A gentleman asked me — as a pickup line — to tell him my life story. I demurred; it’s not really my style, and anyway, he only asked more or less so he could tell me his, which by his own admission is absolutely standard and, without being too cruel, banal. If the most exciting thing you’ve done in 25 years is to move to Williamsburg…well, don’t go around asking other people their life stories.
This is the opening of a letter I began writing to my aunt but never sent. It was, in it’s essence, a very long meditation on why I dread leaving New York, why I love it in a way I have not and cannot love another place (at least not in this country). I am revisiting it after reading this atrocity, (written in San Francisco, and the example par excellence why that place is the bane of my existence) but we’ll get back to that.
The reason I love New York is very simple, though it takes a long, long time to explain correctly: My animating feature does not depress people here. In a city of 8 million people from all over the world a) no one gives a fuck and b) the people who do are interested. They get it. Shit sometimes happens. We’ve all done things we’re ashamed of, lived through things we wish we hadn’t — but then we absorb them and move on.
Everywhere else I’ve ever lived or been, I find myself apologizing to people for the lesion through my spinal cord at the T5 vertebrate: I’m sorry I’m limping. I realize it’s very unattractive and not appropriately bourgeois, and that it’s distressing you with its social inappropriateness now that you’ve noticed. Please, insist it’s ‘all better now’. Quite naturally. Young people with good educations are like milk — nothing could be purer. (If only you knew!)
I certainly do not need people to be interested in me. The lesion is just a reality, like black hair and white skin and an unpleasantly large ribcage, or any of the other absolutely uninteresting features that constitute my physical manifestation on the planet. I am not more proud of it than I am of my weight or my height or my cup-size, or any of the other G-d given things on loan to me for this mortal holiday. (I am not ashamed either, though other people frequently take it upon themselves to be ashamed for me). I am not my disability — I find the idea insulting to my ability to irritate and alienate people by my personality alone. Continue reading