yorkers, past and present, to share odd fleeting moments at Bloomingdale’s, at the deli around the corner, in the elevator or at the movies.’

You can well imagine that I’ve overheard my fair share of ‘odd fleeting moments’ (emphasis on ‘odd’), and that I haven’t been shy about sharing them. Only now I share them with dozens of followers of my blog rather than with thousands of readers of the New York Times.

Hmmmm.

Anyway, Jim thought it might be fun to do a piece about some of my Diary entries. (‘Good timing’, I’m thinking. Because on Tuesday, which is Blog Day around my house, I will be just getting home from visiting my mother and sister and who knows if I’ll be able to rustle up a post in my bleary-red-eyed state. So if I write one now and put it in the computer-file equivalent of the Blog Fridge I’ll be all set.)

What I was up to instead of writing a blog post: Me and some of the rest of the Mother's Day Gang at my One and Only Sister's out in the Fabulous Pacific Northwest

That’s me on the left not writing a blog post while enjoying the rest of the Mother’s Day Gang at my One and Only Sister’s out in the Fabulous Pacific Northwest

But back to this blog and its (hilarious) stories. Those of you who have been with me a while may remember The One About The Guy With A Cat On His Head. Or The One About Me At The DMV Getting My Motorcycle License.  Those were originally Metropolitan Diary entries. Of course, those are just tips of the iceberg, ‘odd fleeting moment’ wise. (That is, if an iceberg can have more than one tip.) I’ve got plenty more.

Here’s one. I rather think it’s one of my best. (Well, anyway, one of my shortest):

Short but sweet. This Diary entry was from 2005

Short, sweet, and yes, somewhat ‘odd’, this Diary entry was from 2005

The Times loves to hear reports of your ‘overheard conversations’, too. And trust me, if you’re out on a New York street with your ears open and a pen handy, you hear all kinds of random conversational gems. Like this one:

Oh, the things one hears when one pays attention!

This was from 2006. Wonder if they’re still together. Or even actually got married

See? Reporting in to Metropolitan Diary is fun! It’s easy! I bet you’re all going to want to submit stuff. (Or, at the very least, move to New York.) Here are those rules again, just in case you missed them the first time.

BTW, it used to be that you got a bottle of champagne if your Diary piece got used. (That was nice.) Then, after a while, they changed the prize to a New York Times mug. (That was okay too, and lasted a whole lot longer.) But I guess times got tough at the Times, because just when I was well on my way to service for six they stopped doing even that. Now you just get the thrill of being a Published New York Times Writer. Which is nowhere near as thrilling as being a Writer of a Wildly Popular Blog. (This I can only imagine.)

Well. I did tease you with that ‘walking the fish’ title. So I’ll end with that one (which, if you’re so inclined, you can read ‘in context’ in the Metropolitan Diary of January 16, 2011 — it’s the fifth entry):

Note to Child: don't read this if you don't want your illusions destroyed

Note to Child: don’t read this if you don’t want your illusions destroyed

New York City. May 2016

‘Get in the back seat if you want to wiggle your behind’

Party Mom
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‘My priceless Mom. And her priceless Momisms’

When I was a kid, I had a hard time picturing my mom in any role other than ‘Mom’. She would tell us about The Time When I Was In School. And we knew that, sometime in the foggy past, she Had Been A Nurse.

That’s why I  was (and still am) absolutely fascinated by the picture at the top of this post.

There’s Mom, whispering to Dad at some gathering of gorgeous young people who were, no doubt, also Moms and Dads. (I’m pretty sure that the leggy lady on the left ‘belonged’ to our pal Teresa.) But they look, well, rather off-duty here.

Who were Mom and Dad looking at? What was Mom saying? (Whatever it was, it must have been funny; he has a rather amused look on his face, doesn’t he?)

Anyway, speaking of funny, my Mom was — and is — rather droll, to say the least. And, in honor of Mother’s Day (coming up this weekend, people; get your phones warmed up), I thought I’d try to recount some of her funnier sayings. Her ‘Momisms’, if you will.

Of course, she would trot out phrases from the comes-with-the-Mom-Territory arsenal when called for. Lines like the argument-killer ‘because I said so, that’s why’ and the closely-related ‘because I’m your mother, and that’s that‘. Even that chestnut ‘when you grow up, I hope you have a daughter/son just as naughty as you, and then you’ll be sorry’ was occasionally deployed.

When the Little Kids were actually little she’d even sometimes resort in desperation to the classic ‘stop that crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about’. But not very often. I’m sure she realized that one is pretty darned ridiculous. (As well as ineffective.)

