Apparently I’m Ruining The Neighborhood


Last week a very drunk, very trendy girl spat at me on the street. I would say spat on me, but she was so drunk and out of control her spit was more of a spray, and it connected with my back the way a sneeze would, as opposed to a huge loogie. So her intended missile ended up being more of a light misting.

It was around 1am on a Friday night (Saturday morning, really), and I was walking home from the L train down a trendy street with trendy bars, to my apartment in a less trendy part of Bushwick (if you know Bushwick you know that it only takes a few streets to go from dripping with trendy to not trendy at all). Passing one of the newer establishments in the area, a young girl, seemingly much younger than me, both her arms slung around two other girls flanking her (she seemed to be so drunk they were supporting her, but it was hard to tell if she was plastered or just super into her friends), locked eyes with me. The three girls were also joined by a guy and one other girl.

The girl I’d locked eyes with was tall–taller than me at least. Her blonde hair was in short, messy braids and she wore a basketball jersey and cutoff denim shorts with Spice Girls style platform shoes and ripped tights. Her friends were dressed similarly, one with green ombre hair, one with thigh high tights, the guy in a (ironic?) letterman jacket with pigtails also, and all of them in tall platform shoes. I wouldn’t have noticed them in the crowd of hipsters smoking out the front of the bar unless the girl who locked eyes with me hadn’t developed a mighty scowl, and a look like she was trying to make my brain melt out of my cranial orifices.

As I walked past, the girl slurred “It’s people like you who are ruining this neighborhood,” and let out her weak little puff of spit. A younger me or a drunker me might have said something, but I kept on walking. I lifted my pace a little sure, and I texted my boyfriend my incredulity, but in the moment, I allowed the comment to wash over me. In retrospect however, it’s nagged at me.

What the hell did she mean?

I don’t have a strong “look”. I dress consciously but I don’t think I am identifiable as any sort of genre. If I were to describe the girl who spat at me, I’d say she had a very “Tumblr” aesthetic, which is common in Bushwick. Now, all this girl had to go off was my appearance–an admittedly expensive coat by an Australian designer (from when I used to work in fashion in Australia and received huge discounts, so I could afford otherwise unaffordable things), but one that I’ve worn so much the sleeves are starting to look sandpapered at the cuffs; faded black Topshop jeans and an innocuous pair of heeled Chelsea boots (a recent sale purchase which I am super proud of because they were reduced to $30 and are cute as fuck). With that in mind, I haven’t been able to figure out what in God’s name this girl was on about.

Is it perhaps possible that now in areas have been successfully gentrified–for instance, the Bogart St area of Bushwick which is proliferated by artists and seapunks–that the gentrifiers are rallying against one another? I am a poor as shit writer and my parents don’t pay my rent, but I am aware that I am still considered a gentrifier, and take animosity from original residents of the area in my stride–they don’t get to see my bank statements, or how hard I work, only my penchant for cute wine shops and ASOS dresses, and probably recognize me for doing my laundry during the day while everyone else is at work (freelance, bitches!).

I don’t know where the tension between gentrifiers is coming from, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen it. A painfully hip writer from a wealthy family I know Instagrammed a picture of a woman in a suit in Bushwick, apparently on her way to work, and captioned it “Everything that is wrong with the neighborhood.” I didn’t understand that either. Wasn’t he exactly the same as this woman? Aren’t we all, for the most part, exactly the same as each other if we are white and middle class and moving into an area where before white middle class people did not live?

The level of pretension that oozes from one gentrifier throwing accusations of neighborhood ruining at another gentrifier is palpable (unless of course the latter were a rapist, or a murderer, or someone who was generally a menace to the community, and I am none of the above, unless you count the one time I accidentally killed houseplant, or the amount of times I call 311 to complain about noise from warehouse raves). I wish I could find that girl and sit her down and ask her what the fuck her problem was. I want to know at what point she decided she was the gatekeeper to the neighborhood, and what she considers as detrimental to a community. Because as far as I can tell, the worst kind of person that can move into an area is one that is an intolerant brat, over entitled enough to bully but not nearly clever enough to have an ounce of respect, perspective or self awareness.

image – Semio