The Mandatory Fran Lebowitz Guide to Keeping It Honest and (Totally) Not Killing Idiots in Public
A New Yorker with an opinion and an attitude spouting off about anything and everything. This schtick is nothing new, but it is the premise of a new Netflix docuseries, Pretend It’s a City, starring longtime NYC resident, writer, and perennial grouch Fran Lebowitz. The series, which Martin Scorsese directs, primarily consists of interviews with Lebowitz, anecdotes about her schmoozing with celebs, and her hot takes on life in general and New York (where she moved in 1970) in particular.
70-year-old Lebowitz is a Luddite. She has no cell phone or computer (but she does have 10,000 books). The cuffed jeans and cowboy boots-wearing lady seems to despise most people. Though she’s not exactly someone we’d socialize with, we can learn a thing or two from the humorist who says she’s in a “constant state of rage” – yet has managed not to kill anyone.
This is the Mandatory Fran Lebowitz guide to keeping it honest and (totally) not killing idiots in public.
Cover Photo: Netflix
Pretend it’s a city.
It’s the title of the series for a reason – because Lebowitz wants you to pretend you’re in a city when you leave your house. You are not in a world of one. You are among other people. Act like it. (And move out of the fucking way!)
Put your phone away.
Without a device in hand, you’ll be the only one paying attention. And this simple fact just might save your life. You never know when a cyclist texting with one hand and eating pizza with the other will run into you (as one did to Lebowitz).
Be aware of your surroundings.
Pay attention – not just for safety but for entertainment’s sake. Don’t forget to marvel at the human carnival – especially on the subway.
Guard your valuables.
Once upon a time, Lebowitz left a pack of cigarettes and an apple on the dashboard of her car. Thieves broke her windshield and stole both items. When she summoned the police, they said, “What did you expect?” Lebowitz has since learned to hold tight to her valuables. Thieves gonna thief; and if they steal your stuff, it's probably your fault.
Take the long way.
You know where the (drunk, annoying, touristy) crowds congregate; if they’re an impediment to you arriving efficiently at your destination, plan an alternate route to avoid them completely.
Be honest about your talent – or lack thereof.
It’s OK to be bad at things, Lebowitz says, especially if you enjoy them. Just don’t share your incompetence with the whole world. Keep that off-key singing to your shower and not on your Instagram stories, please and thank you. If others shove their mediocrity in your face, feel free to put them in their place.
Guilty pleasures do not exist in Fran Lebowitz's world. As long as your fun doesn't hurt anyone, have as much of it as you want.
Spend time with little kids.
Surprisingly, Lebowitz enjoys spending time with small children. That's because, unlike adults, they're not "full of cliches" yet. "Kids say the darndest things," indeed. Find a little person and get to know what makes them tick (with their parent's permission, of course).
Listen to music that makes you happy.
Music, according to Lebowitz, is “like a drug that doesn’t kill you.” If it makes you happy, listen all you like – but not too loudly, or your neighbors might kill you.
If there’s only one lesson you take away from listening to Lebowitz rant, it’s this: be real. Cut to the chase, say what you feel, and don't apologize for it.
Avoid airline travel.
It seems this is Lebowitz’s least favorite form of transportation – and for good reason. The first time she flew, way back in the day, airlines competed not on price but on service, meaning that you got cushy accommodations and even lobster in-flight. Now, anyone and their mother can (and does) fly, with zero decorum. Seats are cramped and overpriced. Flights are delayed and canceled on a whim. It’s a recipe for wanting to off your seatmate.
Don’t leave your apartment.
“One thing about leaving your apartment is there’s so many other people out there,” Lebowitz says. “So the great thing about my apartment…is that I control if there are other people in it.” If you hate humanity as much as Lebowitz does, stay home! Nobody gets hurt.
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