I should pause here to point out that there were five of us — the two Big Kids, the two Little Kids, and Roger (the Kid in the Middle) — a number that in those days wasn’t really all that unusual. Nor was the fact that we were a pretty rambunctious bunch. My Mom used to say (here comes a Momism) that ‘some people want the nations of the world to get along like brothers and sisters; hah! If they did, they’d be fighting all the time.’

The Five of Us: Big Kids in back, Little Kids in front (left and right). And Middle Kid in the middle

The Five of Us: Big Kids in back, Little Kids in front (left and right). And Middle Kid in the middle

Don’t get me wrong; we weren’t particularly naughty kids. Sure, sometimes things could spiral somewhat out of control. Like if one of us had a new Prized Possession and the rest wanted to mess with it. Or if somebody ate somebody else’s chocolate Easter Bunny ears. Or if my brothers started imitating The Three Stooges. (My Mom hated The Three Stooges.)

All Mom had to do was threaten to ‘get the hairbrush’  (not, in this instance, to brush our hair) or — if, say, we Said A Bad Word or ‘Talked Back’ — ‘wash your mouth out with soap‘. The hairbrush and soap threats were rather like the threat of nuclear weapons. I don’t recall her ever actually using them; just the fact that they existed and could be deployed served as a pretty effective deterrent.

Let me round out this collection with one of her, um, more creative Momisms. (It’s such a dandy that it appears in a previous Mom Story, ‘My Mom, the “Party Girl”‘.)

Back in the Old Days there were no seat belts. No baby seats, either. Parents just sort of squooshed their numerous progeny into the car and closed the door. Babies would get wedged into a corner or perched on the lap of a bigger kid.

This close proximity caused bickering, of course. ‘Mom! Her leg is touching my leg!’ ‘Mom! He’s looking out my window!‘ and my personal favorite (and no, I am not making this up) ‘Mom! He’s breathing my air!‘ made driving anywhere a noisy proposition. All this ‘Mom!’-ing (pronounced more like ‘Maaaaa-aaaahhhmmmm!) made our Mom say on more than one occasion that she wanted to change her name (that is, from ‘Mom’).

Anyway, one time when my Middle Brother had scored the coveted Front Seat, he got so excited — and so twitchy and annoying — that Mom actually told him: ‘Roger, get in the back seat if you want to wiggle your behind’.

Most excellent Momism, Mom. I wish you the most excellent Mother’s Day. Since I’m actually going to be seeing you in person this year, I can hardly wait to ask you ‘Why isn’t there a Children’s Day?’ To which you will surely reply, just like when we were small, ‘Every day is Children’s Day.’

Indeed.

New York City. May 2016

The time I had a blind date with an eye doctor

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‘A Cinderella Story. Involving an actual cinder’

My friend Mary Ann said she liked the Forbes story (which was about a honeymoon) and the de Kooning story (which was about a living room), but that the story she really wanted to read would be the one about how The Dude and I met.

And I’m going to tell it. But first I have to set the stage a bit.

See, back in the 80s when this tale takes place, I went out a lot. With a lot of different guys. Trust me, this wasn’t at all unusual at the time. Most of my friends also went out with lots of guys. Young People then were not so into that going-out-in-packs thing, much less that thing called ‘hooking up’. (I’m not sure I know exactly what that means, and I don’t want to know. And please don’t mention Tinder.) True, there were a few couples into that serial-monogamy thing, but most of them were married.

A bevy of pre-dating-app beauties. The one on the right (me, hah) has a role in this story

A bevy of pre-dating-app beauties. The one on the right (me, hah) gets the fateful cinder in her eye

So. During the day I’m having a blast working at Ogilvy. Nights and weekends, I’m having a blast going out with guys. Let’s see, at the time of this story I was going out with a blonde surfer-type guy from California, an energetic older guy (he was probably 45) I met running in Central Park, a hunky television producer who owned his own Personal Truck, and, oh, off and on I was also seeing a Russian waiter. I’m not counting Steve Martin. I met him a week after I met The Dude. (If you have a sec, you can read that story here. It’s a pretty good one.)

I was also doing a lot of running in those days. As in, training for marathons. (Don’t worry; I’m not going to bore you with marathon stories. At least not right now.)

One fateful day while running on the bridle path in Central Park I managed to get a cinder in my eye. I couldn’t get it out myself, so when I got to work, I went to the nurse. (Yes, Ogilvy had an on-site nurse; she was called Nurse Penny.)

Nurse Penny couldn’t get it out either, so she sent me to an ophthalmologist on the Upper East Side. (Now, this story would be even better if the Ophthalmologist in Question had been Dr. Dude, but nope. His name was Dr. Bloomfield.)

