Poor Jenny, Poor Cincinnati

A woman named Jenny lives in Cincinnati, but not for long because her husband got a job in another city.

A woman named Jenny lives in Cincinnati, but not for long because her husband got a job in another city. She’s kind of glad, though, according to a collection of anecdotes described by The Enquirer in a one-source profile of one of our town’s many lonely transplants.

Poor Jenny. Two years, one month and six days carved into the wall of her East Side bedroom, children down the hall watching Dora the Explorer completely unaware that all the other kids on the block are jumping around in a neighbor’s backyard bouncy castle. Jenny can probably see its red and yellow pointy roof from her bedroom window bobbing side to side. Side to side. 

The only reason I know about this surface-level account of one pseudo-anonymous woman’s social life plight is because The Enquirer published some old guy’s weird response to it at the top of its homepage a few days later.

That headline read: “My view: Inbred smugness permeates city,” a purposely controversial summary the average reader at first likely assumed was made by an actual reporter or editorial writer. (This is pretty much “New Media 101: Procuring Web Clicks From Disinterested Readers,” but that’s another story for another day; way to get 120 comments, though.)

The story of Jenny was written by The Enquirer’s human-interest columnist who is so in touch with the community and humanity that her pieces include her first name in the headline. “KRISTA: Story About Other Humans.” According to the unnecessary tagline the Enquirer adds to its reporters’ email addresses, she “gives voice to the people whose stories matter but are seldom told.”

This lonely East Side lady’s tale might have made me cry if I hadn’t just seen a video of a gay dude and his friends and family performing a surprise flash mob/proposal in a Salt Lake City Home Depot — something that actually demonstrated the beauty of humanity despite the inequality rampant in this country.

The guy who called us smug is mad that after 40 years he can’t get anyone to be nice to him at church. Sad face.

The truth of the matter is that Cincinnati doesn’t have that many people living here who are from out of town, which is why most people here don’t really need to make new friends. We all hang out with people we’ve known for years, relationships that are uniquely close and something that in many ways we should be proud of and appreciate more. We have loving families and long histories.

This isn’t to say we should be opposed to meeting new people — which was the point behind the story of Jenny — but to conclude that we are unwelcoming or have some sort of collective disinterest in others is as cursory as a bad Yelp review. We’re talking about the effect and not the cause.

It’s easy to understand why Cincinnati sometimes feels like such a small town. In a bigger city you’re just as likely to meet someone who moved there as an adult as someone who grew up and stayed there. You’ll find people more open to new experiences and different types of people and learn things like the many ways to prepare kale without making everyone at a party pissed off that no one was courteous enough to grill a few hamburgers to keep everyone from getting drunk off four beers. Then you realize that no one else is drinking as much as you because you’re from Cincinnati. So you tone it down and make a new friend.

Bigger cities are more expensive and have more young, successful people than Cincinnati. They have efficient public transportation systems and more diversity. Their industries are more interesting than insurance and household products. They haven’t had race riots in the past 15 years or a county sheriff on an internationally embarrassing anti-porn crusade in the last 25. They’ve experienced decades of recent growth and accommodated the interests of new people.

We are who we are right now, and there’s no reason to apologize for it. Today’s Cincinnati is a different place than it was even just five years ago. New leaders with new visions are making Cincinnati a place young people — whose talent Fortune 500 companies rely upon and whose disposable income the Chamber of Commerce is always working to attract — 

will want to live, and they’re doing it despite the anti-urban faction that has controlled this place for so long. We’re going to have some funny stories about our past to tell these transplants once there are enough apartments downtown to house us all.  

When it comes down to why Cincinnati has only recently earned credibility from outsiders — thanks largely to a series of investments in urban infrastructure and more inclusive social policies — The Enquirer would do well to look in the mirror.

Young people don’t take newspapers seriously when they endorse Sarah Palin. During the past two elections, when the eyes of the world were on Southwest Ohio, The Enquirer did the same old shit it has always done — catered to conservatives and business interests over a new direction for our city and country.

These are the people choosing not to knock on Jenny’s door with a fruit basket — not those of us who would prefer to go to Findlay Market by bike or bus, if one would ever show up on time on a Sunday.

The Enquirer’s friendly neighborhood columnist concludes, “It’s not enough to get people to want to visit Cincinnati. We have to get them to want to stay.”

Irony abounds in such a hope, coming from the publicly traded media company that has let us down for so long.

Then again, the only reason we’re talking about this is because someone there decided to publish some weirdo generalizing us because he hasn’t made a friend in 40 years.

That seems kind of dramatic, even for Cincinnati.


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