Monday, May 09, 2011
WELL, YOU KNOW THEY ARE A LIAR
There are probably a million other times I should have written you for some 20-something life crisis advice, so I apologize that when I finally sit down and email you, it's about something a bit more mundane than emotionally-draining jobs or relationships (though I'd had those too). I'm a Midwestern, moved out to the Bay Area for college, lived in Boston for a year after that, and have been living in SF for about a year and a half since then, with some traveling-and-finding-myself stints in between. I'm 25 and I live with my boyfriend. We have a great, stable relationship most days. However, in a couple of months, I'll be moving for a very very long time to LA for an insanely long (~8 year) graduate program at UCLA. It was definitely the best and most supportive program for me to be in, and I am so excited to be in it -- but I hesitated for a really long time in accepting because, well, I have a deep-seated phobia of LA. Obviously, this phobia is based on stereotypes and comes from not ever having lived in LA, and also having lived in places -- mostly San Francisco and the East coast -- that like to trash on LA. I also am a big public transit person, and would say that I'm more an "East coast personality type," whatever that means. I grew up with seasons, have no fear of snow, don't tan, and own a lot of black and gray clothing.
I'm hopeful that I'll come to love, or at least, tolerate LA. I accepted this trade-off because I am so excited to be in my program there. Since you live there, and had lived in SF as well, maybe you can weigh in on this? How can I not hate everyone/everything?? What was the move like for you? (For more info: my boyfriend isn't moving with me at first, but is from LA -- we are planning on doing the visiting-back and forth thing for a while, and then he'll move down. Of course we'll play it all by ear, but that's the plan right now. Oh - also his family lives in LA, and I'm not exactly excited about what that means for me... a little to close for comfort. Also, I don't know that many people in LA, and the prospect of making new friends sounds pretty exhausting to me right now.)
Los Angeles Neophyte
Dear LA Neophyte,
You will fucking hate LA. There's no way to drive straight down from SF and not hate it, no matter how much you're secretly tired of chilly summers and bedheaded slackers with too much time on their hands to analyze the strengths of this or that Pho joint or this or that alt country band. People here in LA don't form entire conversations out of complaints like they do in NYC or SF. In NYC, you complain about the douchebag on the subway. In SF, you complain about someone who's superficial or overrated or suspiciously ambitious, or you debate the merits of this or that pure-intentioned but chafing grass roots movement.
In LA, you pretend that you're healthy and content, at least until you can be sure that the person you're talking to is also a grumpy asshole. Then you both complain openly, and you're friends for life. (That means you see each other every 2.5 months, because you live 1 hour away from each other.)
People here shower regularly. The women wear tall shoes and style their hair before they go out at night. If you get in your car at the wrong time of day and take the wrong route, you will wake up 1 hour later, 8 blocks away, wailing and tearing your hair and beseeching the gods above to free you from your misery. Ironically, people seem to approach these injustices with the same bland statement: "It's all good!" This will make you feel like you're going insane, since, quite obviously, It's All Bad.
But that's just the way things look for the first 2 years. After that hazing period, you discover that LA is filled with interesting, smart, grouchy people and all manners of weirdness. The benefits of LA over SF will become more and more obvious then: better weather and more diversity and variety in all things, as befits a gigantic city.
Personally, I feel strongly that LA is a very accepting place. There's not a lot of pressure to fit one mold. People tend to value a good sense of humor over everything else – which isn't exactly the case in SF, in my personal experience. There's a lot of appreciation for obnoxiousness here, for self-indulgence, for rambling on about this and that. I think LA is a place that is very hospitable to people with strong personalities. People are very open and offer their opinions freely and if you throw a great party or start a heated conversation, everyone sort of catches the spirit. People aren't anxious to talk shit about each other here. Sometimes, obviously, this is a drag. I mean, I'm a shit talker. But there's not nearly as much judgment here, and I've seen a lot of people blossom in this environment that would really be far more self-conscious elsewhere.
If you hate everyone you meet (I did, for 2 years straight – but I'm one of the grumpiest assholes around), keep meeting new people. Don't give up. You will find people you love eventually. It takes time here, but you have to keep looking. You give up early, you'll feel isolated and lonely. And look, don't go flying up to SF every weekend to see your boyfriend, either. He can visit you more often at first, so you feel like you're really getting established here. You must, must, must create a life for yourself here, because you're going to be miserable if you adopt the attitude that you're just in LA for school and you're going to leave the first second you can. Why waste 8 years that way? You have to make new friends (I know, but you will) and lean into the glorious freakishness around you.
So there are my overgeneralizations for you, all of them entirely subjective. I love LA, and I feel very lucky to have grown up here (age 27-40 and counting) and not somewhere else. I've hated LA so many times, for all of the obvious reasons: the smog, the traffic, the vastness, the Hollywood bleh, the dipshits. But don't let those things distract you, the way they distract outsiders. This is a beautiful place, filled with really interesting people. Go to cultural events, join clubs – even if you hate these things now (they're harder when you're really young, but that changes fast), you have to put yourself out there and say yes to everything. Wander around different parts of town each weekend. You really do have to explore a lot to understand just how much this place has to offer. You will love it. Just don't get distracted by the typical bullshit you see – the flashy douchebags and flat-ironed Juicy Couture mutants really make up a tiny percentage of the population, they're just hard to ignore at first.
Oh, and don't go to any bar that makes you stand in line just to get in, or that has a bouncer that scans your face and your outfit before allowing you to enter. That should go without saying, but some people move here and get confused and think this is something they should do. Nothing encourages suicidal ideation faster than standing in line to drink (with a bunch of other suicidal people waiting to drink). If you want a social life, locate one good local bar, learn to call cabs (yes, they do exist), learn to cook, throw dinner parties and again, join a few clubs – book clubs, running clubs, whatever. All of this sounds shitty to you now, of course, but you'll see.
Let me know how it goes – and good luck!