The Reality Of Being A 20-Something Girl Living In Brooklyn

Meet Jess, a 28 year old, Fashion Styling Assistant living in Brooklyn. And no, her life is not exactly like GIRLS, but there are definitely a few similarities...


by Jess Carter |
Published on

Anyone who tuned in to Monday’s GIRLS will get why no self-respecting girl in her 20s living in NYC would never, ever, go for brunch. If you missed it (where were you?) Marnie and new squeeze Desi performed a ‘Jazz Brunch’ for Hannah, Shosh, Jessa and co. It was maximum cringe, and in some ways scarily accurate.

Ignore the fact that I wouldn’t be caught dead ‘brunching’ - it’s NY weekend meal for posh frat girls or out of towners, who wear Tory Burch (aka Hobbs in UK), and stumble out of an all-you-can-drink-memosa-resturant saying ‘that was just like SO crazy’. When nothing was crazy, they’re just a tad drunk at lunchtime on a Saturday - a lot of GIRLS is accurate.


I relate to Hannah trying - and trying some more - to find her break and get a decent paid job. Oh and her parents getting fed up with her borrowing money, I’ve definitely been there. The plot lines are on point, and NY industry stereotypes are terrifyingly accurate.

But the one thing GIRLS doesn't always show is that living in New York is a bloody hard slog… Sitting on a subway cart that stinks like urine, having rats literally run over your feet, overpaying in rent, having to work ALL the hours, and seeing men urinate in public on almost a daily basis – yep, it’s all part of it.

While it's true that the city is full of freelancers, and a lot of them do hang out at cafes like Hannah and co… But living in New York and NOT working (like numerous GIRLS characters have done), well that would be impossible. People come to NY to work hard. Me included.


Oh, and literally nobody in New York takes vacations away from work. Nobody. So don’t even worry about saving for that holiday. Taking a break from work, that’s really not a thing.

Another thing that’s not a thing is Manhattan living for 20-somethings. Shoshanna’s NoLita so called ‘student digs’ would rarely actually really happen. Not really. In fact research by this week showed Shosh’s rent plus living expenses, and her university tuition would have cost her a $6,449, a month (or £5k). Casual.

I’ve tried living in Manhattan. My housemate and me lived in Greenwich Village in an apartment. Yes, it was the PERFECT location; right on West 10th Street - but we had mice, a lot of them (it’s a very common, disgusting and real problem in New York). We also had zero light, and er, wasn’t nearly big enough to swing the cat we needed to kill the mice in.

So we, like everyone else in our 20s that live in the city, moved to Brooklyn. To East Williamsburg, slightly South of where Hannah and Marnie shared their place in Greenpoint.


The move meant we now have the top three luxuries available to any twenty something girl; we have a washing machine, dryer and dishwasher in our apartment. White goods really are the American Dream in New York.

We also have some light and a really nice place. And I don’t have mice inside my apartment anymore. I do have rats and stray cats running across my feet at the entrance of my new place – but everyone, and I mean everyone, has these.


We get all of this for what is considered a pretty standard $3,200 a month (that’s about £2000)! Look, there’s no denying we’d all be thousandaires in NY if we didn’t have to pay rent. It is the silent killer. And when I say silent, what I actually mean is me and friends have spent countless evenings over wine moaning about how nice it would be to live on our own or be able to buy. Sadly, this will probably never happen.

Yes, rent is a nightmare ( show on average 49% of our earnings go on our rent, compared to a third of earnings in London) but we always find a way to make it work.

The point – and this is what GIRLS seems to miss – is that you have to work really hard to afford your NY dream lives. New Yorkers work, A LOT. And very long hours; they live to work rather than work to live unlike in GIRLS. One of my friends works until 9pm every night, 7 days a week! And that’s common.

On the plus side, breakfast, lunch, coffee and snacks are provided for me at work – just like they were for Hannah at GQ. The food isn't amazing but again it saves me money. And while the hours are long, a lot of the shoots I assist on happen on rooftops, and the New York Skyline is something you NEVER bore of, no matter how many hours you’ve been at it.


And the living the costs are cheap. A lot of stuff is free in the city; I’ve seen Julian Casablancas perform on a random Monday night for nothing, and I can see amazing bands for free every week.

On weekend’s I will go to a park (weather pending; it’s absolutely freezing at the moment). But come spring, Prospect Park is the best. Or I will try and see an exhibition. And at night I can have dinner and then go out for a whole night at a great dive bar for around $40 (that’s only £20). Plus the Subway runs all night - and if I’ve remembered to get my weekly Metro card sorted, it’s basically a free ride home.

So thinking about it, yes, you can have the GIRLS life – if you’re prepared to work your arse off for it (a lot harder of them, that is). But of course, there is one major difference between Hannah and co lives and mine… None of my friends like to be in the nude like her… Like ever. And yep, they all wear a bra!

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

Girls Episode One: Hannah Goes To Iowa, Marnie Plays A 'Jazz Brunch'

Lena Dunham Didn't Quite Delete Twitter, Did Delete Her Nipples And Jessa

No, Lena Dunham Isn't A Sexual Molester. She's The Victim Of A Depressingly Familiar Internet Backlash Against Successful Women

Follow Jess On Instagram: @Vewg

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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