Pretend It’s A Village

my favorite hometown establishment

Netflix and Martin Scorsese have teamed up yet again to present Pretend It’s A City, a limited documentary series about Scorsese laughing at every single thing Fran Lebowitz says. Right down to the articles and adverbs.

The documentary series is simultaneously a love letter and a complaint to New York City. Astute observations made while lollygagging day in and day out. Positive, negative, and neutral changes and stagnations, noted by those who take the time to note.

Fran (we are on a first name basis) and I share a passion for doing nothing all day. Lying down on an oversized chair with a good book, she with her cigarettes and me with my fourth cup of coffee. This would surely be a perfect day for us. Kindred spirits. Then again, I’m pretty sure she didn’t put “Read book — 2 hours” in her planner like I did. I’m nearly positive she’d keel over before she purchased a planner.

Infamous for her writer’s block, Fran still boasts the title of “writer.” And who am I to argue. I’m mostly envious. Sure, I write. But I do not yet have the gaul to call myself a writer. I am an observer, though. I’ve noticed a lot about my hometown: the people who live there, how it’s changed throughout the years, and how it’s stayed the same.

My hometown got demoted from a city to a village. 2010, I think. It was no grandiose event. When your town’s population goes from a little over 5,000 to a little under it, you keep on living life, I suppose. That’s what we did! I never got the memo that living in a village came with its own set of rules though. If there’s no guidebook, let this serve as one.

Attire is very important. Make sure that you look around and clock what the herd is wearing. The more you look like a TJ Maxx ad, the better. I say this a part-time maxxinista. I deviated from this model a lot, for monetary reasons and general teen rebellion. Before thrifting was normalized, I wore a dress and heeled boots one day of sophomore year. I felt gorgeous, and stylish! Both the dress and the boots were composed of earth tones, mostly browns and dark greens. I assume it was these muted colors that prompted one of my peers to call me a lesbian. Absolute shot in the dark assumption. In that moment, I wish I had stopped in my tracks, turned, and asked “why?” Why a lesbian? She wasn’t far off, but she didn't know that. Ah, I’m just realizing that my hair was short.

Hair. If you went to high school with me and you were popular, there’s a good chance your hair was teased and curled MOST days of the week. If not curled, it was probably in a messy bun that took more effort than my entire morning, from alarm to engine-ignition. And yes, I always failed to style my hair. Miserably. There’s an even better chance that these same people now cut and style others’ hair today. And that they’d still bully me today. But also pray for me? They’re helpful yet trauma-inducing. Embody that energy. And their hair.

Always. Say. Hello. If you see someone that you know, which is at least 70 percent of the people you’ll see while running errands, you must say hello. If not Kelly will go to Becky and Becky will go to Bobby and Bobby will go to Skeet who will go to your mom and tell her that you were a raging bitch to Kelly at the Kroger. Major faux pas! It is exhausting to smile and act like you care about literally anything, but it’s more exhausting cleaning up the aftermath if you don’t have basic manners. If you can’t say hello, get really good at hiding behind things.

It’s normal for men over the age of 30 to just… stare at you at the gas station. It’s not great but it’s also not actively harmful.

Be really good at something, or at least be slightly above average. If you’re even remotely talented, you will be fawned over. Worshipped. Just as long as the talent isn’t too embarrassing. Singer? Actor? Soccer player? Scholar? Great. Cosplayer? Furry? People are starting to come around to these talents, but proceed with caution. Well, unless you’re a furry. Sorry, but stop while you’re ahead! The beauty is the bar for greatness is lower in a small pond. Take advantage of this. If you remain in the village, the ego trip of this warped greatness can provide a considerable amount of social capital. But be warned; if you leave the village, you will have a rude awakening in the form of a severe ego check. Exceptions for the truly great. I was not so fortunate.

Be religious, whether sincerely or for a fun drama exercise. In small towns, religious institutions have two congregations; the parishioners and the horny teens that use religious events and buildings as their social hour hub. The parishioners are horny as well, bien sûr. Want the facade of being a trustworthy, honorable person? Religion! Or, “religion!” A mom said I was a bad influence because I wasn’t religious. Jokes on her, I became religious after I ceased attending church. But how could she possibly know? I didn’t make my God-fearing public! Perhaps performative spirituality is easier to process. To understand. I also cursed a lot in high school.

Walk and talk so slow. Drag those feet. Drag that tongue. (In haste, I typed “drag that tongue.” Had I given that phrase two seconds of thought before pressing the keyboard, it would not have made the cut).

Unlike Fran, you’ll need to be very pro-vacation. There is a catch. You can only vacation in the summer and it MUST be to either Myrtle Beach, Pigeon Forge, or Disney World. There are no exceptions. Bonus points if you choose one and stick to it for the rest of eternity* *life until environmental collapse kiss kiss.

Talk as loud as humanly possible in the library, if your village is lucky enough to have a library. One semester of college, when my brain was breaking a lot, I retreated to my hometown often in the hopes that familiarity would cure clinical depression. It did not but Zoloft helps! I would make the stupid decision to go to the library and scroll on Instagram while sitting in front of my unfinished, unsexy gen chem homework. Patrons and employees all the same would talk full volume, if not louder. The gossip I absorbed took up the space the periodic table was hoping to occupy.

Get married heterosexually. Just kidding, my village is full of musically talented gays. And boo! So is yours! Netflix’s The Prom (is this sponsored content?) eradicated homophobia. NOTE: Being vegetarian is technically under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella in towns of 10,000> people.

This is the amount of information I am comfortable handing out for free. Perhaps you should just watch Pretend It’s A City; think of how your home, your town, your hometown, fits into the framework laid out in the aesthetically-pleasing three and a half hours. Observe. Or at the very least, pay attention.

I love my hometown. That’s why I’m able to pretend it’s a village.

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Chicago-based person. Follow me on Instagram (@radiantegg) where I post silly things that make me smile and serious things that make me smile.

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Jennifer Prewitt

Jennifer Prewitt

Chicago-based person. Follow me on Instagram (@radiantegg) where I post silly things that make me smile and serious things that make me smile.

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