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I got a manicure yesterday, one of those new shellac/gel ones that are supposed to last longer than a regular manicure – perfect for the gal trying to grow out her bitten-down nails. (Yes, I do. I know. It’s disgusting and you’re ashamed to know me. I’m sorry.)

The nail salon isn’t one I’ve been to before today, but it received great reviews on Yelp and was the only one close to my apartment that would do a gel manicure. The Nail Stylist (Nail Professional? Nail Artist? Nail Painting Person? Fred?) greeted me warmly and then started in, filing the jagged edges and pushing back the cuticles.

(What’s the deal with cuticles, anyway? Why do they have to be pushed back from the nail and then clipped and thrown away like trash? The three times in my life I’ve ever had a manicure, this cuticle business is always unpleasant, and at least one of my nail beds gets red and angry and sometimes bleeds [ew]. What have cuticles ever done to people? Why must they be treated like an invading army? Are cuticles a spreading plague that will consume nails whole if never tamed, eventually encasing our hands in a boxing glove of skin? And will we use those skin boxing gloves in the dystopian future to fight off one another after we step into the Game for our little sister? I guess we’ll never know. Thanks, nail salons.)

Anyway, Fred asked me how long I’ve lived in New York.

“About a year and a half,” I said, wincing.

“Oh,” Fred said, a hint of cuticle disdain in his voice, “you’re still new here.”

“Almost two years,” I said, adding a bit of time in case he misheard me.

He laughed at my insistence. I scoffed. My cuticle wept.

This got me thinking: When am I no longer considered “new” here? What ceremony marks the rite of passage from a nervous freshman to a senior who wants to give wedgies to Times Square? What does a gal have to do to be considered a bona fide, tried-and-true, real New Yorker?

It’s a mystery, and there doesn’t seem to be a concrete way to measure New York validity. I consulted with other New Yorkers (or are they?), and they each gave me a different take on it. They said:

You’re a real New Yorker once you’ve cried on the subway. I think this is a good measure, actually. Because it means that you’ve become comfortable enough on the very public subway system to lament over that lost promotion, the bad behavior of an ex, or the fact that you stubbed your toe on the stroller in front of you. It means you’re no longer too scared about missing your stop to close your eyes and let the tears fall. It means you don’t give a crap about what your fellow passengers think – a real New York attitude, if you will. But, here’s a question: Do you become an über-New Yorker once you make someone cry on the subway?

You’re a real New Yorker once you’ve vomited on or seen someone vomit on the subway.  Done.

You’re a real New Yorker once you’ve been here 7.5 years. My response to this: “How arbitrarily exact. How long have you been here?”  His response: “Eight years.”

I think we can just go ahead and dismiss this one.

You’re a real New Yorker once a cabbie has refused to take you somewhere. This happened to us once when we were carrying heavy items back from a shopping trip to Bed, Bath, Broomsticks, Bilbo Baggins, Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers, Being John Malkovich, and Beyond. The cab pulled over, but before we got in, the cabbie asked us where we were going. We mentioned about 20 blocks north, where we lived. He shook his head and drove on – not enough money to make it worth his while. Lemme tell you, once you get past the denial stage, it stings when a person you’ve never met and will likely never see again drives out of your life like that. Feels personal. Plus, taking a body-length mirror, a giant poster frame, and a lifetime supply of 9-volt batteries on the subway should only be attempted by idiots. Ask me how I know.

You’re a real New Yorker when you stop using the word “cabbie.” Oops.  

You’re a real New Yorker when you hate the thought of living anywhere else.  “Hate” is a strong word. Maybe “sternly frown upon” is more accurate. Either way, I won’t be moving to Cincinnati.

You’re a real New Yorker when your cuticles stop bleeding, you big baby. I just slipped this one in to see if you’re still reading.

If you weren’t born here, then you’re never a real New Yorker. Stop being so negative, Fred. Also, that means that of New York’s 9 million inhabitants, only 9.2 people are real New Yorkers, the .2 being dogs. Silly.

So the perfect formula seems to be: (Number of years x [crying fits on the subway + vomit viewing/spewing on the subway]) + rude interludes with cabbies – use of the word “cabbie” – angry cuticles = validity as a New Yorker.  The higher the number the better, obviously, and the more bona fide you are. There is no highest mark, either. Try for infinity, superstar.

Me? I came out with -1.

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