I am from Toronto.
The hated, despised Toronto. It is the city the rest of the country loves to hate. In the U.S., I believe that city is New York. In Canada, it’s Toronto. I guess every country has to have a whipping town. No point in saying I am sick of it because that isn’t going to stop it. No point in saying I am hurt by it because the people who would bash my city to my face think that I have no feelings. They think that because I am from Toronto. They think that I when you are from Toronto you are a self-centred, head up your ass, don’t care about anyone else in the world, cold-hearted, narrow-minded, city dwelling knob. They apparently think this of every single person who resides in Toronto. I can only assume that this includes animals and children.
First of all, no one in Toronto thinks these things. It is the rest of the country that assumes we go around thinking we are the greatest. What we are really thinking is what YOU are thinking: how do I pay my mortgage, raise my kids to be good people, keep my career going. We are thinking what the whole planet is thinking and yet...
I was in a taxi in Vancouver last February. Vancouver (my home away from home—my husband’s home) was in full spring bloom and I was thrilled to be there. As we drove along I had a lovely chat with the cabdriver, asking him what part of the city he was from, if he was born there, and generally going on about the sheer beauty of this lovely city. Until he finally asked me where I was from. Do I need to tell you the rest? This time the irony of the about-face was just too much for me. When I got out of the cab, I pointed out to him (peeing a little, shaking a little) the following: I said, “Jim,” (Yes, Toronto snob that I am I had asked him his name when we met. For the record, he did not return the courtesy.)To continue—I said, “Jim, I got into this cab and engaged you in conversation. We had a lovely chat and I think you judged me to be a nice person. When you found out where I was from, where I was born, where the fates had decreed I hail from I became the enemy. Every single thing you saw and heard with your own eyes, you decided to shun. So, Jim, I would like to say that I am a nice person, a good person. I am from Toronto. Please remember that and please remember that even after your very hurtful, very rude display, I GAVE YOU A TIP!”
And here’s the kicker—HE HAD NEVER IN HIS LIFE SET FOOT IN MY CITY!!!!
So many bashers I have been victim of have never been to my city. Others decide they will hate it before they come here, leaving no room for open mindedness. Other people come here and it is just not their cup of tea. Or they come with an open mind and still hate it. Fair enough. You have the right to hate it. I am not saying that it does not have its flaws. Truth be told, I have never been anywhere on this planet that does not have its flaws ... Okay, maybe the rainforest. But the fact is, we are all from somewhere. Whether we stay there or whether we stray, it is still home. So when you are bashing someone’s home remember, it’s someone’s home.
I have friends around the world who live in areas that would never make me happy. Places that I would not live in only because they do not suit my style, they do not serve my needs. And when I visit them or when I am talking with them I sing the praises of their home sincerely for all the beauty I see in it. What is the point of the put-down? If it isn’t right for me does that mean it is an awful place? Why would I say something nasty about it? Yes, that is exactly the right word. People are nasty about Toronto. To my face, on Facebook, on Twitter, at parties ... They love the hate of Toronto. They feed off of it. And just so you know, I am not posting this looking for the Toronto the Good stories. But nor am looking for Toronto the Bad stories. If you hate my city then please feel free to talk behind my city’s back. But to my face, it is simply rude. It is my home.
And like everything in life, and believe me I have had to learn this lesson of the city judgment (although in fairness I had the decency to talk behind said city’s back), maybe we should step back and try, just try, to look at any place we hate with fresh eyes. Maybe through our preconceived notions, a glimmer of something else will slip through. Maybe we will open our minds long enough to enjoy something we have decided to despise. This also applies to creamed corn. Toronto the Good has lots of Good about it. And you know what they say: if you can’t say something nice about a geographical location, say nothing at all!
Barbara: Yeah, I'm familiar with this phenomenon. It's very weird. Phil travels across the country a lot and has had many people tell him to his face that Toronto sucks. We've lived here for a long time now (after living in BC and Montreal--both sexy, wonderful cities). Toronto is awesome. It's my home and I'm proud to call it that.