AMY ROSE: Twenty-four-hour diners have a certain magnetism for teenagers who are out all night, as you might know from your own three AM adventures. Anaheed, Lori, and I traversed the downtown New York City diner scene to document their younger patrons and, of course, their delicious FOOD, on film for you, with some brief interviews to accompany the pictures. We intended this feature to be a gorgeous photo album of what we observed. Unfortunately, there ended up being a few problems with this idea.
We all met up at the first location, raring to go. We ordered tons of coffee, made a plan of attack, and psyched ourselves up. Problem was, we couldn’t find many teenagers at the first two places we went (the figure being exactly zero at the second one, sigh).
After a hot tip from a friend, we were able to find tons of amazingly fascinating, hilarious, serious, silly, and occasionally wasted people at the third place: the new IHOP in the East Village in New York. We talked to all of them and took MOST of their pictures (more on that later). However, an otherwise-very-nice IHOP manager told us that we couldn’t take pictures in the restaurant. To us, this meant that we would continue doing so, but that I had to hide Anaheed’s camera in my lap a lot, plus play lookout really dramatically for the guy whenever she wanted to shoot. It turns out I’m a terrible lookout—I went to other tables and waved and SHOUTED, “ANAHEED!!!” whenever the guy came into my field of vision. Very subtle and cool, just like everything else I do, naturally. After this happened, the rest of the pictures didn’t come out so great, as you might expect.
But you know what? All told, we had an excellent time talking to a bunch of great characters, as well as to one another, for hours on end. Which, of course, is the real purpose of late-night diner excursions: at that hour, in front of a plate of cheese fries, the conversations are sometimes INTENSE, and sometimes have you falling out of your IHOP chair laughing.
The first place we went was Big Daddy’s, one of a chain of diners in Manhattan. Lori, Anaheed, and I met at the Gramercy Park location at midnight on a Friday night. Big Daddy’s is like a cartoon diner—lots of kitsch and “retro”-y accoutrements. It was more than a little reminiscent of Wowsville from Ghost World.
After ordering fries and coffee, we scouted out the two girls in a back booth:
ASHLEY (19) and KIARA (23)
LORI: What are you guys doing tonight? What brings you here?
ASHLEY: Just catching up with my girlfriend.
ANAHEED: And this is your girlfriend?
ASHLEY: That’s my girlfriend.
ANAHEED: How did you guys meet?
ASHLEY: High school. She was a senior, I was a freshman. We bumped into each other in a class.
KIARA: I’m very friendly. Overly friendly.
ANAHEED: So you made the first move?
KIARA: Yeah, like, “Hey, what’s up? What’s your name?”
ASHLEY: She’s a liar. She had great shoes, and I was like, “Your shoes are amazing.”
AMY ROSE: What did they look like?
ASHLEY: They were dark gray with a purple heel. She was just like, “Oh, thanks.” Then we sat next to each other and started talking, and here we are today, talking.
ANAHEED: How long ago was that?
KIARA: Four or five years ago.
ANAHEED: What’s your secret for making love last?
KIARA: Be honest, and have as much fun as you can. Always keep that other person happy.
RACHEL (18), JODELYNE (18), AND KAI (19)
AMY ROSE: What brings you guys here tonight?
RACHEL: We were at this karaoke bar. And we wanted some munchies after.
ANAHEED: What did you sing at karaoke?
KAI: I sang “Superbass.” Don’t judge me.
ANAHEED: Can you do the rap?
KAI: No, I can’t rap! We also did “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton. We sang “Novocaine.” We sang “Party Rock Anthem” and another LMFAO song.
RACHEL: “Sexy and I Know It.”
ANAHEED: It’s 1:12 right now. What time are you supposed to be home?
KAI: Two o’clock, but I’m not going to be home till like four or five. I set my own curfew by just not coming home.
ANAHEED: Are you going to get in trouble when you go home?
KAI: My mom’s asleep, so I’ll just sneak in and sleep.
ANAHEED: Do you have a technique for sneaking in really quietly?
KAI: I take my shoes off at the door.
ANAHEED: What about you, Jodelyne?
