You have to be a bit of a masochist to move to New York. At minimum, you have to be the type of person who enjoys having an endless rash of things to complain about. Prices! Traffic! Smells! Subways! Neighbors! Taxis! New Yorkers basically face sensory, psychological and sometimes physical assault every time we walk out the door. Yet, we brag endlessly about living here, encourage others to try it and scorn those who leave for not being able to “handle it.” As a somewhat rational person who participates in this back and forth, I had to find a way to explain it.
Spoiler alert – I’m not a psychologist- but this seems like a picture perfect demonstration of cognitive dissonance. For those of you who didn’t take Psych 101 your freshman year, cognitive dissonance is the ability to hold conflicting ideas simultaneously. If you want an instant, clear demonstration of how New Yorkers demonstrate this, look at how they address one subject: the weather.
The cycle tends to go like this: mid-winter when we’re clad head-to-toe in black, wading around in the grey slushy that has been thrown Glee-style in the face of our city; all we can do is long for the long days of summer. We talk about it extensively—how great outdoor patios will be, how we’ll dance in skimpy tank tops in parks, watch movies on rooftops and how we’re going to eat every lobster roll at every pop-up gourmet artisan food truck festival.
Yet, the first time the temperature spikes 90 degrees, count the number of times you hear a random person complain about the heat around you. If you had a dollar for every time you heard it, you wouldn’t have to sleep on a bunk bed in Bushwick anymore. Our bodies are forced to constantly recalibrate our internal temperatures as we go from the walk-in freezer we call the office to the suffocating oven known as the street. This is pleasant for a minute, like receiving a deceptively warm hug before you realize someone is actually trying to shut your head in an oven. Suddenly, people are talking about how pretty the city is when it snows and how nice it would be to be sitting in a warm bar on a cold day in front of a fire place.
You know how there is the old wives’ tale that women immediately forget the pain of child birth after labor? It’s a coping mechanism, and it’s the same one New Yorkers use to deal with the seasons. We immediately forget everything we hated about winter the first day we find ourselves sweating profusely on the way to work and similarly dream of summer during the months when we’re shuffling around buried under layers of clothing. But at the same time, it’s nice to know you’ll never run out of things to complain about with the bodega guy.