Thursday, June 23, 2011

reverse haterism: defined, revealed, refuted

There are a few surefire ways to wake the dragon of anger within me. And while that sounds terrifying, it's really not when you consider my anger-dragon is actually a puppy in dragon suit. It's adorable. But moving on, what's got my dragon-costumed-puppy of fury rearing its fearsome (use your imagination) but charming head? An article published yesterday via TBD.com, in which the author, Jeremy Binckes, attempts to counter hate with more hate:

New Yorkers: They still find D.C. wanting!
So says the Washington Post's Monica Hesse, who today wrote about a gathering of transplanted New Yorkers [TADC note: Actually, I very much enjoyed the WP article], who deliver tired criticisms of D.C. — or any city that's not New York, for that matter: you can't eat on Metro, there's sales tax on newspapers, the bagels, oh gosh, the bagels.
But here's the thing, and I, a real New Yorker, want to be explicitly clear: These people are not real New Yorkers. They're Manhattanites. Even their name, Fellowship of Unassimilated Manhattan Exiles, admits that they're not New Yorkers. Yes, there's a difference between New Yorkers and Manhattanites; there's a huge difference. Real New Yorkers have lived some of their lives in the outer boroughs...

And I think you can see where this is going... The whole thing continues on for another couple of paragraphs doing exactly what Binckes accuses FUME, which by the way Hesse points out chose the word "Manhattanites" instead of "New Yorkers" for the catchy acronym (how very DC of them!), of doing -- generalizing and complaining. TBD is exhibiting a classic case of reverse haterism, which is never effective because of its inherent, unintentional irony.

While Binckes is upset that FUME rags on the lack of delicious bagels in the District (a legitimate complaint, actually, considering this eighth largest metropolitan area in the United States so far boasts just one bagel shop I've found of note and it's in Arlington), or that people talk about their jobs too much here, he has no problem ragging on "Manhattanites" for not being "real New Yorkers" and, worse, being all just a bunch of close-minded, rampant snobs. He writes:

Manhattanites have a tendency to stay sheltered on their little island and rarely venture across the East River, except to get out of town. Ask them where you can find a street littered with excellent South American steakhouses (Northern Boulevard in Astoria) or where to find some of the best Jewish bakeries (Avenue M in Brooklyn), and you'll get ice-cold stares...

While that may be true for some Manhattanites, I know for a fact that's not true for all. I know plenty of people from Manhattan, including my former roommate with whom I lived in an East Village walk-in closet, who is privy to a lot of what the boroughs have to offer. In fact, this particular woman does most of her shopping in Queens because she knows they boast the best and cheapest tailors. Then there's the couple I know who, despite being New York, I'm sorry, Manhattanite lawyers (I guess they must have taken the Manhattan Bar?), still manage to make it out to parties and shows and random warehouse raves in Brooklyn on the reg (and please pronounce that as Kenny Powers would, thank you). Then there's also one of my best friends who lives in Elmhurst, Queens, which is *gasp!* even farther away from Manhattan than Astoria and which also, I suppose, makes him the realest of the real New Yorkers that Binckes opines about. But guess what? This friend of mine complains about DC with a fervor that sometimes even irritates me when he visits!

Look, DC can be a difficult town to move to. Actually, scratch that, any town can be a difficult town to move to because, much like pimpin', change also ain't easy. When I moved from Moscow to Boston I became near-clinically depressed. I was complaining nonstop about all the Ugg footwear and Northface fleece. Then of course, having gone from Boston to New York, I complained incessantly about the high rents and trash-filled streets. And then came my move to DC and, well, you've read the title of this blog, right? Bitchin' and moanin' and droppin' metaphorical bags of flaming dog sh*t on things that are initially off-putting is the human way!

And here's the thing: complaining, whining or whatever you want to call it isn't necessarily even a bad or negative thing. Actually, it's quite enjoyable and often a positive signifier for the organization of a real community. As seen via FUME and this mind-blowingly awesome blog you find yourself reading right now, besides being entertaining (especially if it's combined with humor), kvetching also has the power to bring people together, not only to bitch, but to create community, to allow like-minded individuals in a town that sometimes feels wrong to come together. Now I ask you, is that such a horrible thing? In my mind, as long as no one's going around hurting people or dropping literal bags of dog sh*t on this city, I say it certainly is not. It's good! In fact, a lot of the best ideas are born out of complaints about the inadequacies of others. Take, for example, my post yesterday about horribly outdated, lame and otherwise totally inadequate DC tourism videos. I vow to make a better one. See? It works!

And so I say go for it FUME, as long as you're having fun doing it. And who knows? Maybe while you're at it, you'll all pool your resources together and remedy the dire bagel situation...

8 comments:

Alex said...

Bagel City, in Rockville, has excellent bagels.

Calvert-Woodley, the excellent liquor store, imports H&H Bagels every day.

Arlington is horrible.

Marissa said...

Yeah... I used to work up in Van Ness, so I'm familiar with Calvert-Woodley. Love the employees, but don't really love the bagels or the deli sandwiches...I'm a weirdo who likes veggies on her sandwiches.

The Rockville joint, I will have to check out when I get the chance.

And re: "Arlington is horrible," are you talking about the whole neighborhood or just the bagel shop I speak of, Brooklyn Bagel? Because BB is delicious. I would gladly get fat if I lived nearer to it.

Alex said...

Well, CW trucks in the much-hyped "H&H Bagels" fresh every day, so now you've got another fight to pick with FUME and their much-loved Manhattan bagels.

