In New York, the city of perfection, you always have this chronic feeling of being a little bit out of it in the back of your mind: honestly – like, you’re doing ok, but you could do better.
No big deal, as long as you decide that it’s not your goal in life to be perfect. But you’d almost have to make yourself a tee-shirt that says “I don’t care about perfect” (or “Fuck Perfect” if you’re Cara Delevingne) to get people to leave you in peace with your averageness.
Because here, and, um, in fashion in particular, the cult of perfection is really tough, even though we all love “Girls”!!! (It’s so nice to see normal people!!!)(On TV!!!)
So here’s what I want to talk to you about today – after almost five years of carrying out sociological studies in New York, it seems to me that the pursuit of perfection has its roots in the search for…
The perfect man.
Being in a couple in New York is a serious thing. So. Serious.
Like, you better not mess up.
It’s like some kind of extreme casting call – Survivor style (the last person who can keep their balance standing on a buoy in the middle of an ocean of failed love stories wins). It’s a type of dating* where everything about the guy is a test – from the places he likes to go (“He took me to eat a BURGER! Can you imagine? MEAT??!! I’ll NEVER reply to his text messages again, do you hear me!?”) to all his different skills (sexual, professional, Does He Wear a Pair of Common Projects Like He Should) and you can test him to your heart’s content without actually having to commit to a relationship (for French people who understand nothing about this subject, see the box at the end of the article)(ok, fine, we can’t do boxes on the blog yet, even with our awesome new format. Next version, there will be boxes, I promise).
Marriage is such an institution here. It’s kind of like the sign that a person “Wins at Life”.
Let’s not even talk about how wedding ceremonies here are the culmination of years of fantasizing and social pressure (as you can see in the 75463523 romantic comedies about marriages that always end well), let’s just focus on the myth of the perfect man.
Who is the perfect man?
Well, you can’t trust American movies where the woman (who is adorable, beautiful, stylish, funny, and has a good job) ends up with the nerd (who is slightly chubby, and a little weird, but so funny and irresistible!!!) – those movies were made precisely by the nerdy guys. I think it’s safe to say it skews the story a little bit.
That’s not how it works in real life. Oops, I mean, in New York.
In New York, to be perfect, a guy has to have a really great job (first criteria), has to be relatively attractive (but mainly just the great job)(stable, well paid, respectable), has to be relatively not too much of a jerk and… well that’s about it actually.
Pffff, it’s easy to be the perfect man in New York.
What’s not so easy is being the perfect girl. There’s a big imbalance. Because what is the perfect man looking for? The perfect woman. Yep, of course, why not? There are loads of perfect girls in New York, apparently like five times more than there are guys.
So let’s see who our perfect woman is. Here we go.
Ok, first of all, let’s talk a little bit about the perfect New York girl’s body.
We’ve talked about this before (actually we talk about it all the time): New York girls are thin and muscular, and anyone who doesn’t have that “perfect” body is seen as the really nice friend who isn’t really part of the game (I happen to think those are the girls who are winning at life, but once again, that’s just my personal point of view as a girl who’s a little off in her own world).
I don’t know if that’s what the New York guy looking for the perfect woman actually wants deep down, but in doubt, I’m going to assume he must tell himself that’s part of the package and plus, socially, it’s just the body you’re supposed to have.
So, body wise, I want to give a little shout out to my friends who are truly thin, they exist, LIKE BRIE WHO EATS COOKIES ALL DAY LONG (and healthy things too) but apart from those rare AND annoying girls, you end up with skinny, muscular girls who are kind of obsessed with whatever non-food they’re not going to eat next time they won’t be at all hungry (I mean, right this second!)
Not to mention all the hours spent at the gym, on top of it all. You have to work to be perfect. And say you love it, too. We’ll come back to that later.
You also have to have the perfect job, and that, kids, is not easy.
I was talking to a friend of mine who works in PR (it’s a great job, actually, when you think about it) (You can get into the cool parties!!!) and she was telling me that the guy she was dating was dating another girl at the same time (I warned you!) who had a dream job, something to do with traveling (so much better than getting into cool parties – you can fly off on cool trips for free!!!) (with free massages included!)
The problem is that the same guy was also dating (I know what you’re going to ask, and no, I have no idea what the limit is on how many people you can be dating at one time) a model, which pretty much tops all the cool jobs, even if there’s no real benefit to dating someone who is a model other than the fact that you can say “my girlfriend is a model”.
Ah yeah but give them a break, it must feel pretty good.
You have to have a dream job and in a city of dreams, it’s not easy.
So it’s kind of the battle of the dream jobs. And even if what you really want deep down is just to be plopped down at your computer procrastinating at a job that doesn’t stress you out too much (there must be people who want that, right? so what?)(I totally root for them) well – you feel dumb on a date.
Other thing to be perfect, you have to have a group of perfectly edited friends.
You have to have your BFF, of course. The BFF of the moment (the one you want to be seen with at parties)(ok, I know, I’m being cynical. But this whole post is cynical, so don’t pretend like it bothers you, and plus I’m French, cynicism is our religion!!!)(I tricked you with a super romantic illustration and here we are killing any hope of romantic encounters) the group of lawyer friends or friends in finance for the day when you need investors (and apparently they’re good contacts for finding a husband), the group of happy artist friends who like to party (nice but a little loud), the group of power friends (CEOs, EICs), the famous friend (if you live in New York and you don’t know anyone famous, you don’t live in New York), and finally, of course, the gay friend, how could I forget?
