Nina In New York: Thanks For Nothing, HGTV.

A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

In the last year or so, I’ve gotten seriously hooked on watching House Hunters on HGTV. And I do mean “hooked” in the addictive substance sense.

It gives almost the same experience: while I’m watching, I feel great. I’m zoned out, fantasizing—practically hallucinating—about purchasing and owning a whole entire house with a yard and more than four rooms including the bathroom. It’s amazing. And then when it’s over, I’m left with only the vapors of that brief euphoria and the realization that I live in a one-bedroom apartment which is considered “pretty big!” for the fact that it actually contains a short hallway, and my bathroom isn’t in my kitchen. My world darkens, everything seems bleak and pointless. I feel an emptiness that nothing else can fill: I must get back to that world where regular people who have regular jobs purchase three- and four-bedroom homes with granite counter tops and fenced-in backyards! What glorious land is this?

Oh yes, it’s Cleveland.

Of course I’ve always been aware of the fact that we live in one of the most expensive cities in the country – and the world. But it wasn’t until I started watching House Hunters that I realized what is actually possible in other parts of the country. You can get a HOUSE! A whole house! With land, very often. For a price that begins with a TWO. A what? You heard me.

Perhaps I’m alone here, but I for one would rather never have been exposed to this information. What good does it do me to know that we could be living like kings in Nashville or Atlanta or Tuscon, when the best hope we have in New York is to one day afford an eighth of an acre in an “up-and-coming” suburb or take out a 30-year mortgage on a junior four? It was easier to feel superior before I knew how attainable property is in pretty much every other state in the Union.

I often wish I could muster up the desire to live in Ohio or some such place, but then I’d have to deal with the fact that everyone would make fun of the way I say “forehead” and “orange” (far-head and ahr-ange, obvs). Plus, I’m pretty confident that I would have absolutely no idea how to find a job anywhere but here. Somehow, as pricey, crowded, competitive and tiring New York can be, life anywhere else sounds next to impossible.

Are we lucky to be hardwired this way? For many, living here is a far-off aspiration. Something you only do on television or in movies. And we not only do it, we don’t know how not to do it. Then again, it could be awfully comfy to watch movies about New York from the “media room” in your shockingly affordable house. Then again, who needs a media room when you live in New York? The world outside your door is better than anything on the screen. Like that mental patient who does push-ups outside the McDonald’s at 3 a.m. as people nonchalantly step over him to get their late-night Big Mac.

I would miss him.


Do you ever think about leaving New York? Let us know in the comments section…

Dear Readers: I’ll now be writing about city life every day from now on. While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

The Nina Archives:

Do You Know Gus?

 I Quit The Gym. No, Really.

Monday Morning Gripes And Grumbles

  • Jane

    My partner Colleen and I just moved from NY on 2/15/11 to Cape May, NJ. We owned a beach house here since 2002. We are hoping to move to California by next year. A community for women is being “developed” but, of course, taking longer than expected. We both were born and raised and lived in Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens our entire lives. Down here in Cape May it is not yet tourist season and to say it is “quiet” is an exaggeration – it is deadly quiet. But in a few weeks you won’t be able to get around for the crowds. We walk to the beach and it is certainly beautiful but to keep me grounded I bought a license holder that reads “I may be living here but my heart is in New York”. That about says it all!

  • Ali T

    Nina, I agree! I have all House Hunters on my DVR! The only thing missing from my studio apartment is the Bonus Room – unless the fact that my studio is in NYC makes it a Bonus Room automatically! Love you column!

  • Jamal

    The worst part about House Hunters is the ridiculous expectations of the people looking for a house. They want high end luxury but aren’t prepared to pay for it.

  • Manny

    New York is overcrowded, aggravating, noisy, fun, loud, peaceful, culturally inebriating, expensive, unaffordable, stressful, elevating, smelly, fragrant, obnoxious, friendly, alienating, all-encompassing. I love New York!

  • nathan

    its interesting that when I have any critical comment at all about these columns the comment is never printed.

  • nathan

    There are many nice places to live in the US and nyc is one of them. The “how could anyone live anywhere else ?” rap is why many ppl hate us. Its also well, trite.

  • nathan

    There are many nice places to live in the US and nyc is one of them. The “how could anyone live anywhere else ?” rap is why many ppl hate us. Its also trite.

  • Leah

    This column rocks! It’s the funniest five minutes of my day.

    I, too, am obsessed with House Hunters International and House Hunters (non-International). I also live in a “pretty big” 1 bedroom (“it’s got higher ceilings!”). And as the other commenter said, my husband has a reoccurring dream in which he discovers 5 other rooms in our apt. NY living. Good stuff.

  • Frank

    I have thought about leaving New York, but where else in the country could I work my upper body at 3 a.m. outside of a McDonalds without judgment or prejudice?

  • Jeremy

    A person doing pushups in front of a McDonald’s, at any time of day, is priceless — or worth at least an acre with mature gardens and a stand of pine. I’m beginning to see the light on why living in NY isn’t just nuts. Thanks, Nina!

  • Leslie

    Well put–we also watch House Hunters and fantasize about more space, but it just isn’t worth it if it means leaving NYC!

  • Sioux

    That’s hilarious. I remember that when I lived in an inadequate NYC apt, I had a recurring dream in which I discovered a suite of additional rooms I hadn’t known about. Now I live in a roomy house in the ‘burbs with granite counter tops, and long for that urban vitality.

  • jtorres

    I’m with Nina. I could never leave New York. It’s in my blood. I was born here, I’ll die here and I will live here every day in between. All my girlfriends moved far away, they were thrilled to get out. Wimps. It’s loud, it’s dirty and it’s overcrowded. I love it

  • Tina

    NIna’s writing is smart, funny, original and a spot-on rendition of life in this city. Reading her daily blog has already become a part of my morning routine – keep it up Nina!

  • Jean Val Jean

    House Hunters International is even worse! I could move to a beach front property in Central America for the price of my studio apartment!

  • Sam

    CBS should really take this stupid column off and put real news on. Who cares about her loving or not loving HGTV, her dog, being Mondays. There are real issues out their, unemployment, healthcare (lack of). Maybe she should report on things that are helpful to people.

    • T

      or maybe you should just read the columns that you find interesting/important and let others read the ones they find interesting/entertaining…

      • Biff Lungsdren

        She’s a columnist, not a reporter. Ever pick up a newspaper before, Sam?

  • mari

    Wasn’t this already done???? Wasn’t it called Sex and the City????

    • GreenerPastures

      Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought that “Sex and the CIty” focused on sex and dating issues (hence the title). Haven’t seen any of that here…

    • Majesty

      Um, wasn’t Sex and the City about relationships in the city? Hence the word Sex?

    • Greener Pastures

      I could be wrong, but I thought “Sex and the City” focused on sex and dating issues (hence the name!). Haven’t read any of that here…

    • Agreen

      Maybe I am wrong here, but I thought “Sex & the City” fccused on sex, dating, the single life, etc. (Hence the name). Haven’t read any of that here…

  • Adowe Osman

    Nina is a very beautiful & intelligent young woman. I enjoy your writings.

    • DR RUTH SAYS...

      seems a lot of ninas friends are here,her column should be called dumb and clueless in the city

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