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kottke.org posts about Melissa Febos

Solitude among millions

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2011

Melissa Febos writes about crying in public in NYC…as well as other private things that people do in public here.

One afternoon, I was riding a Brooklyn-bound Q train with my mother, who was visiting from Cape Cod, when our conversation lulled. We each glanced around the subway car at the other passengers, their heads bobbing in unison, the eyes of the man across from us doing a creepy back-and-forth twitch as he watched a train whizzing by in the opposite direction behind us. Some people read, or pushed buttons on their smart phones, but most just stared without expression at the floor or the garish overhead posters for Dr. Zizmor’s cosmetic dermatology. My mother (who is, notably, a psychotherapist) leaned into my shoulder and whispered, “Everyone on this train looks depressed.”

I snorted, whispering back: “No, Mom, they just have their train-faces on.” In a place where we are so rarely alone, we find privacy in public.

The “privacy in public” thing is essential in understanding New York.