RACHEL: She’s kind of Cinderella.
JODELYNE: Yeah, I was supposed to be home at midnight.
ANAHEED: Is there anything that you guys want to say to the teenagers of America?
KAI: Teenagers, stay cool. And don’t be afraid to lose.
ANAHEED: Why not?
KAI: Because losing helps you learn how to win.
ANAHEED: That’s good!
JODELYNE: I don’t know, take more chances? I don’t, which is bad.
AMY ROSE: Why don’t you?
JODELYNE: I’m just scared of the consequences.
ANAHEED: Why don’t you take your own advice?
JODELYNE: That, I do a lot: I give advice and then I don’t take it. OK, fine, I will!
RACHEL: I guess for me it’d be, like, don’t be afraid of taking that chance, because you never know when you’ll find a good opportunity.
KAI: No. That was too cliché!
RACHEL: But for me that’s so relevant. If I didn’t take that chance, then I wouldn’t have found myself in the good situation I’m in now.
AMY ROSE: What chance did you take?
RACHEL: Living on my own. Moving away from my parents. That was definitely a big risk for me. It was like, I have to take on that financial toll myself now. I have to start paying my bills and all of these things. So it was kind of a big chance, and I didn’t know where it was going to take me, plus it put me on kind of bad terms with my parents, you know? Now I’m kind of working things out [with them].
ANAHEED: When did you move out?
RACHEL: Six months ago.
ANAHEED: Oh wow! That’s a scary step. What do you like about living alone?
RACHEL: It’s so much more freedom. The freedom is priceless, let me tell you. The downside is definitely having bills and more responsibility—that stuff is ridiculous. But things are going well for me, I can say that.
ANAHEED: Anything else you want to tell our readers?
RACHEL: I don’t know. I feel like our generation is dying.
ANAHEED: What do you mean?
RACHEL: I feel like each generation is getting worse. Our generation doesn’t find new ways to be cool. They just find new ways to be stupid.
After finishing up at Big Daddy’s, we went to Veselka in the East Village, where we came across not one single solitary teenager. We did, however, run into a friend of Anaheed’s, who, even though he is like 40 years old, knew that IHOP was a much better bet for teen cruising. As such, we basically owe the rest of this article to him. Thank you, Todd, for being a 40-ish guy who knows where to find a plethora of teens at any given moment of the night! That’s not weird at all, and we love you for it.
ANAHEED: So what brings you here at two o’clock in the morning?
ROMIS: I’m out with my sisters and friends.
AMY ROSE: Where were you guys before this?
ROMIS: At home, in the Bronx.
ANAHEED: And you came all the way to Manhattan to get something to eat?
ROMIS: Yeah, one of my sisters is visiting from Florida, and she really wanted to go to IHOP. So we drove here.
AMY ROSE: I like your ring! Is it an engagement ring?
ROMIS: No, it’s my birthstone.
ANAHEED: Oh my gosh, it’s beautiful! And it matches your necklace. And look at your nails! I’m jealous.
ROMIS: I’m the youngest of three sisters. I’m actually like the boy in the house. My sisters are girly girls.
ANAHEED: You’re pretty girly, with that jewelry and those nails.
ROMIS: I didn’t used to be. I’ve actually changed a lot.
AMY ROSE: What made you change?
ROMIS: I got a boyfriend.
ANAHEED: What’s his name?
ANAHEED: Where does he live?
ROMIS: He’s in Queens. At the juvenile detention center at Rikers.
ANAHEED: Oh wow. How long has he been there?
ROMIS: Since July 2010.
AMY ROSE: Do you mind if we ask what he did?
ROMIS: It was a gun charge.
ANAHEED: Is that hard? Do you visit him a lot?
ROMIS: Well, before I’d go three visits a week, every week. Now I just go visit him on weekends.
ANAHEED: How’d you meet him?
ROMIS: At school. He was my best friend.
ANAHEED: How long were you guys best friends before it got romantic?
ROMIS: A year.
ANAHEED: Who made the first move?
ROMIS: He did. He gave me a kiss without me actually looking. It was like, I just turned my head, and then: oh!
