After nearly eight years, I’m afraid our relationship just isn’t working out. I’m sorry, it’s not you. It’s me.
I like you and all. You’re fun, unique and quirky. How can I put this? I just don’t love you. I think I should start seeing other cities. You really deserve better — someone who’s charmed by your quirks and appreciates the real you. Someone who’s happy waking up here each day.
I’ve seen plenty of people with those “I Love Cincinnati” bumper stickers. Maybe you need more people like them. Their stickers proclaim their fervent admiration. I don’t know any of them, but maybe they’re the answer to some of your challenges. They’re driving all over the place, loving you day after day.
When I see those stickers, I crane my neck a bit to get a decent look at who’s driving, trying to size up your devoted fans. What makes them tick? Every time I read “I Love Cincinnati,” I feel like I’m either missing something or it’s really just a joke.
What makes their affection possible? How can they appreciate your highlights and file the rest under “Not My Problem”? I’m beginning to think it’s one of three things: (1) blindness; (2) selective vision; or (3) suburban distance.
I’m ready to kick our relationship down a notch.
Now don’t go crying on me. We’ve had some good times. Some great neighbors. Terrific restaurants. Great food at Findlay Market. Plenty of parks. Great museums and arts. An incredible public library. The great church I belong to. I’m sure I can think of other things I love about you, but I’m sort of on the spot here and my mind’s going blank.
Living in Clifton, when I was in school, was great — well, at least until a band of dope peddlers moved into my building.
When it looked like my husband and I would be here for the long haul, we decided to stay urban.
When we were house hunting, we swore we wouldn’t become a family that fled to the suburbs. We thought city life was a healthy, honest dose of reality that kept us grounded. We liked sticking close to bus routes. Our experiences here and elsewhere, with years of car-free commuting, had been enjoyable and low-stress.
But we’re not rich. Like many other young families we looked to the maligned, more forthright, western side of town. We moved to Westwood, into a house, and a neighborhood we could comfortably afford. Our house is decent, and so is our neighborhood. Our neighbors are great. We’re close to bus routes, public libraries, grocery stores and nearly everything we need (except for Indian restaurants, which haven’t made it to the West Side yet). We’re in a walkable community, which is what we refused to give up when we moved from Clifton.
But our oasis is just too small, and city life is just too close for comfort. When we venture out of the city, we keep seeing what we’re missing.
I’ve been telling myself for years that you’re a diamond in the rough. But let me be honest: Your rough exterior really gets in the way of, well, whatever might be obscured beneath it.
I’m sorry, Cincinnati, but it’s the company you keep that I just can’t stand any longer.
When they ride the bus, they curse into their cell phones for everyone to hear. When they drive, they speed and pull stunts. Some drive jalopies that aren’t roadworthy. When it snows, they don’t shovel their walks. When they walk or ride or drive, they litter. When they’re on the playground, they scrawl obscenities. When they’re walking, they’re blurting obscenities. They treat their kids poorly in public. When they shop, they try to make off with the shopping carts. Some of them sell drugs. Others buy drugs.
I see it all. That’s life in a city. But I see it too often.
I’m sorry. I know people have different ways of living, but this is not what I want my children to learn as “normal.” These folks might not be the bumper-sticker people, but there are plenty of them to go around.
I know your weary visage is due in part to modest means — just not enough money to go around — but what burns me up are the countless people who regularly make poor decisions about how they live and how they treat each other. I’m tired of living so close to so many with priorities so different from mine. And I’m bluer than blue, politically speaking.
It makes me so mad I could spit. Or I could move.
So I think we should just be friends. I’ll still visit and all, but it’s better if I don’t live so close. And you don’t need to keep worrying about me or anything. I’ll be fine.
I really think your motto, which would be in Latin, of course, like any solid motto, could be something like “It’s not pretty, but its home.” Or “It could be worse.” Or “We’re trying.” Or “As good as it gets.”
I know your motto is really “Juncta Juvant,” which means “Strength in Unity.” But I’m wimping out. My team spirit has dissipated and I’m trying to be realistic about this.
Something like “Cincinnati’s just OK” works for me. Even though we’re in a long-term relationship, I’m just not committed to this thing anymore. You can do so much better than me. You deserve someone patient and forgiving — really forgiving — someone who loves you just the way you are.�
CONTACT K. BUNTHOFF: firstname.lastname@example.org