Arlington is horrible in a general sense, but I'm really just talking about Clarendon and Ballston. Landrum-owned establishments get a pass. I can't speak to the bagel place.

black.dress.red.shoes said...

I loved DC dearly when I lived there... but could not stand 98% of my "peer" group. Now that I'm back in NY, I grapple with the decision I'd made to leave DC, but I was worn so thin. Maybe I was in the wrong crowd (?), but it was just an emotional handful. So sad.

Jeremy Binckes said...

I liked your post, but allow me to make a quick point.

Living in any central area -- and the District is not immune to this -- there's an inherent tribalism.

Now, there are exceptions to the rule, but in general, one can say that there is a distinct lack of outward motion. I myself live in Arlington, and know few District residents that make the trek across the Potomac -- even to the bar- and shopping-heavy Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. Quite simply, the idea is that there needs to be a "pull" factor; something needs to pull the central resident outward. They tend not to go out there on their own.

Your post even admits this; whether it's a tailor (only chosen because (s)he is cheaper than the Manhattan alternate) or a party, there needs to be a reason to leave the borough. When you were a Manhattan resident, were you more likely to go to Elmhurst, or was your friend more likely to come into the city? My friends in the District rarely, if ever, visit Arlington. I also wonder how often your Manhattan lawyer friends take court cases in Jamaica, as opposed to sticking to Centre Street.

Of course, there's another part to my argument that wasn't addressed, but I do want to touch upon. There's a self-selective bias in your living choice. Manhattanites are willing to pay quite a bit more to live in the central area. They want to make sure they get the most for their money, and would be less-than eager to venture far away to find whatever it is they're looking for.

Yes, it is partly a white- versus blue-collar argument (your blue collar will be in the outer boroughs, while your white will be in Manhattan), and I will admit that. But I find it hard to believe that any of the FUME members are blue collar.

Again, thanks for the commentary, and thanks for giving me the chance to response.

Marissa said...

Alex,

I suppose if that's FUME's bagel of choice, then we shall always probably disagree over that. I love CW and their deli sandwiches are cheap and delicious, but their trucked in bagels? Meh.

Black Dress,

I'm curious what years you lived here. I've definitely sensed a change in things since 2007. I think maybe Twitter and the rise of social media actually loosened this place up a little. People seem happier even. Can't quite put my finger on it... COME BACK!

Marissa said...

Jeremy,

I appreciate your comments and thank you for reading, but I think we may forever disagree...

As far as "tribalism" goes, I think that can easily go both ways. I've encountered, heard and read several comments from people -- some even on TBD when it comes to DC! -- who incessantly complain about cities (too polluted, too noisy, too dangerous, the schools are bad, "I can't raise a family there," too expensive) and absolutely hate urban areas. People who believe that will maybe go to a city on vacation, or, in your words, go there for a "pull" (i.e. the opera, a museum, something the *can't* get in their town), but they certainly wouldn't go there to simply "hang out." How is that different than your view of city people now going to the 'burbs for no specific reason?

Here's my theory: From the information I've been able to gather as one who's lived in towns ranging from 9,000 to cities with over 14 million people and as one who's studied "tribalism" from an academic, international relations perspective, it doesn't only spring up in densely populated, more expensive areas. In fact, I think it's probably not based on location and economics really at all, but instead on a person's personality type -- someone's either curious to explore "the other" or they're not. Whether that other is Manhattan or Flushing or Dupont Circle or Leesburg is completely dependent on someone's specific personal preferences. You and I, perhaps, are of the curious breed, as I'll go wherever if I think I'll have the best time there.

However, here's the other aspect of things. People like convenience. Now, whether that means that they're close to things within driving distance or walking distance is also a personal choice. I prefer to walk or bike, so for me it's a no-brainer to live close to my job, a grocery store, restaurants, movies, music venues and all the other things I could possibly want on a daily basis. That just so happens to be in a centrally located NW neighborhood in the District. Likewise, while in New York, I chose the live in Manhattan because it was the most convenient. Could I afford a place bigger than a jail cell? No. But for me personally having a room big enough to put both a bed and a dresser in wasn't important (incidentally, I sacrificed the dresser). I wanted to be close to the things I used most on a daily basis. Is that a self-selecting bias? Of course! But for those who would rather have less local conveniences (or maybe just valued different local conveniences) and more space would self-select to live somewhere else, no? In this mobile day and age, bias exists no matter how city or country you are.

On to my lawyer friends, they're both corporate so their cases come to them, in Manhattan. Again, though, I'm not sure how that affects their "real New Yorker" status. Let me ask you this, another friend who has the same job (i.e. works in Manhattan as a corporate lawyer) but lives in Brooklyn, is she more New York in your opinion than the Greenwich Village couple?

Lastly, as briefly mentioned, I don't see how your socioeconomic argument necessarily plays into the idea of a person being more or less authentic in regards to self-identification. Are you saying poor people are more "real" than the rich? If so, and sticking with the NYC example, how then would you classify a homeless guy in Harlem? Is he "real" New York because he's poor, but then not New York because he lives in Manhattan? Or what about a rich person in Brooklyn Heights? Not real due to white-collar status, or real do to Brooklyn status? It just gets into can-of-worms territory, I think.

Anyway, this is getting a little unwieldy, so I'll stop for now. But please do feel free to respond. I love a good debate.

hemanzero said...

I'm famous!