Do you remember that really cool guy from high school that you desperately wanted to date but had absolutely no chance with?
You know the one. The guy who was in your first period Art class, knew all these indie bands and was reading zines while you were clutching Teen People and Tiger Beat? The guy with a name like River or Jesse, who was always chain smoking cigarettes in the school parking lot wearing a Joy Division t-shirt which you mistakenly thought was the name of some kind of Nintendo game?
Do you remember him now?
Okay, great because that’s how I feel about Toronto.
Yes, Toronto is my River/Jesse. I’ve tried desperately to fall in love with the city but have come to the sad realization that I’m just not cool enough. I’ve been living in denial for a few years, hoping that one day I would muster enough courage to move to the city, get a kick-ass job at some hip young television station and live on a diet of kale and champagne but alas – it’s not meant to be.
I live in Hamilton, which is, how do I phrase this politely…It’s like a middle aged man having a midlife crisis. It’s fairly large (500,000 people), but isn’t quite sure if it wants to be artsy, trendy and urban like a Toronto 2.0 or hang on to the steel city, working class, meat and potatoes image that it used to be. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good mid-life crisis. My entire family lives nearby , I was born and raised here; it’s home.
The problem is that because Hamilton is so close to Toronto, the appeal, the romanticism and the adventure of living in a big city is constantly looming over me like US Steel pollution (maybe it is. I don’t know) . It must be like this for anyone who lives close to New York City, London or hell, I don’t know, Kansas City: You want to immerse yourself in the activity of some place new and glamorous (Screw you guys, I’m sure people in Kansas City are super cool. What up KC!).
Anyways- let’ me steer this boat back on course.
Every time I travel to Toronto I try to picture myself living there. So many of my best girl friends have moved to Toronto for work and they seem to love it. I’ve watched these girls blossom into these beautiful, fearless, independent women and I’m always overwhelmed by how much I miss them and how full and exciting their lives seem to be (projecting? definitely).
You would think the solution would be for me to join them, right? Drink the kool-aid, join the Moonies and become one of them?
I can’t. I just… can’t.
There’s several reasons why I don’t fit in with Toronto.
For one thing , I say ‘Thank-you” way too often. I’m not sure what it is about Torontonians or maybe just people in general, but it seems like that saying thank you is just white noise. I’ve started to feel dumb when I say thank you to a waitress or a shop girl, because all I get in return is a blank stare or worse, “Mmhmm.” “Mmhmm” is not a response. Not even a dog would know what to do with “mmhmm.”
There’s also something about me that just screams, “mug me” whenever I’m in the city. It’s probably because I’m clutching my purse and looking shifty eyed like one of those kids on that Breaking Amish series. I have a habit of saying hello to people I pass on the street or at least staring at them in case they turn out the be the victim or perpetrator of a crime so I can at least offer police a description and help them build a timeline (I told you I watch way too much television). The problem is, in Toronto everyone is in their own little world and literally stare straight ahead of themselves while I’m becoming an empowered woman and want to scream, “LOOK AT MY FACE!” whenever I pass them.
Yesterday I was in Toronto for a concert with my boyfriend and we both agreed we’re too self-conscious to live in the city. It’s like New York Fashion week every day. People are so damn trendy! I couldn’t live in the city because I would also have to become incredibly active. Which is why everyone’s so beautiful in the city. While I’m worrying about wearing sensible shoes and the likeliness that there’s urine and fecal matter on everything I touch, I’ve seen people strutting down the street in heels! HEELS. Do you know why the thigh gap is a thing? Because people in Toronto are walking in heels. Then there are the people who bike everywhere looking like a carefree add for Tampax.
“You would have to own a bicycle and a flowing skirt.” My boyfriend said. “I just don’t see you being able to maneuver a bike, let alone while wearing a dress.” Thanks, babe. (For the record I do know how to ride a bicycle. I just don’t…because I have a car).
Besides, I was too busy panicking about germs to be offended . “I need to wash my hands!” I kept yelling. “Why aren’t I like a mom of a toddler carrying hand sanitizer! I need to shower. I feel unclean.”
We both went into a conversation about housing prices in Hamilton and how much we like lawn’s and ‘forever homes,’ agreeing that unless one of us had a chance to have our dream job, we’d avoid Toronto at all costs.
To the people of Toronto:
I love you. I love you for keeping my inferiority complex in place and for constantly showing me what my life would look like if I was able to break out of my shell, adopted “mmhmm” into my vocabulary and walked everywhere. You really seem like you’ve got it together. Plus, you’ve taken half of my friends. Be good to them.
I’m not saying that I don’t see the beauty and the wonderful things Toronto has to offer; I do. That’s why it’s so hard to admit to myself that I’m not built to live in such an amazing place.
Maybe one day I’ll put the Mary Tyler Moore theme song on my iTunes, get a job being my inappropriate self in a trendy place where jeans are encouraged, and finally get along with Toronto.