September 30, 2021

Tell Everyone Everything, All the Time

Just out here supporting one another. No big deal. (The Women, 1939, MGM)

When I first moved to New York City the common belief was that the surest way to get an apartment was to wait at Astor Place after midnight for the Village Voice trucks to arrive with the next day’s edition straight from the printers. The only way to secure the apartments listed in the closely read classifieds was to be the very first to see them. At least this is how the thinking went. 

I don’t actually know if it was true, the only time I was in Astor Place after midnight on a Monday was when I happened to be walking home after a waitressing shift. The only time I responded to a Voice apartment classified was the week after I moved to New York, and had no other resource. I do know that, with very little exception, in all the years I’ve been here the only way I’ve secured apartments in New York, is by telling literally everyone I encounter that I need an apartment. 

Even though social media has largely taken over the word-of-mouth game (not to mention the classifieds, the print media industry, and just discovery in general), I still believe in telling people I encounter what I am looking for. Or perhaps the better way to phrase it is, I believe in telling people what I am lacking. 

Over the past year what I have been mostly lacking, along with so many, is steady income. The shame around money runs deep in this country. Especially if you grew up in a financially unstable household. I have clear memories of a girl in my sixth-grade class, in the school I had just moved to weeks earlier, going around the room and pointing to people calling out what she assumed was the price of their home. She pointed to me, and the number dropped significantly. I had no idea if she was right – I had not yet turned into a real estate obsessed person – but I understood she was using money to shame me for being new (also, probably, for the killer Flashdance-inspired wardrobe I recall sporting that year).

For women, in particular, the conversations around money are particularly fraught. My personal belief, derived from years of waiting tables followed by years of occupying a catbird seat to the women’s entrepreneur space is that, unlike men, women do not have centuries of experience of having their own money and learning how to be comfortable with this. Money can be emotional in complicated ways that it does not for many men. And for that matter, women’s wealth is often tied up with men. Subsequently talking about having it or not, can be a minefield. 

Fortunately, I got over my particular hesitancy around this issue. I believe the modern term for it is giving-no-fucks. But also, I have learned that the best way to get help, or at least opportunities, is to tell people you need them. 

This has been true for me this year. I spent the spring telling everyone who asked that I wasn’t sure what was going to happen this summer (ie how the bills were going to be paid) and then voila, a friend heard about a job, and connections were made, and here we are. I have spent the last two weeks facing the end of a gig I enjoy very much, contemplating (out loud, to everyone I talked with) the pros and cons of starting something on my own, and voila, the gig was extended, giving me a bit more runway to think things through. 

This is perhaps just a long way of saying you never know until you ask. Or tell. Or both.