So Dr. B is probing around in my eye, chasing said cinder. He’s also asking a lot of questions. Like ‘are you married?’ (‘nope’) ‘are you engaged?’ (‘uh-uh’) ‘are you seeing anybody special?’ (‘got an hour?’) I’m starting to feel a tad uncomfortable, since his giant gold wedding band keeps glinting its way into my line of cinder-blocked vision, when he says ‘oh! I’m not asking for myself.’  (‘whew’) ‘I have this doctor friend I think would really like to meet you.’

Well. Seeing as how I didn’t have any doctors in my lineup, I say ‘sure, I’d be happy to meet him’. I’m still helpless in the big poofy patient chair when Dr. B grabs his desk phone, punches in a number, says ‘Hello, Dude’s Real Name, I have someone here just perfect for you’, and hands the phone to me.

‘Um, hello?’ I manage, and the next thing you know this Mystery Doctor and I have made an arrangement to meet for dinner at this sushi place he knew. (We did have an ‘escape clause’; if we didn’t hit it off we’d leave after one drink.)

This was a blind date (with an eye doctor, hah), so how would he know me? I told him I’d be wearing white, thinking that would do it. Well, this was August. Do you have any idea how many women wear white in New York in August? About as many as wear black any other time of year. The Dude told me later that his head snapped around every time some woman walked in wearing white. Sometimes he wanted to hide under the table.

Hubba hubba. The Dude, sans white Doctor Coat, at about the time of this story

Hubba hubba. The Dude, wearing a pearly-white smile and not much else — definitely not his white doctor coat — at about the time of this story

But we met, we clicked. And the surfer and the old guy, the producer and the Russian waiter, and yes, even Steve Martin, all vanished into the mists of dating history.

The Dude and I were at a party once when someone asked how we met. I had just gotten to the part about Dr. B handing me the phone and saying ‘I have someone here just perfect for you’ when His Dudeness interjects ‘Oh, yes. He did that all the time. He must have introduced me to a dozen girls.’

Oops.

New York City. April 2016

Garry Shandling was right

The first TV-Show DVD I ever bought. Sure got my Amazon's worth
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‘Why we loved Mary, spunk and all’

It seems that the late great Garry Shandling and the still-with-us Jerry Seinfeld were not only Big Buds, but they were both huge fans of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I discovered this while watching a very hilarious episode of Jerry’s highly addictive web series, ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’.

In the episode, which is rather eerily titled ‘It’s Great that Garry Shandling is Still Alive’, Garry and Jerry drive around, drink coffee, and reminisce about making landmark TV shows at the same time at the same studio. (This episode is more than just eerie, it’s amazingly hilarious. Don’t miss G and J ‘doing’ those Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercials.)

Anyway. At one point Garry and Jerry take a break from cracking each other up to agree that the Mary Tyler Moore Show was right up there with their own personal shows in the landmark category.

Well guys, I couldn’t agree more. I happen to have loved the Mary Tyler Moore Show. (Personal reasons to come soon.) But first I have a confession to make. I never saw either of your shows. Garry’s was on cable (which I didn’t have) and sort of obscure. So I have an excuse (sort of) not to have seen it. But I didn’t watch Jerry’s show either, and it was the opposite of obscure. In fact, it was hard to hang out around the water cooler and not have watched ‘Seinfeld’. But hey. It was the 80s, and I was busy.

Also, I didn’t have a TV. Not in New York. I left the Midwest in rather a hurry, having nailed my Madison Avenue Dream Job faster than I expected. (Which is a whole ‘nother story, which you can read here if so inclined.) And I pretty much left everything behind that I didn’t need — boyfriend, car, TV.

Even back in Kansas City during the 70s, when Mary’s show was on — and I had that TV — I didn’t really watch it. See, back in those days if you wanted to watch a show, you actually had to sit down and watch it. There was no recording it, no streaming it, no way around it. So, if you were a young Mary-like girl and went out and did Mary-like things, you naturally missed a lot of Mary. But when I did get to see Mary, I loved Mary.

Flash forward a few decades later. A friend at work (ah, those work friendships; Mary got that right) tells me they’re running a Mary Marathon on Nick at Night. So I start staying up really late to get my Mary Fix. (The one about the Divorced-People’s Dating Club! The one with the Hair Bump! The one where Mary had to work on Christmas Eve!)

Then The Child, who was oh, around ten, but already very up on technology and already also very up on Mary, approaches my bleary-eyed self with the news that we can buy the Mary Tyler Moore Show and watch it any time we want. 

It's a miracle: A whole season's worth of Marys, mine all mine to watch whenever I want.

It’s a (late-last-century) miracle: A whole season’s worth of Marys, mine all mine to watch whenever I want

(Quick note. I know the whole name is The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but when The Child and I used to binge-watch we’d just call it ‘Mary’. As in ‘Let’s watch a couple more Marys; it’s only 11:30.’)

