A Woman’s World

Postcard from New York, New York

I moved into the Parkside Evangeline because I got rejected from NYU— housing, that is. My mom found the all-female boarding house for me after talking with a young woman who had lived there while interning in Manhattan. My mother’s assistance only went so far, so I did what any reasonable person would do next: a Google search, which revealed that the place was run by the Salvation Army.

“The Shelter,” as I affectionately call it, is replete with all the rules one would expect from a residence run by a Christian organization. After checking in, I was handed a three-page paper outlining all the building’s commandments: no alcohol, no smoking, and, most importantly, no men past the first floor of the building. Essentially, living at the Parkside is the exact opposite of living in Mather.

The location of the building was irresistible—I live in a building that overlooks New York’s exclusive Gramercy Park, and yes, I have a key. Rumor has it that Julia Roberts lives in the building next door. Ignoring my journalistic instincts, this is a rumor I have propagated without bothering to confirm its veracity. The rent isn’t bad either, considering I get my own room (more than most of my friends at NYU can say), and two mostly-edible meals a day. So I traded in my scented candles for votive ones and signed away my soul on the dotted line.

The residents of the building are not necessarily whom you would expect to be living in place whose motto is “fire and blood.” Sure, if you walk through the dining hall at mealtime you can probably overhear a group of elderly women and middle-aged spinsters talking about Jesus’ daily presence in their lives. But most of the residents are young women, studying, working, or interning in the city.

A striking number of the girls here are aspiring actresses—in other words, waitresses. Just yesterday at dinner, a group of girls applauded their friend for finally quitting her menial day job in order to devote her entire day to searching for gigs. Then there are the fashionistas, most of whom are from abroad and have flocked to Fifth Avenue. They compliment each other’s outfits in accented, broken English.

And then there’s Jamie, the first person I ever talked to at the Parkside. I was sitting in the top-floor lounge, watching daytime television. Trying to be diplomatic, I asked her if she was ok with watching a particular show. It turns out she wasn’t watching TV, but rather texting her “guy” about the amazing sex she had last night. “We had sex literally 8 times,” was the first thing she said to me. “Five times last night, three times this morning.” Several emotions past over me: jealousy at this woman’s active bedtime life, disbelief at this man’s supposed lack of a refractory period, and then a firm conviction that she was lying. This perception has tainted every subsequent interaction I’ve had with her, and there have been many.

After hearing about her sex life in gory detail, she finally tells me that her name is Jamie and that she is a model. Not just a regular model, a super-top model. Although her face is unfamiliar, she tells me she has done ad campaigns for various fashion houses whose wares I will never be able to afford, but I still lust after in glossy magazines. Hungry for friendship and a calorically-sufficient meal, Jamie invited me to lunch. On our walk over, she shared some insights and advice. I am now officially an expert on the area hospitals that are the best to go to if you suffer from a nutrition-deficiency induced organ failure. She also told me to buy some mace in case of an impending terrorist attack.

Not everyone here is a compulsive liar or shopper. I have met a few genuinely nice, funny, and caring girls—the type of female companionship that I had been longing for, but haven’t yet found at Harvard. So while sex might be missing from my summer in the City, at least now I have people to whom I can complain about it.

Sarah E.F. Milov ’07, a Social Studies concentrator in Mather House, is a news editor of The Harvard Crimson. She is spending the summer in a sea of estrogen because she thinks that is where she is most likely to find Mr. Right.