1. They’re not necessarily rich but everything in their closet is a designer label
There’s got to be some kind of secret Yves St Laurent outlet store in Manhattan that you can only go to if you’re born there. In a lot of cases people born in Manhattan are rich kids from rich families, but even natives from the middle and poorer classes don’t seem to understand that non-designer clothes exist. They could be subsisting off of hot dogs and macaroni and everything they own will still be couture, they just won’t own much of it.
2. They can only give vague explanations of what their parents do or did for a living
A good tipoff someone was raised in Manhattan is when you ask what their parents do and then they give you an explanation like “Oh my mother worked in fashion when she was younger and my father is in energy consulting.” No one’s parents “did” or “were” anything they were all “in” things. If you asked this question to a normal person from anywhere else in the world the explanation would probably be more along the lines of “He was an electrical engineer.” But kids that grow up in Manhattan are basically characters from a Wes Anderson movie so don’t expect their families to make sense the way yours does.
3. They have a very casual view of sexuality
They probably haven’t had a significant other in years, and they’ll act like you’re a love sick teenager if you go out for dinner with the same person more than twice in a month. They’ve just got a rotating gallery of dicks and vaginas that they cycle through, and if you say something like “Wow that person you’re sleeping with is attractive” they’ll probably just laugh at you and change the subject. Sex is like shaking hands for these people.
4. Nonchalant drug use
For normal people cocaine is kind of a scary fun thrill that you can do to sober up a little and keep partying on the weekends. For people born in Manhattan, cocaine is “Thursday.” You can go over to someone’s place for a beer or glass of wine at 8pm and they’ll just be casually doing key bumps in front of you as if it were as normal as having a piece of gum.
It’s fine for them because drugs don’t affect them the same way they do normal humans. They can do Scarface lines all night and you won’t notice a difference in their behavior. It’s tough to party with them because if you act high or say something along the lines of “I don’t think I need any more cocaine” they’ll just think it’s adorable and pat you on the head. This is because in Manhattan teenagers are so jaded that by the time they’re in their mid-twenties they’ve already got the drug tolerance of Anthony Kiedis.
5. They’re pretentious about things you didn’t know you could be pretentious about
It’s impossible to mention any experience around a native Manhattanite without being told that you’ve somehow made a mistake and opted for a version that’s subpar. Even if it’s something as banal as what train line you took to meet up with them, or something as seemingly invariable as which car service you’re calling. I once got chastised for going to the wrong shoe repair place.
It sounds like one-up-man-ship but it’s not because there’s a genuine “Oh sweetie, no, you did it wrong” cadence in their voice when they’re telling you. They don’t need to one up you because they’re already positive that they’re better than you. Yes, they’re talking down, but they’re also trying to educate you and elevate you to their level.
6. They don’t go to public places
Maybe… just maybe…. you’ll see them at a restaurant. But that’s usually only if it’s one that no one knows about and it isn’t “officially open yet.” Or it has such a high level of exclusivity it’s impossible for a normal person to get in.
Instead of clubbing or bars they drink and at each other’s apartments or go to invitation only parties. If it’s accessible to the public, a native is not interested. Even when they do feel like going to a place that is normally accessible to the public, they’ll either find a way to go there when it’s closed or arrange to have the whole place to just them and their friends.
If you make the mistake of inviting them out to a bar they’ll humor you but when you get there they’ll say things like “God I’m remembering why I don’t go out in public now” all night and make you feel uncomfortable for being such a boner.
7. They don’t exercise
They’re not fat but they’re not especially healthy looking either. They’ll watch their weight and go to the gym twice a year in January and April but they’ll inevitably just give up on that and start skipping meals and doing more blow.
They see working out as a something for hopeless mid-westerners who are trying to look like the pretty people they see on their television sets. They think really trendy and successful fitness institutions like Equinox and Soul Cycle are hilarious. They see places like that as catering more to the transplanted yuppies than real New Yorkers.
If for some strange reason he or she is going to exercise it won’t be at a trendy gym. It will be at some hole in the wall filled with a bunch of guys that look like Jerry Stiller.
8. They know everyone
When I first moved to New York someone introduced me to a native Manhattanite and whispered in my ear “He knows everyone.” At first I thought it was an exaggeration but after spending some time around this person I’m convinced it’s true.
They even know people that don’t exist yet because they know which families are having kids and exactly what those kids lives are going to be like based on the school’s they’ll attend.
If they don’t know someone it doesn’t matter because they’re so confident in their role in society that they have no qualms about just plucking the person out of complete obscurity and instantly treating them like an old friend. If you’re actually friends with one of these people this practice can be disturbing to witness.
9. They live in a hyperbolized version of reality
It can sometimes feel like these people aren’t occupying the same reality as you and that their presence is just residual energy from whatever dimension they exist in. Entire dramatic narratives can unfold within an exchange that to you just looked like two people saying 3 completely ordinary sentences to each other.
Nothing is ever banal or simple, and it’s tough to tell if they’re drama queens or if they really are just tapped into a completely different feed of the universe than you.
10. Oh yeah, they’ll also let you know immediately
A native Manhattanite’s zip code defines everything about them. When speaking to each other it becomes like a shorthand for telling people what sort of person they are. What block you grew up on in Manhattan is as important as accents are to the English.
Because they’re programmed this way, when you meet one they’ll be compelled to let you know they’re from Manhattan by telling you exactly which building they grew up in. They will also expect you to be familiar with this building. If you’re new to the city, this is followed by a 1-hour-long explanation of the significance of every single neighborhood in Manhattan.
This might sound like the portrait of a completely insufferable adult child, and in many ways that’s what having grown up in Manhattan does to people in their 20s and 30s, but there is still value in knowing them.
First of all, they’ll usually be really sweet to you because in their eyes you’re like a lost puppy. Second, by virtue of having grown up in the city you live in as an adult, your network is about a bajillion times more robust than anyone’s who moved there after school. As a transplant you’re starting at a disadvantage and access to that network is invaluable. If you’re new to NYC, find one of these people and make it a priority to be best friends with one of them.