So here I am. Living on the fifth floor of an apartment building with about a dozen staff milling around in the lobby – doorman, assistant doormen, concierge, mailroom attendant, valet manager – and dozens more roaming around the building, ready to fix my faulty washing machine or take delivery of my Whole Foods order. I’m a five minute walk from Bloomingdales (or Bloomies, in local speak), six minutes from Central Park, a short taxi ride away from Balthazar.
And thousands of miles away from my kids.
What the Hell am I doing here?
Supporting my husband, the lovely Mr L1, that’s what. He’s come to New York for work, and I’ve come for the ride. It was made very clear to me, right at the outset, that the ride is the only thing I’m here for, because I’m an L2 without an EAD. That’s US Immigration speak for a visa category that forbids any form of work or full time study. I can write, but I can’t sell, or profit from, my writing.
The writing thing almost did us in at the check-in desk back at London Heathrow. The American Airlines employee (from whom we certainly didn’t expect an interrogation) asked L1 what he was going to do in New York, and followed up with a bunch of other questions about how long and who for and so on. He then turned to me: “And what do you do?” (Probably the most loathed and loaded dinner party question a married woman is accustomed to being asked). My instinct was to say “I write”, but the instinct was soon squashed by L1, who flashed me a stern look and quickly jumped in.
L1: “She’s going to look after me.”
AA man: “A lady of leisure. That’s nice”
Well, this rankled. 😡 Of course it did. As a person who worked in business while raising kids for fifteen years, then continued to run the home and lives of four other people while writing the odd book for ten, I resent being put into the ladies of leisure category. I do have leisure. Plenty of it these days. But I am not a lady of leisure. You see the difference?
And anyway, who really is a lady of leisure? Do they even exist anymore? Not a single woman I know would fall into that category.
Anyhoo, L1 was well aware of just how irritated I would be, which is why he said, grinning mischievously: “Not exactly. More like chief underpant folder.” To which I replied, glaring at him: “More like, you’ll be folding your own underpants and a lot else besides.”
The AA man was oblivious to all the grinning and glaring and the underpants joke went whizzing right over his head. He was focused on his own agenda.
AA man: “So ma’am, what do you like to do with your time?”
(Aha, a trick question. I was prepared.)
Me: “Oh, you know. Go to museums. Read. I love to read. I read a lot.”
AA man: “Good, good. And what was the last thing you….
And here’s where it almost went wrong. Maybe it was his accent or my ears, but I could have sworn I heard him asking me what was the last thing I’d written. Caught off guard, and thinking that he had some sort of inside track on my life, that he was trying to trip me up, I panicked. I mumbled the title of my last novel, stressing that it had been published way, way back in the distant and irrelevant past of 2007. He smiled in that way people do when they don’t understand or believe you. So I kept digging. “I won’t be doing any of that in New York, that’s for sure!” He nodded politely, before saying “And was it good? The book?” Not wanting to be seen to be blowing my own trumpet, I replied, “I wouldn’t want to say”.
As we walked away, L1 leaned in and whispered “Digger (because that’s what he calls me. Don’t ask), he wasn’t asking you about the last book you wrote. He was just asking about the last book you read.”
So a woman who claimed to love, love, love reading had not read a book since 2007. Oh Dear.
No matter. The fact is that I am an avid reader, and a writer too. A writer who is definitely NOT going to earn money from her writing while living in Manhattan. So. What is said writer supposed to do? Be a blogger, came the answer, in the middle of the night. 💡 I can’t experience new things, weird and wonderful as they are bound to be, and not write about them. The experiences have to go somewhere, and that somewhere is here.
Now back to those kids. The ones living thousands of miles away. Not kids, exactly, not at twenty five, twenty three and eighteen, with the eldest and youngest not even living at home. That doesn’t mean I feel good about being separated from them, or that I won’t miss them like crazy. But L1 and I have to be realistic. We are on the verge of being empty nesters, and in another year, I would have been writing about that experience, every last painful bit of it. What we’re doing is leaving the nest before it empties itself of all the joy and chaos of family life. Smart move? Necessary move. L1 must be here, so the Chief Folder of Underpants must be here too.
And already, three days in, the weird and wonderful experiences have begun. L1 and I have done things we haven’t done in years, or ever, and would never do back home.
Here’s one: we walk everywhere. L1 walks to the office, I walk to Bloomies and Whole Foods and the Container Store, (ohhhh, the Container Store ❤ ❤ ❤ ),we both walk to restaurants for dinner. And what have I been wearing for all that walking? These little beauties, purchased from the Nike Store round the corner on day one .
A far cry from my usual footwear, but I’m already exstatically fond of them. And I fit right in. Sure, there’s the odd woman walking around in chic, pointy-toe, two-tone flats or a pair of mid-heel suede boots, but women in Carrie Bradshaw style heels are nowhere to be seen. And the majority are in their trusty Nikes. My own mid-heel suede boots will be strictly for those two-block walks to lunch or dinner.
So far so good. L1 and I are embracing the new, although it all feels rather surreal. Like I’m living someone else’s life. Which, in a way (and in the wise words of my friend LH), I suppose I am.
A final word, and it’s a word of warning. This blog is an evolving thing, owing to the fact that I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING. The world of blogging is even more weird and wonderful than the world of Manhattan, and pretty damn technically challenging for a fifty six year old first timer. I’m on first name terms with the WordPress techies, who seem to be cheerfully willing to engage in long, convoluted on-line exchanges in order to answer what (to them) must surely be ridiculous questions. (er.. how do I get emojis into my text? or I seem to have lost my draft, can you help me find it?)
So please bear with me if you can bear to.