I live alone. It’s been a very long year.

Illustration of a person dressed in winter clothes walking alone on the sidewalk with swan necks silhouetting in the foreground.
Illustration of a person dressed in winter clothes walking alone on the sidewalk with swan necks silhouetting in the foreground.
Illustration by Derek Abella for GEN

It has been one year since I’ve been properly hugged. I have never been a casual hugger, and yet it was this fact I kept coming back to as we approached the first anniversary of the pandemic. Or, rather, the fact kept coming back to me, swinging in like a wrecking ball, bringing with it the reality that I have had to survive 12 months of global death and uncertainty without the simple, basic, fundamental comfort of being held.

It is never lost on me that this sort of deprivation is, to some degree, a punishment inflicted on criminals, or…

A hand holding a Polaroid photo of NYC up to the NYC skyline at evening.
A hand holding a Polaroid photo of NYC up to the NYC skyline at evening.
Photo sources: Artur Debat/Moment/Getty Images, Nico de Pasquale Photography/Stone/Getty Images

Welcome to New York City’s #NoFilter era

A running joke on social media among New Yorkers who stayed put for the pandemic roller coaster ride these last seven months is to match evidence of joyful city life that has exploded everywhere against proclamations of the city’s death. “New York Is Dead!” run the headlines next to photos of streets teeming with outdoor diners and shots of Central Park’s Great Lawn full of masked New Yorkers socially distanced in the late autumn sun. This outcry kicks into overdrive every time the president gets in on the doomsday action, as he did again during Thursday’s debate: “Take a look…

Those of us who stayed in New York are faced with the task of keeping the city alive. We aren’t going anywhere.

Illustration: Michelle Kondrich

GEN asked two writers to explore what it means to stay in New York, and what it’s like to leave. Meghan Daum left New York to quarantine in Appalachia. Glynnis MacNicol stayed in the city:

New York City is not as deserted as the pictures will lead you to believe.

After recently undergoing two weeks of isolation for Covid-19-like symptoms, I emerged from my apartment expecting to find, like the man in the famous Twilight Zone episode who accidentally survives an atomic blast in the bank vault where he works, that New York had disappeared while I’d been waiting things…

Since I turned 40 I’ve encountered disbelief that I could possibly be enjoying my own life. But then there’s the other unexpected gift of this age: just how little concern I have for others’ opinions.

Illustration: Saehan Park

A few months before my 42nd birthday, I was out to dinner with friends and found myself seated next to a well-known older male writer.

I happened to be in the final stages of finishing a proposal for a memoir about being a single woman over 40 without children and was inwardly marveling at the timing of our encounter. I was a fan of his. Perhaps he might offer some wisdom? Words of encouragement?

As drinks were delivered I sketched the outline of the story: No one had prepared me for how exhilarating life could be on my own. I…

Glynnis MacNicol on being single, childless, and suddenly motherless in her 40s

Credit: nuvolanevicata/iStock/Getty

For someone who has always been bad at math, I have a weird fixation on numbers.

Take my mother’s death. Officially my mother died on March 20. A Monday. This is the date on her death certificate and the date on her gravestone. This is also what the staff at the nursing home north of Toronto, where my mother had lived for the past 26 months, told my father when they called him at seven that morning. My mother, they said, had died overnight.

I wanted more details, though. “Overnight” felt too nebulous. When my sister, Alexis, and I arrived…

Subway Closure Reveals Much About Cuomo and Media’s Understanding of City

As the snow settles from the Blizzard of 2015, that wasn’t (at least in New York, New England is another story) it’s becoming clear that Monday night’s historic shutdown of the New York City Subway system had less to do with public safety than Governor Andrew Cuomo’s power-hungry ego.

There is some comfort in this revelation. New York has had its fair share of megalomaniac political leaders; they are a familiar beast to the citizens of Gotham. You may recall Giuliani announced he was divorcing his wife during a press conference, before bothering to announce it to her.

Of course…

Help me, multi-gazillion dollar toy industry, you’re my only hope.

Halloween 1983. Style credits (my mother): My Leia buns were ear muffs wrapped in brown yarn. My dress was an altered sheet. My gold “belt” is the sash from our living room drapes. (That is my sister to your right, in a homemade Ewok costume. The three boys are our next door neighbors. During the following summer we made my sister wear that costume as a promotional gimmick for our lemonade stand. We made seven dollars that summer, which is not bad when you consider we were charging 10 cents a glass. 15 cents if you wanted it delivered directly to your car window.)

When I was growing up my childhood devotion was split between two women: Princess Leia and Laura Ingalls.

At first glance these may seem like divergent idols: One a fictional, intergalactic princess, the other a real-life 19th century pioneer girl. But to my mind they were two sides of the same coin, sharing the most important qualities a woman could possess: fierce independence, a deep sense of adventure, and really fantastic hair.

That last bit is important, by the way. I was not a tomboy growing up. I was an energetic, active, often bossy, athletic girl who loved adventure and…

And other jaw-dropping advertisements from New York Magazine’s Oct. 1969 issue

The other day I came across a 45-year-old issue of New York magazine. I quickly cracked it open and eagerly paged through expecting to find some journalistic gems. New York in 1969 was in the early golden days of its legendary Clay Felker era. Begun as an insert in the Sunday New York Herald Tribune, Felker and illustrator Milton Glaser had launched New York as a standalone magazine in 1968. Over the next decade Felker’s New York would redefine both the city to itself, magazine journalism in general, and launch the careers of the likes of Gloria Steinem, Tom Wolfe…

Walking hots, placing bets, and learning to drink like a ‘lady’

In the annals of strange summer jobs held by teenage girls my high school stint as a “hot walker” at the racetrack from age 16-19 must rank near the top. It’s not unusual for girls to go through horse-crazy phases. My particular version of it, however, was perhaps less horse than a little bit crazy.

When I was 16, through a specific sort of teenage perseverance (which mostly involved ignoring concerns about whether the backside of the racetrack was an appropriate place for a teenage girl to spend the summer) I landed a job “walking hots,” (translation: walking hot racehorses…

Arriving in NYC before the Internet

In the last few years I’ve gotten in the habit of telling people I moved to New York before the Internet. That when I first arrived here in the late nineties, I was immediately advised by those in the know to linger in front of the Village Voice offices on Astor Place every Tuesday night and wait for the rumbling newspaper trucks to deliver that week’s issue, so I could get to the back-page apartment listings before they hit the newsstands and subsequently make a run to the nearest pay phone. …

Glynnis MacNicol

Glynnis MacNicol is a writer and author of the memoir NO ONE TELLS YOU THIS (Simon & Schuster, 2018).

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