Okay already. Why did I love Mary so much? Goodness. Where to start? There was her apartment. What’s not to like about that apartment? (Well, except for the part about neighbors always dropping in; one of the reasons I moved to New York is that nobody does that here.)

Wow. Check out that shag. (Carpet, not haircut) And, while we're at it, don't you WANT that dress and belt?

Wow. Check out that shag. (Carpet, not haircut) And, while we’re at it, don’t you WANT that dress and belt? p.s. Phyllis has, of course, just dropped in

And there’s her clothes. Mary had, bar none, the best clothes. All by from Evan-Picone, the credits informed us. (I still drool over a certain quilted hostess skirt.) Each episode I would obsess over what she was going to wear — whether she’d actually repeat an outfit. (Hey! There’s that khaki shirtdress again!) Oh, and there were the scarves.

Last but not least, there were the friends and the job. I put these together because Mary did too. True, there was Rhoda the Upstairs Neighbor. But Mary had many more Work Friends (Murray and Ted and Sue Ann and Mr. Grant and even the kid-with-the-longhair-who-walked-around-in-the-background).

Take your eyes off the outfit long enough to notice Mr. Grant

Take your eyes off the outfit long enough to notice Mr. Grant

And so did I. My work friends included Doris-the-older-woman-with-a wig (who was probably 40) and Tory the Heartthrob and Larry My First Gay Friend and BK (for ‘Boss’s Kid’, whose dad, the boss, is the star of ‘The Naked Boss and the Pussycat Lounge’). I even had a supervisor who kept a bottle of booze in his desk drawer, a la Lou. (Thank you for urging me to move to New York, Mr. Hoffman, wherever you are.)

By now, no doubt, you’ve picked up on the Real Reason I loved Mary. I could identify with her — spunk and all. And I bet I’m not the only one out there, right?

New York City. April 2016

 

The Accidental Tourist

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‘You can take the girl out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest out of the girl.’

Even though I’ve lived in New York longer than I have existed anywhere else, I am often mistaken for a tourist. (Maybe it’s my ‘Honest Face’.)

I can be swathed in head-to-toe black, topped off with the intimidating authentic motorcycle jacket I bought at the intimidating authentic motorcycle shop in L.A., and still get asked if I’m enjoying my stay.

Yes, that's me. In the scary motorcycle jacket. And yes, I do look like a tourist. Especially since we were doing a very Touristy Thing at the time: going to see the Rockettes

Yes, that’s me in the motorcycle jacket. At the Radio City Christmas Show with two people actually born in New York

Once when I had a freelance gig at Ogilvy, which was then located in Midtown West, I swear I got asked every single day on my way to work if I wanted to ride one of those double-decker tourist buses in Times Square. And it was the same guy who asked me, too. When the gig ended, I kind of missed him.

Thanks, but no thanks.

So. Do you want to ride a double-decker bus, or what?

This stuff happens even when I’m wearing my fiercest no-nonsense ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ face. I’m often asked by real tourists/visitors about this face — why it is that New Yorkers all look so, well, unfriendly. ‘I asked this lady for directions today, and she was really nice!‘ they’ll say with great surprise.

Well. Think about it. In other cities, people get to hide in their cars. Here, when we commute, we’re out there on the street. We’re thinking about what to say in the meeting, or what to fix for supper, or why the heck our husbands didn’t kiss us good-bye. So, naturally, our faces say we don’t want to be messed with. When actually we’re all just big softies underneath. Well, um, maybe not all of us. And maybe not softies.

Before I get carried away, here’s another example (among many, trust me) of my being mistaken for a Visitor From The Hinterland. On this particular occasion, I was walking home from Midtown when a young man came up to me on the corner of Park and 57th. ‘Miss,’ he said, using a pitiful tone of voice. ‘I’m trying to get home to Illinois, but I’ve lost my ticket. Do you think you could help me out?’

Well. I adjusted my don’t-mess-with-me face, and strode on. Fast forward to the next day. Same corner, same young man, same pitiful tone. ‘Miss, I’m trying to get home to Indiana, but I’ve lost my ticket. Do you think you could help me out?’

Me: ‘I thought you lived in Illinois.’

One more thing. I may look like a tourist, but I know how to talk like a New Yorker. It’s something I picked up, oh, about a week after I moved here. You take any normal, benign sentence, like ‘Do you want to have lunch?’, and stick a ‘so’ on the front and an ‘or what?‘ on the end: ‘So, do you want to have lunch, or what?

See? It’s fun. Go ahead and try it. Any sentence. ‘Is your boyfriend coming over?’ becomes ‘So, is your boyfriend coming over, or what?‘ ‘Do you like avocados?’ becomes ‘So, do you like avocados, or what?

I could do this all day. But it’s time to get a wiggle on. Now where did I put my don’t-mess-with-me face?

New York City. April 2016