So they say:
Wear sunscreen. ---> I learned this the hard way...several times.
Live in New York City once, but leave before you get hard. ---> Check.
Live in Northern California, but leave before you get soft. ---> Presently, we reside in San Jose, CA and I think I'm soft already. We've been here for three weeks.
I met my husband in New York City shortly after I moved home from Paris France where I finished my undergraduate degree. Growing up on the east cost in Connecticut, we had always travelled east, rather than west, especially for my long competitive figure skating career. We travelled quite extensively throughout Europe and it was my dream to live there, which is why I quit skating and moved to Paris on a whim. Well, honestly, it was an immature "escape" from an old boyfriend after being dumped. I decided that the United States was too small for the two of us and moved to Paris within a couple week's time to finish university and quit skating at my peak. Fortunately, it turned out to be a blessing and the only thing that brought me back home was 9/11. I couldn't imagine being away from my beloved New York City during that tragic time and felt guilty being out of the country.
Upon my return, I was 22 and ready to tackle New York, single life, and a career. Since I was a little girl visiting my dad down on Wall Street, I was quite fond of the hustle bustle, lights, show, and energy of New York City. I often dreamed of being on Broadway and quite frankly have yet to outgrow that particular dream. Sometimes, it even takes on a more mature version and transforms into wanting to be a news anchor. I guess I was raised to enjoy being the center of attention, a trait for which my husband affectionately calls me "Q Pea". All I can say is that I blame New York.
To me, New York is the center of the entire world. And in a weird way, I really wish I had never visited or lived there and adopted it as home because at this point, I can admit that I am extremely difficult to please. No other city is quite as exciting, sophisticated, "happening", and eclectic as New York. It truly is the best.
When I first moved to Northern California in 2005 straight from New York, I literally felt as if I put on the brakes and was forced to SLOW DOWN and enjoy the finer things in life at a much more leisurely pace. The thing that I've noticed about "norcal" is that people here really know how to live, which is so great, admirable even. From the rolling vineyards of Napa to the exquisite cuisine of San Francisco to the immaculate gardens of Los Gatos and all the farmer's markets and Art and Wine Festivals in between, Bay Area folk settle for nothing but the best, but at a pace that is just shy of taking a daily siesta like those Spaniards. For me, I love the IDEA of taking the time to find the ripest, most delicious fruit or seeking out the highest acclaimed restaurant or cafe, but honestly I seriously have zero patience for that and that's what it comes down to. As I like to say, I have dabbled in fine French cooking, wine tasting, organic vegetable gardening, and frequented farmer's markets like a fake foodie, but I just don't have the patience to put the effort in. I prefer to walk down a short city block and know that the best restaurant in the world is right there like my husband and I used to do when we went to our local joint, Lovely Day Cafe, just a few blocks from our old loft in the lower east side. The Bay Area is so expansive that you truly have to know the right people to find anything around here and getting to know people is a whole different thing.
I have a theory that in New York, you have no choice but to meet people because the city is so overpopulated that you literally bump into your soon to be friends, boyfriends, lovers, and spouses. It's unavoidable. Your apartment is too small to enjoy being in and the city is so alive that you couldn't stay in anyway for fear of missing something big. When we lived in LA, had I not been the spa director of a very busy spa in Santa Monica, I would have met no one due to the fact that you only meet the people you crash into on the freeway, literally. In the Bay Area, it's not too much different. There is a lot of driving and little walking unless you live in a town like Los Gatos, Burlingame, or Mill Valley. But that's not really the true problem. I had a hard time meeting friends both times we lived here because I never quite passed the initial character analysis. It's as if people size you up by judging your character and your lifestyle because they don't really NEED you as a friend so you better be near perfect if they are even going to considerate it. If you grew up here, you have your group of friends, but as an outsider, that's near impossible to penetrate and if you finally do, it's a long initiation process before you are truly part of the crew. If you need an example, look at any alumnus of Chico State University. My husband had a group of friends in New York who ALL went to Chico and hung out every Thursday night at a Japanese karaoke joint called Juno's in the West Village. It's been ten years and I know they are still going. At my former job in Fremont, CA, there were a group of girls who worked there and hung out...and they ALL went to Chico. It's quite impressive how they travel in groups that never separate.
So why is it so hard to meet people here? Because they don't need to meet you. You are an outsider that is contributing to the overpopulation of the Bay Area. You are not allowed to participate in the esotericism of all the finer local produce, gastronomy, art, and music. I hoped that in marrying a native of San Jose, I would be accepted. Nope, but there are a lot of other reasons for that.
I joined a Mommy Group in the prestigious, super proud (not to mention snobby), town of Los Gatos with my son Che and attended the first activity, which was sandwich building for the local women's shelter. I chose that activity in particular first because I thought that the charitable aspect would attract the more compassionate. Nope. I swear that as soon as I arrived, the host almost immediately checked out my car (I'm currently car-less and driving my mother in law's, which comes with a major price tag I might add...another story for another day...I digress), my clothes, my wedding ring, my son, his clothes, his shoes, his behavior, etc etc. Geez. I think I passed with a few of the ladies, but found myself only truly accepted by the mommy with purple hair, but only because she was new too. She was a native of Los Gatos, but clearly an outcast. I asked her if she wanted to attend another activity together or meet up for a playdate, but as soon as I asked her, I right away felt like I was on a first date and acting way too forward. Ok, so lesson learned, you never ask out a Bay Area native to do something else on the first meeting. My husband was different and that's why I married him. With us, it was love at first sight and we were hooked and engaged in daily meetings, but he earned that right because he's from the Bay Area or because we were on neutral territory upon our first meeting in New York. If you think that doesn't make sense, then I dare you to try a little experiment. Go to San Francisco, meet a San Franciscan (in any setting), and ask them if they want to hang out again after a night of wining and dining. Guaranteed you will be regarded as an alien.
But I'm persistent. I may not be patient, but I know what I want (friends) and I'm willing to do what it takes to get them. I will not succumb to being a boring old SAHM and a loner. I will succeed in meeting friends and establishing my own "group" at some point. It might just take years. Patience is NOT my strong suit. This is definitely not New York and I'm eternally in a New York state of mind.