5 Lies Television Taught Me About New York City

How I Met Your Mother
How I Met Your Mother

For years, I have placed New York City on a pedestal, propping it up with the luxurious visions of urban life that I’d seen on television. Including a brief stint in Manhattan last summer, I’ve officially lived in the city for a few months, which is not long enough to be considered a “true” New Yorker (it’ll be a few more decades before I’m even allowed to think about using that label), but just long enough to realize how deceitful all of my favorite series have been over the years.

1) Bars are never crowded.

From the few episodes of How I Met Your Mother that I’ve seen, I’ve learned three things: Neil Patrick Harris makes a convincing straight man, Alison Hannigan never ages, and, most significantly, bars in New York City are never crowded. While the first two points prove to be true, the last one is cruelly misleading. I don’t know what magical, Diagon-Alley-esque doorway this friend group had to step through to find this bar, but it certainly doesn’t resemble the overheated, so-cramped-you-can-smell-your-neighbor’s-body-odor bars of Manhattan that I’ve grown accustomed to. Television made bars seem like friendly, spacious atmospheres where you could always reliably find a table to accommodate your friends, a place where you could hear what everyone was saying without yelling into someone’s ear. In reality, the only time a bar is empty is at 3 o’clock in the morning when it’s closing time and the bartender is trying to drag you out the front door.

2) Apartments in NYC are practically palaces.

When I first began telling people I wanted to live in New York, I received a disturbing number of nervous glances, often accompanied by the question “But where are you going to live?” Their tone suggested that New York was in the midst of a massive housing deficit that I was willingly stepping into, a notion that completely contradicted everything I’d seen on television. “Yeah, I’m just going to find an apartment somewhere. As long as it’s near a coffee shop, I’ll be okay!” I’d answer, exuding a level of cheeriness that would make me vomit in all other circumstances. Watching Mindy Kaling navigate through her lavish apartment on The Mindy Project, sliding gracefully down her spiral staircase, and seeing Kat Dennings in 2 Broke Girls lounge in her quaint backyard clouded my vision of what New York housing would actually look like: crumbling apartment buildings infested with drain flies and filled with rooms barely bigger than your body. To own an apartment as fancy as the one on Friends, I’d have to own a restaurant chain, not just work in one.

3) You can support yourself on one job and have a social life.

What newspaper is Carrie Bradshaw writing for that she can afford to live alone in the center of Manhattan, eat brunch every day with her friends, and date a million men? Have I been searching all the wrong Craigslist ads? Or is Carrie just a remarkable salary negotiator? Even some of the more modern shows like Girls overlook some important money situations. While Lena Dunham’s series started out hitting the nail on the head, with her parents suddenly deciding to sever their financial support, the show veered away from money topics in the later seasons, focusing instead on Hannah’s path to self-discovery, which winds through expensive nightclubs and drug habits without mentioning the financial burdens that accompany such activities. No 9-to-5 job? No talk of paying off loans or developing a stable career? Nice try Lena, but I’m not buying it.

4) Everyone takes taxis.

“Relax-I-Taxi?” More like “unhygenic-germ-pod-on-wheels.” Television makes hailing a cab as natural as finding a Duane Reade or overpaying for movie tickets. Going to a bar across town? Wave down a taxi. Going to the grocery store to pick up some last-minute items? Grab a cab. Headed to meet your friend at the coffee shop that is so close to your apartment, it’s practically in the same building? Avoid that two-second walk by hailing a taxi. You might pick up a disease or two and pay an exorbitant amount of money but hey, you’re in New York. That’s what you do.

5) Dating is easy.

Here’s an idea: why don’t we make a TV show where the protagonist doesn’t end up picking up a new guy every other weekend? Why not make a realistic TV show where the quirky main character waits around for her cute co-worker to ask her out (to no avail) or where she finally gives in to online dating and goes on a handful of bad dates before finding a decent guy, who actually turns out to have a toe fetish? Or one where she doesn’t find a guy at all because New York is gigantic and everyone is too wrapped up in their own business to consider looking for a serious relationship. I mean, I know Ross is nice, but the number of women he was able to convince to date him just seems unrealistic. TC mark

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