A network like that takes years to create, but you must persevere! Perseverance is a sign that you’re a perfect girl who never gives up (and, oh the horror!!! gains 10 pounds after three months of marriage!!!)
Ok, so all of that is just the basics.
Like the ABCs of perfection.
And then there are all the extra options to choose…
But difference does it make when you know that the competition is so intense!!!
(if you want to know just how intense the competition is, please see the box that’s not in a box at the end of the article)
In order of importance.
1/ Have a great apartment. Ok, it depends on your age, but a great apartment counts. It has to have a doorman (who knows why, but having a doorman is a real sign of social success in New York)(I don’t have a doorman, I’m so screwed) Or even better – a rooftop!
2/ … In the right neighborhood!!!
Ok, if the apartment in question is in Harlem (even if we all agree, Harlem is THE up and coming neighborhood!!) it’s not as good as if it’s in the West Village, right.
3/ Have amazing clothes!
Yep, in New York life, you’d better have fashion connections. So you can wear all the clothes you can’t afford to buy yourself, like Carrie Bradshaw (now I finally understand how she was able to wear all those amazing clothes on a journalist’s salary! She had friends in PR how ignorant can a Garance be!!!)
4/ Be ‘in the know’. Know all the good restaurants. Know the owner of the restaurant so you can snag a table at the last minute. Get into a club in the blink of an eye. A huge plus, you have to admit.
It’s a lot.
Of things to do.
And you can’t just do them. You have to do them perfectly, if possible.
And you have to make it look totally natural.
That’s the fifth pillar of perfection, and it’s the one that drives me the most crazy making a fuss in my little innocent French brain. You have to do all of that, and on top of it all, pretend like you’re cool with it.
But you can’t be good at everything in a city as stressful as New York AND be relaxed about it all. To reach that degree of perfection, there’s some part of you that has to be a control freak. But since no one likes a control freak, you say things like:
“I love burgers!!! They’re my favorite thing!”
“I’m such a party girl!!!”
“I love beer!”
“This apartment? Nah, I decorated it myself little by little, with my best friend” (best friend = my decorator)
“I’m real, you know, friendship is a deep thing for me”
So there you have it. It took me almost five years to decode, but now I’ve finally understood – nobody perfect is cool and nobody cool is perfect.
* A little note on dating here. It doesn’t quite mean the same thing in French (or anywhere else in the world)
It’s so simple in France. No, seriously. You meet a guy, you get along with him, you don’t ask too many questions. Is he The One or not The One? Who cares. Life will tell you. In the meantime, “Are you coming to my place tonight???” We’re SO innocent!!!
In the US, you date, and it’s super hard to explain – I was even trying to explain it to Emmanuelle Alt (= fashion credibility insert) the other day and she was shouting “No way! WHAT?! I can’t believe it!!!” But yes, it’s true. Here, let me try to explain here:
A “date” is a guy you “see”. It means you plan evenings together or days together, you learn about each other. It may mean that you kiss, or not. You may sleep with the guy the first night, or not until weeks later.
But dating doesn’t mean you are “with” him. You’re not his girlfriend, he’s not your boyfriend. He’s just a guy you’re dating, and it’s perfectly possible that he’s dating other girls. And you totally have the right to date other guys, he wouldn’t have anything to say about it.
When I make big eyes at people when they tell me this, they always say “But it makes sense!!! How else would you know which person is the best for you?”
Pfff. So now I have to talk to you about the idea of “the best person” but I’ll do that next time, it’s like deep, deep deep subject, you know.
But come on, LIFE IS NOT A JOB, MY DEAR NEW YORK FRIENDS.
Ok, so apparently, there comes a time when you have “the conversation” otherwise known as DTR, “Define The Relationship”. Like, if you really love each other and all the other guys you’ve tested out don’t measure up, you might decide to become “exclusive”.
In other words, (if I understand this correctly, there are still a lot of nuances I don’t get) you become boyfriend and girlfriend.
Yeah, it’s bizarre. Or not. I’m not sure.
Is competition tough in New York?
So apparently, according to my friend Joyann, there is one guy for every four girls in New York, which explains the number of single and fabulous girls and the number of guys who are not single and not fabulous at all and still get so much heat in girls salons.
I think these kinds of numbers are only here to increase the poor New York woman’s anxiety levels and paralyze the hell out her into spending three more hours on a treadmill, so I say, fuck statistics.
We might as well just all go move to Ohio. Erik is from there, so it can’t be too bad.
A little note on French Love explained to Americans, because they are just as surprised when we talk to them about the way we fall in love.
For us French people – we meet someone. It might be a friend you’ve had for a long time, or someone you’ve just met in a bar. Suddenly, it clicks. You talk for hours. You kiss. You might sleep together, if you want to. Anyway, you don’t make a big deal of it.
The next day, if the guy (or the girl) is still there and you’ve made them a coffee, BOOM. It’s done.
You’re boyfriend and girlfriend! Whoo, just as simple as that. And no need to go looking elsewhere. You don’t try out the merchandise in France.
You like someone, and you go for it, right away.
Maybe that’s where we get our super romantic reputation from.
And why people are so fascinated by our non-fascination for perfection. Who knows ?
Translated by Andrea Perdue