ANAHEED: That’s so cute. How long have you been together?
ROMIS: Since March 25, 2008.
ANAHEED: So you guys were together for two years before he had to go to Rikers?
ANAHEED: Do you feel like he’s changed since he’s been in there?
ROMIS: Yeah. He got jealous. More jealous than he was.
ANAHEED: Do you think that while he’s in there, there are probably a lot of guys who find out their girlfriends are sleeping with other people, and so—
ROMIS: That’s the problem.
ANAHEED: It gets back to them.
ROMIS: That is the problem. He’s imagining that I might be tired of going over there. And he feels that I’m not getting what I should be getting.
ANAHEED: And how do you feel?
ROMIS: Nothing’s changed between me and him.
ANAHEED: But are you getting sick of it? Is some part of you like, I should be dating someone here on the outside?
ROMIS: No. I made a promise that I was gonna wait. And I’ll stick by my promise.
AMY ROSE: What does he say when he gets jealous? Does he get mad?
ROMIS: Yeah, he says he’s gonna let me go, because he feels I’m still young and I need to live my life. He feels I should have fun.
ANAHEED: And what do you say to him?
ROMIS: I tell him I’m not like other girls. I’m different. And that’s the reason why he fell in love with me. That’s what he likes. Me being me. So he can’t compare me to someone that I’m not.
This was when the lame-ass manager (actually, he was so nice besides this, but, you know, PASSIVE AGGRESSION) came over and made us stop taking pictures, so the ones that follow from here on out are going to be pretty bad, sorry. It couldn’t have happened with a worse trio, either—Monet, Sharaine, and DJ were seriously so pretty and done up. Monet was wearing wild multicolored eyeshadow and some crazy false lashes, Sharaine was all cleavage and red lips and braids, and DJ, a self-proclaimed Fashion Police officer, was wearing Minnie Mouse-ish polka dots. They ruled for lots of other reasons as well. They kept telling us that we should take a subway ride with them sometime to see how amazing their conversations are, and we really, really want to take them up on it. Here’s why:
MONET (19), SHARAINE (20), and DJ (19)
ANAHEED: You guys look awesome. Look at your eyelashes!
MONET: Listen. I’m girly. I’m verrrrry girly. If you met me like two years ago, I would never have all of this.
ANAHEED: What happened?
MONET: I don’t know. I just started wearing makeup.
ANAHEED: Was it hard to learn?
MONET: No, because you know what? I used YouTube videos. I like the ones where people really show us how to put it on. I literally watched one video five times.
SHARAINE: [Monet’s best friend]: Most of the time I can’t do my makeup or my hair for anything, so that’s why I have these two in my life.
ANAHEED: Who did your makeup tonight? It looks great.
SHARAINE: My sister [DJ] did my eyeshadow.
DJ: I do hair, makeup, dressing…I should be a stylist, right? I’m like my own little fashion police.
ANAHEED: If you’re the fashion police, what violations have you called your sister out on?
DJ: You do not want to get me started on that.
ANAHEED: What are her worst fashion crimes? I want to hear them.
DJ: I told her today that I didn’t like her earrings. I was like, “I think they’re like grandma earrings.”
ANAHEED: These ones? They’re cute. [For the record: Sharaine was wearing really pretty dangly earrings with geometric shapes embedded with rhinestones.]
DJ: They look like what grandmas wear when they go to a funeral. That’s what I think. So I told her!
ANAHEED: [To Sharaine] But you kept them on.
SHARAINE: I just bought these fucking earrings. And I think they’re freaking awesome. So I’m gonna wear them.
DJ: But not everything you buy should be worn! Or even bought, to begin with! I criticize everything—I don’t criticize; I give my honest opinion. Because at the end of the day, everyone is judging you when you leave.
AMY ROSE: Do people get mad at you for sometimes being too honest?
DJ: I don’t keep a lot of friends, because I’m so straightforward. A lot of people can’t deal with my personality, because they don’t like what I say. I know that sometimes people can get hurt. Monet just laughs at me.
MONET: I know I’m fly! I don’t care what nobody say; I’m fly.