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5 Things You Need if You’re Moving to San Francisco

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Pattern recognition is a sign of intelligence, if you didn’t know. I’ve only been here two months, but already I’ve identified five items that are so ubiquitous that you don’t need my off-the-charts brainpowers to notice that they’re everywhere. I’m starting to suspect they must be required for entry into The City, and I just somehow slipped through.

1. The right lingo


Awesome poster by Lil Tuffy. Get yours here.

When you arrive, a guard at the border asks you if you’re visiting or moving. If you say you’re moving, they ask you: “What is the name of this city?”

There are two right answers, and two wrong answers.

Right answers: SF, San Francisco
Wrong answers: San Fran, Frisco

Why? Maybe: classism and/or racism. Definitely: People are tribal and like to balkanize over arbitrary and petty differences.

2. A black moto jacket


image from aliexpress

Every day, at some point during the day, you will need a jacket here. The standard issue one seems to be the black moto jacket. Every single girl I know in this city, regardless of race, background, income, or lifestyle, has one. (I’m making my friend group sound more diverse than it is. Talking about middle-income, college educated, cishet white people like you’re not one of them is also required to live here. Luckily I was in that habit well before I arrived.)

The black moto jacket is the jeans of SF: Not particularly comfortable, not universally flattering, and yet for some reason has become the default, all-occasion choice.

3. Something quirky about your appearance


from yes, that’s really the name of the website.

One sunny afternoon soon after moving here I went to Dolores Park wearing a sundress and sandals like a reasonable human being. I did not realize that if you dress for going to the park, you will look incredibly out of place. Instead, you should dress like you’re going to a punk show. My best guess as to why that is? Maybe no one wants to share their spliff with someone who looks like the kind of bro who didn’t invite you to the fun parties in college, and is now making your housing unaffordable. Spliffs actually make my overthinking problem worse, but I smoke them anyway, and all I know for sure is I’m mad no one offered me a hit.

Elsewhere in SF, the dress code is “something interesting somewhere visible”. It could be white-rasta dreads, color that doesn’t appear in nature on your hair, hardware on your face, or a tattoo that’s visible while wearing most types of clothing. But the only way to really stand out here is to not have done anything to set your appearance apart.

4. A quirky hobby

polyamory san francisco

imager from The Bold Italic

In the rest of the country, you can just do yoga. Here you’ve got to do hot yoga with a shirtless white dude singing to you in Sanskrit. Wait is Sanskrit only written? Maybe it was Hindi. If I stay here long enough I feel like I’ll learn through osmosis. In other liberal, coastal cities, you can just be slutty. Here you are exploring polyamory, and often quote More Than Two when your friends ask you for relationship advice. You don’t go to spin class like a rube, you hoop or poi. You don’t have a herb garden, you brew your own fermented beverages. You don’t grab coffee and chat, you sit down on a cot in the corner covered by a tapestry and pour tea and cuddle in a former church that’s become a yoga studio and meditation center and talk about your lover’s wife’s gender transition. Wait, husband’s gender correction? I DON’T KNOW BUT I SUPPORT HIM.

5. A team

Where I’m from, the blood feud was Alabama v Auburn (yes, I’m talking about college football, don’t expect more of it, there’s a reason I left.)

Here, the two teams are tech vs everyone else. One the one side, you have the “techies”. Mostly rich white cishet males who think they’re oppressed because someone made fun of them in middle school once. On the other side, you have the artists and weirdo natives. As you’re probably aware, the nerdy tech bros have moved in en masse, raising rents to beyond what the artist natives can afford, causing Oakland to become a place white people are suddenly excited to live.

In one particularly ironic instance, 70 artists were forced to move to make room for a tech company that automates gentrification.

As a result of this tension, the tech bros and weirdo artist natives have their own bars. It does seem like women in tech are mostly spared the antipathy, perhaps because being a woman in Silicon Valley is punishment enough.

You know the phrase, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game?” Well, sometimes you need to hate the coach.

The hilarious thing about all of this is that SF could more than accommodate the hoodied techbrah contingent and the weirdo artist contingent if it would build more motherfucking housing. But it won’t, because the housing boards are all made up of and influenced by homeowners, who are laughing their asses watching their home values soar while artists and coders bite each others’ heads off.

But I have a solution to the problem of tribal conflict. Tech bros and hippies should come together, literally. And here I’m leading by example. I’m a poor writer who lives and sleeps with a tech dude, enjoying all the self-righteousness of “following my passion” and all the “having a place to live” of being with someone who earns enough to make rent. And once we have fixed the problem of housing by making every tech dude adopt a starving artist, all these new families can work together to fight the homeowners. Ta da! I’ve been here two months and already solved the housing crisis.

Alright. That accomplished, moto jacket firmly in hand (mine’s pink because I’m special), and green hair dye on the counter, I must be off. They might run out of rope if I’m late for Shibari and Tea.

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Cathy Reisenwitz is a SF-based writer with a focus on sex, politics, and technology. She is Editor-in-Chief of Sex and the State.